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A pledge drive is an extended period of fundraising activities, generally used by public broadcasting stations to increase contributions. The term "" originates from the promise that a contributor makes to send in funding at regular intervals for a certain amount of time. During a pledge drive, regular programming is followed by an appeal for pledges by station employees, who ask the audience to make their contributions, usually by phone or the Internet, during this break.
While public broadcasters are partially or completely government-funded in some nations, there are some countries, such as the United States, where some funds must come from donations from the public. Stations in these parts of the world commonly hold pledge drives about two to three times each year, usually lasting one to two weeks each time.
Pledge drives are especially common among U.S. stations. Although the federal government of the United States, primarily through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and corporate underwriting provide some money for public broadcasting organizations like National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), they are largely dependent on program fees paid by their member stations. These stations require funding in turn from listeners and viewers (as well as local corporate sponsors) for not only these fees, but also other daily operating costs, and stage regular pledge drives in an attempt to persuade their audiences to contribute donations.
A hallmark of pledge breaks is the "pledge room", where the speakers deliver their message as volunteering individuals answer ringing telephones in the background. Frequent updates are provided as to the amount of money that the pledge drive has raised so far, which is also (on television stations) shown on a numeric display. Small prizes such as mugs and tote bags (known as "thank-you" gifts or, euphemistically, as "premiums"), as well as entries into drawings for larger awards, are also offered by many stations in return for pledging certain amounts of money.
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