Thursday, July 30, 2009

The view from the other side

I recently told a group of my mother’s friends that I was interning at MPT for the summer. Their immediate reaction was a resounding “Tell them no more Celtic Woman!”

As an intern on the development side of things here, I didn’t deliver the message. Nonetheless, that encounter is pretty indicative of the general attitude toward pledge drive time. I remember watching the Simon and Garfunkle concert in Central Park with my family, and the annoyance that came every time it was interrupted with a request for money.

Now, though, I have the view from the other side of pledge. Last month I attended intern night for the pledge drive, and a group of interns staffed the phones for the evening. To be honest, it was a little surreal. You get so used to seeing that wall of phones, and it never occurred to me that I would be the one answering. It turned out to be really fun. I got to talk to some really sweet people who were pledging, and I got a chance to get chat with interns from other departments.

I think that’s the best part about MPT pledge: it’s an opportunity to bring people together. I recently had the chance to sit down with Joe Krushinsky, the Vice President of Institutional Advancement here at MPT, to ask him about his thoughts on pledge.

Pledge provides a way for those who work at MPT, like Joe, to speak directly to viewers and get immediate feedback. If a show is popular or appreciated, there will be more calls during its run. It’s also an opportunity for the organizations staffing the phones to get invaluable face time with public television viewers.

Joe talked to me about how state and corporate funding has been drying up, and MPT has been increasingly forced to rely on public support. Public television was initially funded with a grant from the Ford Foundation, which was based on the premise that the projects it funded, if successful, would eventually find ways to fund themselves. For public television, the answer was pledge. Pledge reaches exactly those who rely on and enjoy MPT, and acts as a link between the station and the viewer.

Now I’m thinking pledge is actually a pretty cool thing. It works, and because it works, it demonstrates that people want the kind of programming and public outreach MPT provides. However, I also think it’s important to remember that not everyone can contribute, and that’s fine. If your family can afford it, wonderful. But anyone who is struggling financially should remember that MPT still values them as viewers, even when contributing isn’t an option.

So what do you think? When you get past the annoyance of interrupting your favorite programs, is pledge a necessary evil, a valuable opportunity, or something else entirely?

Ruth Goodlaxson
Outreach Intern


Carol Ott said...

Years ago, public television used to hold auctions as a way to raise money, and two major pledge drives per year. Now it seems that every weekend, it's a pledge drive -- with the same tired programming, to boot. (I echo the sentiment about Celtic Woman...really?)

Times are tough for everyone -- including, I would guess, the majority of your members. Pledge drives should be seen as an opportunity for your current members to give back and an opportunity to make connections with new members -- it shouldn't feel like a shakedown by the mob.

I wish there was a way for public television stations to somehow exclude members who have given in that calendar year from having to be subjected to multiple pledge drives -- like an "opt-out" feature for TV instead of email. While I know this isn't would make me feel better about giving to MPT.

Scrogginsdata said...

The question has become irrelevant as far as I'm concerned.

In the past I could watch MPT either on Comcast's basic service or your analog signal over the air.

Now you are no longer available to me on Comcast, you never have been on my Echostar service, and I cannot receive your weak digital signal.

So, for all practical purposes, MPT no longer serves me, and I'm beginning to resent my tax money being used to support a service that does not adequately cover the entire state.

Elizabeth Sheri said...

I'm proud to support Public Television. I'm a WGBH member (Boston affiliate). For all the good that public television does with regard to education, it's worth the five minute intervals. And, in all seriousness, I know I'm not the only one who actually looks forward to the pledge drives. That's when the program directors pull out all of the fantastic music programs. Celtic Woman, Celtic Thunder, Anuna, Josh Groban...heaven! Rather than complaining, pledge and keep the good stuff coming!