Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: This report is going to focus on fundraising. I am going to address the need to note how to donate, online donations, the need to reply to fundraising issues, and the premiums themselves. Hopefully, every Pacifica Radio station will meet their target goals this cycle. But, in reading e-mails this week, I do not believe the fundraising is as effective as it could be. I will be giving KPFA credit by name so I will also be taking it to task for another issue. The five Pacifica Radio stations proper are KPFA (broadcast in the Bay Area and worded that way to avoid offending members), KPFK (broadcasts in the Los Angeles area), WBAI (broadcast out of NYC and picked up in many regions of the tri-state area), KPFT (broadcasts in Houston), and WPFW (broadcasts in D.C.). Since a number of members also listen to KFCF (broadcasts in Fresno), I will also note that station.

I am starting today's report with a basic reality that should be very basic but seems to confuse Pacifica Radio. During the day, when someone listens to a Pacifica radio station online, they may be at work. Streaming may be allowed at a job but many employers frown on online purchasing. What is my point?

If you are attempting to raise money, post your phone number online. That has been the biggest complaint in this week's e-mails. KPFA always has two numbers posted during pledge drive prominently. On Monday, sixteen members would have contributed during a program they enjoy that airs on another Pacifica radio station. Those on air were not giving the number out often enough and the number was not posted at the website. It is now posted at the website so I will assume that radio station heard about it from listeners.

I heard first from a member who shared that she got written up two years ago when a co-worker was getting married and registered at Target. The woman went online to purchase a gift for the co-worker, as a handout the boss had passed out suggested, only to be written up three weeks later. Going through the e-mails this week, I heard similar stories.

So somebody get a memo to Pacifica Radio that if you are attempting to raise money, you need to post your phone number. You also need to post it clearly. KPFA does not bury it in a sidebar down the page, it is at the top in a large banner.

You have people at work, listening out of your area code, waiting for a break when they can call in and donate. To do that, they need to know the phone number to call.

For those who donate online, they also have complaints. No one wrote, "My name did not get mentioned on air." However, all noted that hosts seemed unaware that people were donating online. The ringing phone, especially coming after a prolonged silence, often prompts, to borrow from Amy Goodman, people "to go to your phones." If someone is not noting online contributions when they are coming in, you are not creating excitement. I have listened to all of the Pacifica stations and I know the drill: "We have X number of open lines now . . ."

With the exception of Jim Bennett, of KPFA, I cannot name one person who always, every fund drive, works in a statement as simple as, "We have received X number of online donations." At a very basic level, if I am listening online and hear that someone else has donated online, that is going to make me wonder if I should be donating online? I also think it works for those listening over the airwaves. "Someone from ____ just donated . . ." would make me wonder why I was not donating to WBAI, the one station I can hear over the airwaves. I also know that Amy Goodman is very good, if one area is donating repeatedly, about asking if other regions are "in the house?"

The member who shared the Target story wrote mid-week to note that the station in question had just started posting their number online and offer that I forget about addressing her issue in my report. I appreciate that but she was not the only one complaining. More importantly, the number is still not prominent.

For some reason, although you are told at the top-center of the page that it is a pledge drive and given a link to donate online, the phone number is buried on the right side of the webpage.

That number needs to be the first thing someone visiting online sees. They do not need to scroll around and most will not. They are there to click on the "listen live" option. Though there is talk about other content going up at some stations, the reality is that other content really has not emerged and the websites are still used solely to access the webstream.

Phone numbers need to be displayed on every website and they need to be displayed prominently. Every member who wrote about the issue of donations should have received an e-mail from me and, if you did not, that means I did not receive your e-mail. Those I did exchange e-mails with were kind enough to answer questions I had which I am going to share because if you are not fundraising in your most effective manner, you are not really fundraising.

One complaint I received was about KPFA. An online donation was made during the last pledge drive. Right before this pledge drive started, the member received a notice, a "final notice." The pledge had apparently not been honored and was about to go void. Wanting to save time, the community member e-mailed KPFA to note that he regularly gives X amount each month and his credit card is on file. What was the problem with the additional donation? The member never received a reply. Did the donation go through?

I wish I was as fortunate as the member not to have to check my account balance but the member does not. He donated with a credit card, the same one he always uses. From the wording of the letter he shared with me, it appeared KPFA might need a signature or there was a credit card problem. If it was a signature, when people donate online, there should be a message on the "Thank you" screen advising them that a letter will arrive and that they need to sign something and send it back.

The member is not donating this cycle. He is very offended because he is attempting to figure out which programs in the past have received his online donations? Like anyone who listens to Pacifica, he has his favorite programs and tries to show support for those by donating during them. Now he is wondering if any of those pledges went through?

That is really bad fundraising. The minute KPFA received that e-mail, he used the online contact form and selected the pledge payment options, they should have replied. They should have said whether or not the pledge had been sent through.

Again, I am not fortunate enough not to check my balance statements each month. I doubt many are. But those who are and give generously have already done their work, it is up to KPFA to do their part and respond. They are getting nothing from that member this cycle because he is honestly wondering whether any of his additional pledges have gone through?

