We Attended the KCRW Pledge Drive - And Lived to Tell the Tale!

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Mon, Feb 4, 2013 at 4:30 AM

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click to enlarge Talking Points - KATIE BAIN
  • Katie Bain
  • Talking Points
10:45am: MBE Associated Producer Collin Walzak hands Bentley a list of synonyms for the word "sustain." It seems that people can only handle saying and hearing the term "sustaining member" so many times. "The deal with a sustaining membership," a volunteer named Larry later tells me, is that "you sign up to automatically donate every month until you die."

The station currently has 18,000 such sustaining members, which they love because it provides a clearer sense of their incoming annual budget. KCRW General Manager Jennifer Ferro even said that if they can get 25,000 monthly members, they'll knock a day off the drive. (That number again is 1-800-600-5279).

10:50am: Total raised during MBE so far -- $21,370

10:55am: Out in the snacking area, (no food or drinks allowed it the studio), volunteers mill about toasting bagels and making tea. Local businesses donate more than $45,000 worth of food and beverages to the station to feed volunteers. Right now, a killer Mexican spread is being laid out.

11:00am: "I love this radio station," says longtime volunteer Sonya Perry while we split a bagel. "It's intelligent radio, and I meet so many likeminded people at the pledge drive. My whole family volunteers, and they treat the volunteers so well." Perry says that two years ago she lost her job, but coming here to volunteer helped her feel like she still contributed. This is real deal community service. With burritos and indie rock!

11:04am: "I met my boyfriend through the volunteer drive," says a woman named T. They've been together for two years. Turns out many couples have met in the pledge room, a few of whom are now married.

11:27am: Money raised during MBE so far today -- $34,030

11:30am: "The DJs are like celebrities" says a pretty woman who has just arrived for her shift. "One year I met Warren Olney, and it was like meeting Bono."

11:37am: In the studio, longtime volunteers trade pledge stories. "One time I answered the phone and it was David Lynch," says a guy who's volunteered since 2008. "And another year Moby stopped by to answer calls." "One time," a woman named Alice says, "I answered the phone and it was a bunch of stoned guys who took 45 minutes to pick out the album they wanted for their gift."

11:40am: Money raised during MBE so far today -- $36,275

11:50am: The energy builds as Bentley and Litt ramp up for the final ten minutes of the show, which is typically when the most pledges come in. Concert tickets are flying out the door! And albums! Dinners at Malo! Coffee mugs! A goddamn trip to Kenya is up for grabs! Pick up the PHONE Los Angeles!

11:57am: Three minutes to go. We're talking about the first station in the United States to play Sade! And Beck! And Massive Attack!

11:59am: MBE is over. In the past three hours, the station has raised $47,596 via phone calls from 356 donors, one of whom yelled at me because I had a hard time taking her pledge over a bad phone connection. Still, we got her signed up to donate $10 a month to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in the station's double duty charity package premium. "If I didn't care about the hungry people," she told me, "I would have hung up on you a long time ago."

12:00pm: The World begins as the pledge ticker on the wall resets to zero. Otra vez!

The KCRW winter pledge drive continues through Friday, February 8.

Follow us on Twitter @LAWeeklyMusic, Katie Bain @bainofyrexstnce, and like us at LAWeeklyMusic.

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