It's April, and you know what means, don't you?
No, I'm not talking about Easter. Although that happened.
And I'm not talking about the looming deadline of April 15th, although that's coming up too.
And unfortunately I'm not even referring to Spring Break, which is currently going on.
I'm talking about that thing that destroys any possibility of me taking a Spring Break vacation, ever.
It's that other thing. That thing that takes over my life and turns me into a zombie every year right around now.
It's the JPR Spring Fund Drive. And it's currently going on too.
Not that I'm complaining. Because secretly, I enjoy the fund drives. (Don't tell my boss, ok?)
Public radio station fund drives are certainly exhausting. Because the staff and volunteers are given an incredible financial goal to strive for, and then we're unleashed onto the listeners, asked to make passionate, heartfelt statements for hours at a time, compelling listeners to call in and give us money. To pay for something they could just be getting for free. It's like knocking on someone's door and asking them to voluntarily give you their credit card and let you bill them $10 a month for breathing air.
The whole thing is kind of built on a far fetched premise. A group of people go to the trouble to write the grants and fill out the paperwork and get all the equipment and leases and everything else needed to put a radio station on the air. Then they turn it on, like an HBO free preview weekend that never ends, and ask people to please give whatever they can, or whatever they think it's worth, and cross their fingers that when the fund drive is over, there's enough to cover the electricity bill, buy some programming, and pay for a bare bones staff. But so far it's been working, for 46 years.
It's not easy pouring out your soul into the world through a microphone to convince people of this, and it's especially difficult when the phones aren't ringing. DJ's, in my opinion, are incredibly delicate narcissists. OK, maybe I'm only talking about myself, but in my experience, people drawn to broadcasting careers tend to have huge egos, and huge egos are easily deflated when there's nobody around to keep pumping you up. So when you're asking people nicely to give your employer money if they like what you're doing, maybe $10 a month….$5 a month… ok, how about ten cents a day? And it's been 45 minutes since you've had a call. Except for the lady who called to complain that she was offended when you mentioned you weren't a huge fan of organ music.
Makes me wonder how many public radio DJs have sticky notes with positive affirmations stuck all over their bedroom mirrors.
To be sure, they call public radio fund drives 'marathons' because they're long, grueling, it's hard to get a potty break, and when they're over - or not quite yet over - you think you might just collapse.
I did say I secretly like them, didn't I? I distinctly remember saying that a few paragraphs back.
Tuesday morning, when the fund drive started, I was sleeping soundly when a pair of hands clasped my shoulders. And started to gently massage my arms and neck until I fell back asleep for another half hour. When I did get out of bed, I could smell something already cooking in the kitchen. I padded to the bathroom, and while shampooing my hair, my husband pulled back the curtain, held out a cup of strong coffee and said, "Here, take a sip. You need this."
When I came out into the dining room, he had breakfast ready. Fried eggs, sausage and more coffee. "You need to get powered up, baby. You've got a big day. I want you to be energized because I know this week is going to take it out of you."
Then I went to work, got on the air, and started reminding listeners that public radio doesn't just occur magically, that the only reason they're hearing us is because of the generosity of listeners before them who paid it forward, and then I began the process of reciting the toll free pledge hot line, and website. And - like magic - the pledges just started rolling in. $10 a month. $5 a month. Ten cents a day. We got pledges from Brazil and France, where people are actually listening to JPR, streaming it on their iPhones and computers. We got a pledge from Alaska, and another pledge from Paul Shigley, who has moved to the Bay Area from Redding, but still listens to JPR and has decided to continue to support it because he prefers this station over the multitude of choices down there in the big city.
People sometimes give us feedback when they make their pledges. Some tell us what shows they like. Some tell us which ones they don't. This year on the first morning of the pledge drive we got a note from a listener who penned a love sonnet ala Robert Browning telling us how many ways she loved her public radio station.
And then we got the note from a woman who serves as a caretaker for an autistic man. She said she was renewing her annual membership pledge, and increasing it in honor of her client, Philip. She said Philip listens to the radio station from sun up until he goes to bed virtually every day, with very little interruption. She takes him on weekly outings to thrift stores, where she says he likes to flip through all the vinyl record albums. Every time he does this, his caretaker says Philip tells her she should call JPR, because the store has records that JPR should have. Philip. So sweet, always thinking about his public radio station.
When it's all said and done by Tuesday evening, we will have either successfully raised $190,000, or come darn close to it. Thousands of people will have voluntarily made a financial commitment to support something they're already getting for free.
More importantly (to me), hundreds of people will respond to our passionate on air pleas with not only money, but with their own heartfelt love letters full of encouraging, kind words telling us how enriched, informed and befriended they are by the voices and music coming out of their radio speakers. It's the kind of feedback that employees the world over wish they could get from their bosses, their customers, and from the clients they serve. There are the the lucky ones who do, but when was the last time you thanked the checker at the grocery store and said, "You do a great job." So yesterday, at the grocery store, as the checker was bagging several bottles of red wine (each of which will be empty by the end of this week), I said, "You know, it's always a pleasure. You do a great job."
Today's playlist is all about the money, even though the whole point of my essay is that it's not just the money. It's the appreciation for a job well done that makes so many of us tick, and makes what we do worthwhile. So perhaps this week you'll be moved to pick up your phone and call 888-552-6191 or go to www.ijpr.org and let JPR know that you appreciate the radio station by making a membership pledge. Or maybe you'll let your grocery clerk, your kid's teacher, or the person making your breakfast know how much you appreciate the job they're doing. Because we're not all in it for the money.
Click on the embedded playlist below to stream today's Money playlist, or stream it directly from Grooveshark.
- Money - Pink Floyd
- Money For Nothing - Dire Straits
- Money Maker - Black Keys
- Money (That's What I Want) - Barrett Strong
- Money in the Pocket - Ramsey Lewis
- Easy Money - Billy Joel
- Take The Money & Run - Steve Miller Band
- Money Money Money - Abba
- Money On My Mind - Misterwives
- Money and the Ego - Carly Rae Jepsen
- Money Honey - Lady Gaga
- Money Make Friend - Yellowman
- Money - John Butler Trio
- Lawyers, Guns & Money - Warren Zevon
- Money's Too Tight To Mention - Simply Red
- Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand - Primitive Radio Gods
- Money (That's What I Want) - Flying Lizards