I checked with Zach, Mia, Kat and C.I. because they donate to KPFA by phone. Zach, Mia and Kat all said they had never received anything asking them for a signature, that their pledges had gone through. C.I. said, "Ruth, I don't have time to read my mail." Meaning, if it it is not a personal letter, it tends to fly into the trash can. C.I. did note that KPFA sends out very nice greeting cards as thank yous when you pledge.

Zach, Mia and Kat all declare their contributions on their tax statements, pledges to Pacifica are tax deductible. They suggested that the member look through those statements. C.I. said, "If he's not checking his balance, he's probably not declaring it on his taxes. I don't either." Sure enough, the member does not declare donations.

I did not want to be rude and e-mail to ask him, "Exactly how much are you giving to KPFA?" But I would assume it was a nice sum if the member doesn't need to check balance statements and does not need to declare the donations on the tax form.

I did e-mail to ask, "Do you usually open anything from KPFA?" The reply was not very often.

He also explained that his first reaction was surprise that a donation had not gone through. When he never received a reply as to whether or not the problem had been resolved, he started to wonder what individual donations he made went through and whether or not the programs received credit for them? After which, his attitude was that he would sit out this fund drive.

That is fine for him. Other listeners, who can afford it, should be stepping up to the plate. I do not think that is fine for KPFA. If I depended on pledges, you better believe I would make sure that every question was answered, every "i" dotted and every "t" crossed. If I had the contributor's e-mail, I also would not be wasting money on postage and paper to contact them when I could easily e-mail instead.

The last issue regarding fundraising is the premiums. C.I. made a comment about feeling sorry that Kris Welch is usually stuck winding down the fundraising cycle with premiums that have already been heavily featured many times on KPFA. That comment was cited in many e-mails this week. C.I. said, "That does sound like me. But I can't imagine making it here in an entry other than maybe one of the "And the war drags on" entries? Are you sure you didn't make the point?" No, I did not. Thanks to Dallas for locating it. It went up at Kat's Korner when C.I. was filling in for Kat. It was mentioned many times in e-mails this week. I will offer it in full here because it the point did register with many:

If I'm in the house or the car, I'm listening. But when Andrea Lewis and Dennis Bernstein are offering the same premiums and Goodman's got premiums unique to her fundraising hours, you really can't compare the success of fundraising. Near the end of the drive, on a Friday, Kris Welch did a wonderful job (I thought) raising interest in a film her show was about to feature. But the reality was, it had already played on The Morning Show and other programs. It had been promoted as a premium already on other programs. That's not really fair to her, or anyone else that's promoting from the same pool of premiums, to compare the funds raised to Goodman's which, one more time, offer premiums unique to her periods.

That is something that just floated out there, and that even C.I. had forgotten about, but suddenly became a huge thing in e-mails and not just e-mails mentioning Ms. Welch or KPFA.
I agree that it is not really fair that Ms. Welch, on the last days of fundraising, is having to air things that have already been aired. C.I. explained that the premiums are donated and they need to be worked. I can understand that point. But a devoted Deepa Fernades listener, not my granddaughter Tracey who is a devoted fan but Ms. Fernandes clearly has many devoted fans, wrote wishing that a CD of some interviews Ms. Fernandes has conducted in the last year was being featured. The member e-mailing did get a Law and Disorder pack offered on Monday and, citing C.I.'s comment, wondered why WBAI was not offering more premiums like that in addition to the DVDs, books, CDs, etc?

On Friday, CounterSpin was offering a super-sized premium of their interview with Noam Chomsky on CD as well as a collection of Professor Chomsky's columns. That was a two hour special and I will add that it was very nice to hear Peter Hart, Janine Jackson, and Steve Rendall all together. Friday's broadcast also featured an interview with David Swanson that I had planned to note but when I was reviewing the e-mails this morning, I realized that fundraising is an issue members are taking very seriously. I wonder how that well received the Chomsky premium was because I had an e-mail from a Flashpoints Radio listener who lamented that a CD of Nora Barrows-Friedman's reporting from the occupied territories was not being offered?

I am not dismissing any of the fine DVDs, books, or CDs that are offered. Nor am I suggesting that people donating do so just to receive a premium. But I am picturing Ms. Welch once again being given the task of winding down the fundraising cycle and doing so with premiums that have been offered for the entire fundraiser. It would seem very easy to me, maybe I am missing something, for the stations to be able to offer a Living Room CD premium containing interviews she had conducted. I am sure Ms. Welch has some favorite interviews from this year and they would not even have to produce/burn any CDs until the pledges came in and they knew how many were needed. I could be wrong, but I cannot imagine that by the last days of the pledge drive, there are many listeners stopping by who are just learning that KPFA has been conducting a pledge drive.

Because I have not worked this in elsewhere, let me note that Law and Disorder has been producing new episodes despite the fund drive and Mike has covered them in "Law and Disorder, Media Matters" and "Law and Disorder: John Ehrenberg, Liz McIntyre."
I also want to note a broadcast on Monday that C.I. mentioned in Friday's snapshot:
Also on Monday, airs Questioning War-Organizing Resistance from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm PST and will address the issue of war resistance with guests including Pablo Paredes, Michael Wong, Jeff Paterson and Camilo Mejia. More information can be found in Carol Brouillet's "Questioning War- Organizing Resistance- War Resisters Radio Show" (Indybay IMC)." That sounds like a must listen.