Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What's Your Go-To Potluck Dish?

Courtesy of Marshall Astor via Flickr
Town Meeting Day is about connecting with your community, debating important issues…and bake sales and potluck dinners, of course!

VPR is collecting the best potluck recipes from around the state. What’s your go-to potluck dish? Share the recipe with us and we’ll feature it next week to complement our Town Meeting Day news coverage.

You can email your potluck recipe to us here or post it in the comments below.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

You Did It! The VPR Winter Membership Drive, By The Numbers

After a membership drive, the VPR staff's routine looks something like this:
  1. Cheer and feel appreciation for the tremendous support we receive during a drive.
  2. Head to the gym after work to address the few extra pounds that may have accumulated (thanks in part to the delicious food from our business partners!).
  3. Carefully count the pledges we received during the drive.
  4. Personally call and thank all new members (really!).
  5. And some of us vow to never again challenge listeners with the promise of making a lip-synch video.

Our team spends the week after the drive diligently recording all gifts received during the drive, following up with new sustaining members or others who had questions about their pledge. After all of the tabulation, we take a look at the numbers to analyze how things went and to see if we can do a better job next time.

Here's a quick summary of what we learned:
  • Total Raised: $548,175
  • Total Days of On-air Fundraising: 9
  • Total Number of Pledges: 4,922
  • Average Gift: $111.37
  • Total Challenges Offered: $60,000
  • New Members: 916
  • New Sustaining Members: 1,015
  • Sustaining Members Who Increased Monthly Support: 239
  • Amount Received Before The Drive Began: $119,684
  • Pledges by Mail: 1,407
  • Pledges by Phone: 2,245
  • Pledges by Web: 1,270
Our goal for the drive was $500,000. We saw an amazing surge on the last day of the drive thanks to a special challenge that was offered in the last hour. We also saw a number of gifts come in through the mail after the on-air portion of a drive was over.

Thanks to everyone who pledged during this winter membership drive. Thanks also to our sustaining members, who provide key support month after month. We are extremely grateful for your financial support!

I'd appreciate hearing from you with any feedback about the drive and our fundraising efforts in general. Just use the comment section below, or contact me directly. Also, let me know if you think our "Daily Drive Reports" were informative, or how we might better communicate with you during membership drives.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Join Us At The VPR Cafe

Clockwise from top left: Ric Cengeri,
Melissa Pasanen, Sally Pollak,
Candy Page
The VPR Café is a new weekly feature that’s all about Vermont food and the people who grow it, prepare it, and love it.  Every Sunday morning, we’ll take you behind the scenes with stories from the farms, kitchens, and eateries that comfort our souls and connect our communities. 

Hosted by VPR’s Ric Cengeri, The VPR Café is produced in collaboration with the Burlington Free Press.  Ric talks with Free Press feature writers Candace Page, Sally Pollak and Melissa Passenen.

Ric is an omnivore in the truest sense of the word.   “I never met a food I didn’t like.”  Food is always an adventure for Ric. “When I look at a menu and I see something new or unfamiliar – that’s what I order,” he says.  Ric's rotating guests also have extensive experience reporting on food, farms, cooking and the Vermont food economy:
  • Candy Page, who retires in April, has spent more than 30 years at the Burlington Free Press covering all angles of Vermont politics, government, and lifestyle.
  • Melissa Pasanen is a freelance writer for the Free Press and food editor for Vermont Life Magazine.
  • Sally Pollak is a feature writer for the Burlington Free Press.  She writes on a variety of issues including the Savorvore series.
In our first visit to The VPR Cafe on Sunday, March 3, Candy Page gives us a taste of the new international grading system for maple syrup.  We'll also hear what Candy learned about cooking with maple syrup when she spent the day with Ginger Isham in her kitchen at the Isham Family Farm in Williston.

You'll hear all new programming Sunday mornings beginning at 10:40 with 99% Invisible.  This weekly feature, produced by Roman Mars, is about the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.  The VPR Cafe is at 10:45, followed by insights from VPR commentators.

We hope you'll join us at The VPR Café and let us know what you think!

