Catholic radio takes pledge drive from the studio to the chancery
by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — You would expect Catholics to give money to their local Catholic radio station during a pledge drive.
But did you know that Catholic radio has its enthusiastic Protestant supporters, too?
“We have Protestants who pledge,” said Jim O’Laughlin, president of the Catholic Radio Network, during its April 16-20 spring pledge drive.
“You know how we know? We ask what diocese they belong to,” he said, “and they go, ‘I don’t know. What’s a diocese?’ And then we ask them what parish they’re from.”
The general rule of thumb for Catholic radio, at least for the Catholic Radio Network, is that 50 percent of its listeners are non-Catholic, 25 percent are inactive Catholics, and 25 percent are practicing Catholics.
It’s no wonder that Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann called Catholic radio “a powerful tool for evangelization.”
For its 2012 spring pledge drive, the seven-station network headquartered in Excelsior Springs, Mo., tried something new. For the first time ever, it conducted a remote broadcast and pledge drive from a Kansas location — the chancery of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
Normal programming was suspended for rotating shifts of volunteer, amateur, live, on-air talent. A temporary studio was set up in a small conference room, and volunteer call-takers were ensconced in the archdiocesan media room. People in the two rooms could see each other via Skype.
Every once in a while, people in the hallways could hear the volunteer broadcasters ring a handbell when a goal or challenge was met.
And every once in a while, radio listeners would hear a few seconds of what every station manager dreads — silence.
“We’ve been having problems today, but I think we’ve got them fixed,” said O’Laughlin on April 16. “We think maybe it was the phone line here, but I’m not sure of it. Something always goes a-matter, and it’s always on the first day.”
In order to do a “remote” (a show done at a location away from established broadcast facilities), the signal goes from the microphones in the temporary studio, to what O’Laughlin calls “the blue box,” which then digitizes and compresses the signal, sends it down a phone line to EWTN in Birmingham, Ala., up to an EWTN satellite orbiting Earth, down to a receiving dish, and then to a radio tower for broadcast — all in one second.
Technical considerations aside, it takes a couple of other things to make a pledge drive work as well.
One is a lot of volunteers. The network needed enough on-air volunteer talent to fill 40 of its 50 hours of one-week airtime. O’Laughlin recruited more than 50 people — mostly priests and religious — to man the microphones, share their vocation stories, and banter a little. The network also recruited about 90 volunteers, working three-hour shifts, to take phone calls and process pledges.
Two of those who manned the phones for the first time were Janet and Jerry Malone, members of the Church of the Nativity in Leawood.
“My wife got more pledges than I did, because she’s sweeter on the phone,” said Jerry Malone. “I got about $400, and she got $800 or $900.”
Not a bad haul for a couple of rookies. The Malones love Catholic radio and figured now was as good a time as any to step up their support.
“We enjoy listening to Catholic radio and we have it on all the time,” said Janet Malone. “And we watch EWTN all the time.”
“There is a plethora of great Catholic evangelists and apologists emerging, and many of them are on Catholic radio, which is affiliated with EWTN,” said Jerry Malone. “You’re going to hear the finest, most orthodox Catholic thinkers of our time by tuning to Catholic radio at 1090 AM.”
Over the eight years since the network has been founded, it has done about 125 days’ worth of pledge drives. O’Laughlin used to set goals, but doesn’t anymore.
“I’ve only done a goal twice, and we didn’t make them,” he said. “And every time I didn’t have a goal, we exceeded what I thought we’d bring in, so I’d rather leave it up to the Holy Spirit. Usually on the last day we’ll set a goal for the day.”
The Catholic Radio Network has two stations in Colorado, two in Kansas, and three in Missouri. Listeners can tune in at 106.7 FM in St. Joseph, Mo.; 106.1 in Maryville, Mo.; 1090 AM in Excelsior Springs (Kansas City metro area); and 93.7 FM. For information about program schedules or to listen via the Internet, go to the website at: www.thecatholicradionetwork.com.