Every 6 months, 10 days in April and 10 days in October, Hawaii Public Radio will augment their normal programing with the all-important fundraising Pledge Drive called Celebration 2009. It's an intense effort to raise $763K and that number keeps going up, back in April the goal was $741K. This is my third pledge drive since the inception of Bytemarks Cafe on KIPO 89.3FM. The 10 day experience is quite an exhibit of community coming together in support of a valued resource. In this day of giving everything away for FREE, why not the programming on Hawaii Public Radio. And in essence it is. There is nothing stopping anyone from tuning into 89.3 or 88.1 FM and listening to the programming streaming over the airwaves. What people like Chris Anderson believe is that the cost of delivering digital or electronic content is close to zero. But if people perceive value in the product they will pay something for it. For example he might give away the electronic version of is book FREE but the hard copy version will cost $20+ if you want to feel it in your hands. Shareware often works the same way. The programmer will allow people to download and use software and if the user is satisfied can voluntarily make a donation. Similarly in the case of public radio, if you the listener enjoy the programing you hear and find value in the news and stories presented, you can make a pledge. One big difference in the Hawaii Public Radio model as compared to other forms of digital media is the strong community aspect of the station. These 10 day marathons are an example of a real community, i.e. not one in cyberspace or a virtual world, coming together and showing support. Volunteers staff the phones, community members join radio staffers on the mics and listeners call in with their pledges. Food is always available from restaurant businesses that support the station. Restaurants definitely appreciate the concept of community. There is a real physical reason to rally together. If you are in driving distance of the station (738 Kaheka St. Honolulu), you should stop by during this 10 day pledge drive and experience the buzz. We have 5 more days to go and my sense is that the goal will be reached on Friday 10/23. Being there when that happens makes it all worth struggling for.
The semi-annual pledge drive is an interesting phenomenon. It's Hawaii Public Radio's major money making effort and occurs in April and October of each year. On one hand it is viewed as a necessary evil, something that needs to be done but not everyone likes it. Listeners want regular programming and staff feels apprehension going on air to ask for money. On the other hand it is a remarkable community event that exemplifies the community in community radio. This was my second pledge drive and although I do not commit anywhere as much time as the staff do, I try to pitch in. In addition to our show on Wed, I usually help as a guest on Pledge Central and also bring in a Bytemarks crew to work the phones on Saturday from 12-5pm. It's a good excuse to call my friends and ask them to pitch in. That act alone helps to build community. People hanging around a table, talking story, eating food and answering the occasion phone pledge. The flow of people in and out of the station indicates the broad community base that HPR relies on. I see familiar faces that I would otherwise rarely see if not for HPR. Given the state of the economy, I was concern the drive would take longer than the 10 day period. In the previous Oct 2008 drive it extended one day and I could see the stress in people's faces and their voices. To my surprise, this drive ended one day early, on Thursday, 5/30. The drive started on Wed. 4/22. To me this showed how committed the community at large is to supporting HPR. The drive ended right around 4:30pm on Thursday during the popular All Things Considered show. As soon as the pledge came in that put us over the top, the drive ended. No more calls were taken, no more soliciting and back to normal programming. Whatever normal was at that point! The energy as very high and people were elated. It felt like running a race and finishing first. I put this 30 sec video together with some shots I took but it does not compare to the excitement in the air. There were lots of hugs, handshakes and champagne to go around. Again this was a great show of a community coming together and accomplishing a goal. It was a bonding event. It almost felt like it shouldn't end. But it needed to so we could go back to regular programming. All in all, the pledge drive was all about community and the event itself is a community building one. Call me strange but I'm actually looking forward to the next one in October.