UVM Libraries Maple Community Cookbook.

Monday, February 18, 2013

VPR's Harlem Shake

Thanks to our amazing listeners, VPR surpassed its membership drive goal of $500,000. And now that we are clearly epic video moguls, we could think of no better way to thank you than to jump on the Harlem Shake video bandwagon. 

Enjoy this proof that Mitch and Jane aren't the only ones at VPR with sweet moves - and THANK YOU for your support!

Pink Martini In The Kingdom

It may have been freezing and windy outside last night, but you'd never know it from inside Fuller Hall at Saint Johnsbury Academy last night. Pink Martini played to a sold-out crowd, with NPR White House Correspondent Ari Shapiro sitting in on lead vocals for several songs.

The band's encore was a sizzling rendition of "Brazil," where lead singer China Forbes encouraged the audience to start a conga line. Well, as someone commented on Kingdom County Productions' Facebook page, "be careful when you yell "Conga Line" to an audience of Vermonters with cabin fever!"

Here's some video footage to warm you up today. Thanks to Kingdom County Productions for a great show and to everyone who came out! It was wonderful to see so many VPR listeners in the house!

Vermont Garden Journal Returns

You spent the winter pouring over seed catalogs, dreaming of color schemes for your flower garden and new veggies to try.  Well, the time to get your hands in the soil is almost here! 
Charlie Nardozzi returns this week with the Vermont Garden Journal for the 2013 growing season!  Each week, Charlie shares tips for successful organic gardening and suggestions for new species to try.  Listen Fridays at 5:55 p.m. and Sundays at 9:34 a.m. for The Vermont Garden Journal.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Join Vermont Edition For a Live Perfomance By Dwight & Nicole

On Wednesday, Feb. 20, Vermont Edition brings you a performance by Nicole Nelson and Dwight Ritcher, live from our studios in Colchester.

Nicole Nelson grabbed the spotlight last fall as a contestant on the NBC musical competition show "The Voice." She impressed a national audience with her singing talent and emotion, and wowed a packed Vermont Statehouse last month when she sang at the governor's inauguration.

The staff of Vermont Edition invites you to see Dwight & Nicole perform live at VPR's main studios in Colchester. Seating as limited to just 20, so starting today, we are accepting RSVPs on a first-come, first-served basis. (Audience must be seated by 12:30 p.m.)

Enjoy the short lunchtime concert in person, listen to host Jane Lindholm interview Dwight & Nicole, and stay for refreshments and conversation with the Vermont Edition staff.

To RSVP to attend the live performance of Dwight & Nicole on Wednesday, Feb. 20, on Vermont Edition, click here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

NPR's Ari Shapiro Performs With Pink Martini In Vermont

Pink Martini is coming to Saint Johnsbury Academy's Fuller Hall this Sunday evening at 7 p.m. The 14-piece band is known for performing songs from around the world, combining class and kitsch, swooning nostalgia, and delirious romance.

They'll be joined on stage by a familiar voice - that of NPR's White House Correspondent Ari Shapiro! 

Ari Shapiro has been moonlighting with Pink Martini since 2009. 

We asked Ari about his trip to Vermont. He said: "In the last year that I spent covering Mitt Romney's campaign, I spent a lot of time in New Hampshire. But for some reason I never made it over into neighboring Vermont. I'm so excited to rectify the situation this weekend with my favorite hometown band."

Check out the video above for a taste of what's in store. You can get tickets online here - and be sure to say hi to VPR while you're there. Looking forward to seeing you!

Mitch Wertlieb's Valentine Mix Tape

VPR Morning Edition Host Mitch Wertlieb played his favorite love songs this morning for VPR's Membership Drive.
Thanks everyone for sending the love!

