Message from the General Manager
Last month, I wrote about membership fundraising, why it is critical to public media, and a bit about how it works. This month, I want to go further.
August traditionally holds one of WGBY’s biggest fundraisers of the year. Our on-air campaigns (“pledge” for short) play a critical role in raising the dollars to support the programs and services we provide to everyone, every day without charge. But a phone call I received last Monday gave me some pause.
When I picked up the phone, the caller was somewhat surprised he had gotten me directly. He wanted to talk about a letter we had sent (and was signed with my name) thanking him for his “donation”. He told me he was concerned because “I didn’t make a donation, I purchased a set of DVDs!" I admit that my heart sank a little as I tried to explain that the DVDs were our way of saying thank you and encouraging larger donations, but certainly not the ultimate point. We talked for a while, but I’m not sure I convinced him he had done anything the least bit philanthropic.
When pledge was developed decades ago, it was an innovative, inexpensive technique that increased audiences, built awareness of public TV and raised essential revenue. Today, it is often a public TV cliché that can push loyal viewers elsewhere and has become much less productive money-wise. It is time to think again.
That’s why this summer, all summer, we’re going to be pledge-free on WGBY. Instead, we’ll be working behind the scenes, online, in the community and in the mail to enlist neighbors from across the region to join you in support of public television and raise the necessary funds to fulfill our mission.
Our plan goes even further: to consolidate our on-air fundraising to a single year-end campaign this fall. If that goes well, we’ll cancel our March and June on-air campaigns as well, to bring you even more of the programming you count on from WGBY next spring and summer.
This is a bold strategy and there is some risk that we’ll need to resort to the more traditional model of fundraising, but this region is known for big ideas and with your moral and financial support we will succeed. You’ll be hearing much more about this in the months ahead, and anything you can do to spread the word will be much appreciated.
Thank you and enjoy your pledge-free summer!
Russell J. Peotter