Saturday, March 01, 2008

Ruth's Report

Ruth (of Ruth's Report): As C.I. noted in Friday's "Iraq snapshot:"

From video to radio. WBAI's pledge drive is ending and Sunday The Nex Hour offers "Post-Warholian radio artists Andrew Andrew host." That's at 11:00 am to noon EST Sunday on NYC airwaves and streaming on WBAI while Monday they offer Cat Radio Cafe from 2:00 to 3:00 pm EST: "Poet Marie Howe reads from her new collection, "The Kingdom of Ordinary Time"; actor/playwright Brian Dykstra on his new one-man show on religion, "The Jesus Factor"; and actor Paul Hecht and musician Lisa Terry on "Parthenia, a Consort of Viols, Presents Hot Off the Press Concert of New Music and Poetry." Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer."

Pacifica's fundraising round is ending and I held off commenting on one of the biggest complaints from members. I will be kind and not name stations or programs but the month of February was their first fundraising drive for the year 2008. The previous Pacifica Radio stations fundraising was in the fall, in October. During the pledge drive they promoted various premiums and you, no doubt, heard many, many times that a premium offered as a gift for your pledge would make a wonderful holiday gift and I do believe most assumed they were referring to December holidays. So why do I have so many e-mails complaining that (a) they never received the premium or (b) they received it this month.

All received the forms they can file with their tax return this month.

One member e-mailed a station to point out that the payment was made in October, that the tax return arrived this month but no pledge gift had been delivered.

I have no idea why there is a slow turn around. I do understand why people who never receive their premiums feel awkward about complaining. They donated for the programming, not the gift. They were looking forward to the gifts but that was not why they donated.

But I do think the Pacifica stations need to get it together regarding the premiums. There is no reason an October pledge, with the money paid or charged in October, results in a late February mail delivery.

When this fundraising cycle began this month, the complaints started coming in as people realized, "I pledged last time, where is the premium?" I was e-mailing to a few members at the start of the month and explaining that I would raise the issue when this month's fundraiser was over so as not to hurt the pledge drive. By the middle of the month, I had created a form reply to this issue because so many e-mails were coming in on this topic.

I think it should be a given that you do not start another fundraising cycle when you have still not sent out your premiums from the last fundraiser. That is very basic. I have volunteered with many charities, the bulk of them medical, and I cannot imagine that, in our planning sessions, the first question would not be, "Did we sent out the calenders?" or whatever we had offered as a gift to those donating. That should be the first and most basic question asked as you move into your next pledge drive.

You should also caution on air staff against telling people, "It will make a great gift for the holidays." A program I greatly enjoy had the staff saying just that in October and, on the plus side, the premiums were sent out. On the minus side, every member who pledged back in October received their gifts in this middle of this month. In this instance, everyone pledged via credit cards a single sum for one of the gifts offered (a disc or a disc and a book) and their cards were charged back in October the day of their pledge. Why does it require four months to send those out?

If Pacifica wants to increase their fundraising power, the first thing to do is to examine the turnaround when someone pledges. Again, people are not pledging for the gifts. But where you might give one amount, a gift justifies pledging higher. That is why the charities I worked with always had gifts. It is a given that a person will justify to themselves pledging a higher amount because it is (a) for a worthy cause and (b) a gift is being offered. Pacifica knows that and it is why they offer premiums for pledges.

A number of members pledging listen via online stream. Of those, many are not in the broadcast area. I eliminated members from outside the United States as I was going through the e-mails on this topic. I am not saying that they do not matter but international mail may create delays. As I went through, however, I saw that the delay was true even if you lived in the city the station you pledged through broadcast from.

This is a serious issue and right now the e-mails were more puzzled than anything else. But if this becomes a pattern, watch for the puzzlement to shift to anger.

Pacifica will have another fundraising shortly. Before they do that, they need to ensure that everyone who has paid their pledge has already received their premium. That is very basic and anyone working on a fund drive for any organization or issue knows that. I will continue to monitor this and probably write about it again when the fall pledge drive rolls around. That will give them at least one more pledge cycle to work out whatever the problems have been. If the problems still exist, I will probably be naming which stations are the worst offenders and which programs are the worst offenders.

One program, in particular, has a huge problem with this and has a huge problem with this for as long as I have been doing these reports. I can go back to 2005 on them and explain how four to five months is a "speedy" turnaround for them. Without naming the program, but most will quickly guess what it is, I will note that it broadcasts on all Pacifica stations. If the issue is not addressed by the fall pledge drive, I will be naming the programs and I will not wait until the pledge drive is over to raise the issue. I will also be comparing the Pacifica turnaround with the NPR turnaround.

I had intended to write about the latest issue of Extra! this report but, when I mentioned that on Thursday, e-mails came in remind me that I had stalled on this issue. My apologies to C.I. because I had claimed that issue of the magazine earlier this month since Pacifica was in fundraising mode which meant there would not be a lot to highlight from the radio. For those who have wondered about the reports and missed it, I have been helping out with the writing at The Third Estate Sunday Review.