All My Lovin' and All You Need Is Love -- The Beatles
Gee Baby Aint I Good To You -- Billie Holiday
Love Will Keep Us Together -- Captain and Tenille
My Funny Valentine -- Elvis Costello
I Want You Back -- The Jackson 5
Shower the People and Love Has Brought Me Around -- James Taylor
That's What Love Will Make You Do -- Jerry Garcia
Knock Me A Kiss -- Louis Jordan
That's Amore -- Dean Martin
Let's Get It On -- Marvin Gaye
Delirious Love -- Neil Diamond
Whole Lotta Love -- Led Zeppelin
They Love Each Other -- Grateful Dead

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sharing The Love (Letters)

Greta the Pledge Dog helps us sort through comments
Did you know that when a listener emails a comment to VPR with praise, constructive criticism, or whatever else is on their mind, the entire staff hears about it?

No, really.

You see, when a person uses our online comment form, a copy of the message goes to each member of the staff, whether you are in news, programming, traffic, development or engineering. So we're always listening as you listen to VPR.

We believe that this feedback loop is incredibly important and at the core of our mission of public service. Receiving these comments (the good, bad, and ugly) helps us understand how we are doing in general, alerts us to problems with online listening or at one of our transmission sites, feeds our thinking about new programs, and more.

One of the most rewarding aspects of a membership drive is the flood of comments that we receive as listeners make their pledge online or over the phone.

Here's a sample:
"Best public radio station I've listened to in 16 years in the U.S. living in three different states! Keep it up!" - Brad Ketterling, Burlington, VT

"I'm embarrassed that I didn't do this years ago." - Jack Adams, Fair Haven, VT

"I currently live in Chongquing, China and I want to thank you for the live streams of both VPR and the BBC." - Tucker Van Aken, Bolton, MA 

"I like everything except that Mitch is a Red Sox fan!" - Suzanne Dafni, Wallingford, VT

"Making this gift in honor of my late father who loved VPR Classical." - Cecelia Brelsford, White River Junction, VT

"We listen to VPR in Vermont in the summer and stream from Costa Rica in the winter." - Casey Henson, Peru, VT

"I'm enjoying the programming less and less, but still hanging in there ;-)" - Marielle Blas, Brandon, VT

"I just watched the video and had to pledge...great job!" - Amanda Tucker, Montpelier VT

"Just moved to Montreal and sooooooo pleased to find you here on the radio! I would have missed NPR otherwise." - Noa Davidai, Verdun, QC

"The guilt was killing me! I hate you, I love you VPR!!" - Nathaniel Halstead, Winooski, VT
Great stuff. Thanks to everyone who has pledged so far during our winter membership drive. The finish line is quickly approaching, so if you haven't made a pledge yet, please do so today.

And keep those comments coming. We're listening.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Public Radio Is For Optimists

There's just half a cookie left!
This morning we reached an important milestone in the Winter Membership Drive: we are halfway to our goal of $500,000!

As of 1 p.m. today, more than 2,600 people have generously supported VPR for a total of $251,926.

When you think about it, membership drives are definitely for people who see the glass as half full, or perhaps a better analogy considering the photo here, who see the cookie only half eaten.

After all, at the root of each membership drive is an unfailing optimism that our listeners will come together in support of VPR. I remember clearly my first membership drive as an employee: It was a summer drive and the pledges were not ringing off the hook as we had expected. I expressed my concern to Robin Turnau, the president of VPR, who calmly stated, "Brendan, our listeners will come through for us."

And you know what? She was right. Shortly after our conversation, the drive turned around and we went on to not only meet, but surpass the goal. We're optimistic because our listeners come through for us time and again. Thank you!

Today is also psychologically important because we start counting down. With five days to go, we have just $248,000 left to raise.

Some winter membership drive stats you might enjoy:
  • So far, 43% of our pledges have been through the mail, 35% have been over the phone, and 22% have been online.
  • The average pledge is $95.89.
  • Our best day so far was Friday, when we raised a total of $52,295.
  • Congrats to our prize winners! The Small Dog Electronics gift certificate winner was Amelia Shillingford of Bellows Falls, VT; The Wait! Wait...Don't Tell Me! trip winner was Mark Hesler, Franconia, NH.
  • So far, 635 listeners have requested the new VPR Artist Mug.
Speaking of the mug, if you haven't seen the art for this drive's mug, you can check it out here. It's a beautiful watercolor of pears on a wintry windowsill. We're having some fun with the idea with a "pear meme." You can check it out on VPR's Instagram feed. Feel free to join in on the fun by sharing the photos or coming up with your own!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mitch And Jane In "Call Me Maybe"

File this under "Things You Thought You'd Never See A Public Radio Host Do." But hey, a bet is a bet! Mitch Wertlieb and Jane Lindholm make good on their promise to make a Call Me Maybe video if we met this morning's $25,000 challenge. Who says public radio people don't have rhythm? Enjoy!

