Take a cue from the gym

I used to have a 45 minute (or longer) drive to work, and NPR saved my life.  90 minutes of intelligent programming a day made the drive almost bearable.

So it was with some nostalgia that I listened last week to the WNYC spring fundraiser, to an interview with Mark Bittman and an offer to get his new cookbook for free if you donated “$180, or became a sustaining member for just $15 a month.”

I can’t figure out why you’d focus on $180.  $15 a month is the pitch.

Think about your gym membership which, in New York, will run you about $100 a month.  There’s a reason why New York Sports Club doesn’t advertise that you can join for “just $1,400 a year.”  It’s the same reason that I never think about the fact that having two iPhones costs me and my wife nearly $2,000 a year, that DirecTV costs about $600 a year…and on and on.

Take a cue from the gym – pitch monthly recurring donations every time.

4 thoughts on “Take a cue from the gym

  1. Sasha, it is with malice aforethought that WNYC pitches at you “$180 a year or only $15 a month.” It has been shown in marketing theory that this is a very good pitch. People see the $180 and go horrors, $180! and then see, with relief, only $15 a month. Makes the $15 look good, and they plump on it thinking they’re getting a bargain of some kind. (Unless they do the arithmetic!)

    The recurring membership is better for WNYC because it’s automatic, they take it out of your bank account or your credit card without asking you every month, and the chances are overwhelming that you’ll be overwhelmed a year from now (or will have sort of forgotten the whole transaction) and will not take action to stop these automatic charges. (Whereas when the $180 is gone, it’s gone, and they have to go back to you to get more.) WNYC will be careful not to make cancelling this recurrent charge easy, and certainly not to tell you how to do it without you having to do a great deal of digging around.

    So. First pitch the unacceptably big annual number, then offer the target a “cheap” way out, preferably something that gets started and then is hard to stop.

    Sounds manipulative. IS manipulative, but listener-sponsored radio has to live too. 🙂

  2. When I told my husband about this post he was offended.

    Where does NPR or any charity get off when they treat donors as mere cash cows? To manipulate them this way?

  3. Sorry to hear that. It feels to me like nonprofits are up against world-class marketers and salesmen and every turn (gyms, cellphone service, etc.) but somehow we hold nonprofits to a different standard when they get good at telling their stories to people who care about their work.

  4. Sasha, you seem to be saying that manipulation in a “good” cause is OK (whereas in a “bad cause” (like a gym) it isn’t.) Perhaps you are right. Requires some thought, though. The real question is not, “do we hold the nonprofit to a higher standard?” The real question is, shouldn’t everyone be held to the higher standard?

    Also, if I buy cellphone service, at least I get phone service. If I give money to your organization I personally get nothing. That’s a different dynamic.

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