Hot funds in the summertime

Time was, someone collecting for a local charity had a good chance of being, well, local. Punctilious remembers:

When I used to assist our local public television station, I sat at a row of phones on camera and answered them when they rang. Each night a dozen or so volunteers from a different local organization would man the phones until the auction was over. It was all local products donated by local businesses with local volunteers answering the phones. There were a few paid staff, regular station employees, who organized and orchestrated the fund drive. But everything else was volunteer. As in free. As in none of the funds raised paid people to raise funds. The money all went to the station to continue broadcasting. (I know, but in those pre-remote days we had 4 channels and PBS had programming with some thought so we supported it. We didn’t have any other choices.)

This practice hasn’t entirely died out, but:

So now I get a call from some bored and androgynous sounding person half a continent away asking me for funds to support the local art museum. I wonder how much of my renewed membership fee is going to pay the monotonous Dianne from Oregon and her supervisor and her supervisor’s boss and the guy who travels the country wining and dining museum curators to get their marketing business. I imagine the percentage is significantly smaller than that of the old PBS local auction days.

I wonder if maybe the sheer unpredictability of local fundraising efforts is motivating organizations to go out and seek, um, professional help. When I was in New England, back in the days when Roger Williams was a pianist, I watched the Channel 2 Auction with enthusiasm, not because I had any particular fondness for WGBH, but because the possibility for Great Weirdness was always lurking. One year (1973?) WNAC-TV, then a CBS affiliate on channel 7, offered some advertising spots to ‘GBH to sell at auction: the high bidder was WKBG-TV, an independent station on channel 56. And sure enough, for the next couple of months, between CBS programs in prime time on 7, there were promos for shows on 56. I suspect the rules were changed after that.

And I also suspect that were public-radio fundraisers to start sounding more Hollywood than homespun, the pool of donors would wind up drier than Michael Feldman’s sense of humor.





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