New Mug Inspired By George Harrison Song "Give Me Love"

"Give Me Love" by Kathryn Milillo
If you're a member of VPR, there's a good chance that you have at least one of our artist mugs in your cupboard. For more than 20 years, we've offered a specially-designed mug by a Vermont artist during our membership drives.

The VPR Artist Mug series is an institution in and of itself. There's an entire wall dedicated to the collection here at VPR HQ. Heck, we've even sent the entire gallery of mugs around the state for display. Each mug has its own personality thanks to great Vermont artists like Ed Koren, Sabra Field, Harry Bliss, Stephen Huneck, and many, many more. You can peruse the entire collection on our website.

For the 2013 winter membership drive, we are lucky enough to have a great new mug thanks to Proctor artist Kathryn Milillo. Kathy finds inspiration for her work in music. The art that she contributed to our new mug is titled, "Give Me Love," inspired by the George Harrison song of the same name. Check out more of Kathy's work on her website.

We offer these special mugs as an incentive for listeners to support VPR during membership drives. It's not unusual for us to receive 1,600 or more requests for a mug during a drive. With a pledge of $90 or more, you can request a mug and we'll pop it in the mail to you as soon as possible. 

Here's a short video clip containing some of my favorite VPR artist mug designs:

What do you think of the new mug? What's your favorite mug from the collection? As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Get Your Stats Here!

Peter Biello captured this photo of Mitch Wertlieb &
Jane Lindholm during the first day of the membership drive.
For those in the audience who love numbers, we've go you covered!

Here are some stats from the winter membership drive (as of 12 pm, Feb. 7, including pre-drive):
  • $123,851 raised
  • 1,479 pledges
  • 419 pledges by phone
  • 257 pledges by web
  • 803 pledges by mail
If you follow our pledge goals and challenges, here's an update:
  • Last night we had a goal of 125 pledges before 7 p.m. We received 131.
  • This morning, we had to receive 175 pledges before 9 a.m. to receive an additional $5,000 challenge. We made the challenge with 192 pledges!
We also had a lot of fun on the first day of the drive with our chocolate hearts from our friends at Lake Champlain Chocolates. Everyone who made a pledge could request one (and many did!).

Tonight at 7 p.m. we have our first drawing prize, a $1,000 gift certificate to Small Dog Electronics. Pledge now to be sure you are entered in the drawing! Sustaining members are automatically entered into all membership drive drawings. You don't have to pledge to be entered, but we certainly hope that you will. You can check out all of our drawings on our website here.

Reuben Jackson Reviews Enrico Rava's Latest

2013 is still getting comfortable in the batter's box, but we've already been graced with a recording worthy of attention.

Batting first (watch this space for more) - trumpeter Enrico Rava.  His lyrical and artistically curious work for the German-based ECM label both conform to and play hooky from the label's penchant for introspection.

But even longtime Rava fans might find themselves surprised with the newly released Rava On The Dance Floor, a recording culled from a 2011 concert of compositions written by, or associated with Michael Jackson.  Rava confesses to only having a "superficial acquaintance" with Jackson's work, but when he happened upon his wife watching a concert DVD after the singer's death, he "couldn't live without this music."

The aforementioned passion abounds throughout "Dance Floor". Trombonist Mauro Ottolini's
ensemble arrangements of "Thriller", "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" and "They Don't Care About Us" provide the 12-piece aggregation substantive solo and ensemble passages, and sublime but rhythmically infectious foundations, while maintaining the integrity of the originals.

The alternately rocking and reflective "They Don't Care About Us" is unquestionably one of the collection's highlights. This performance successfully fuses deliciously raucous guitar work by Marcello Gianini, and defiant, preaching solos by Rava, tenor saxophonist Dan Kinzelman and trombonist Daniele Tittarelli.  The opening moments of "Thriller" fill the air like menacing yet seductive shadows.

By contrast, the band's reading of the Charlie Chaplin ballad "Smile" (one of Michael Jackson's many idols) is tender, but never mawkish. Rava's trumpet beautifully caresses and personalizes the melody, while the ensemble offers wistful yet hopeful sighs.

Rava On The Dance Floor is a noteworthy addition to the Italian-born trumpeter’s body of recordings. Michael Jackson would be glad to know that musicians such as Enrico Rava are honoring and interpreting the music he cared so much about.

Listen Friday, February 8 beginning at 8 p.m. for my favorite picks from this CD.

- Reuben Jackson
Host of Friday Night Jazz, 8-11 on VPR

Are You Obsessed With Being First?

A fresh batch of first thank yous
that went out in today's mail.
Are you obsessed with being first?

You know...first in line, first to arrive at an event, first in, well....everything?

One of the most important parts of a membership drive happens long before we turn on the microphones and ask for your pledge of support: We call it, "pre-drive."

Pre-drive starts many weeks before a membership drive actually begins. We send out letters (and an email or two) to remind listeners why they should support Vermont Public Radio and why it helps to be first.

One of the benefits of being first is that the earlier you make your pledge, the greater your chances of winning one of our awesome drawing prizes. You can see the full list here.

Thanks to these "first folks," we can keep the drive as short as possible because we get a head start on reaching our overall membership drive goal.

So here's a special shout-out to the more than 800 listeners who contributed more than $65,000 before day one of our winter membership drive.

Thanks for being first!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Introducing The Daily Drive Report!

We understand that membership drives are not necessarily a VPR fan favorite.

But, believe it or not, some listeners have actually asked us for more information about membership drives, including how and why they are an important part of our overall fundraising efforts.

That's me, Brendan, on the left with VPR colleagues Lesli Blount
and Michelle Jeffery (conducting product research).
So, for the duration of this winter membership drive (which started today!) I'll post daily updates to the VPR Blog.

These reports will include things like: progress toward the overall goal, information about prize drawing winners, the results of challenges, and a few charts and graphs to satisfy the statisticians in our audience!

I'll also share some "behind the scenes" details of the membership drive, through photos and possibly a video or two.

One question that we frequently receive is, "How do you decide on the goal for a membership drive?"

As you can imagine, we have to consider a number of factors. History can help us determine reasonable goals for each drive. We take a look at how membership drives have contributed to our fundraising success in prior years and how they might perform in the year ahead.

We also examine how other factors might influence the size and scope of our drives. For example, we know that an increase in sustaining memberships has had an impact on our drives. With more people making automatic monthly gifts to VPR, participation in membership drives may decrease over time.

Over the past three years (partially as a result of  increases in our sustaining membership program!) we've been able to consistently lower the goals for our membership drives. For example, this year's winter membership drive goal is $500,000, compared to last year's goal of $520,000.

I hope you'll participate in this experiment by asking questions throughout the drive (or making suggestions in general). Use the comments section below to join the conversation!

We've Got Heart!

"I love you."

"I need you."

"I can't live without you."

These are just a few of the sentiments our listeners tell us about VPR. And hey, we love you right back! To prove it, when you become a sustaining member or make a pledge of $35 or more today, we’ll send you a big chocolate-caramel heart from Lake Champlain Chocolates as our way of saying "we heart you," and thanks for supporting VPR. 

It will arrive at your door just in time for Valentine’s Day, so you can give it to your sweetie…or keep the 2.2 ounces of chocolatey goodness all to yourself!

This offer is only available today, the first day of VPR's membership drive. You'll be helping us meet our overall goal of $500,000, which will keep the news, music, and conversation you love going strong. 

If you prefer, you can always phone in your pledge. Just call 1-800-639-6391!