Does anyone look forward to pledge drives at Houston's non-commercial stations? The money that comes in is essential to keep the stations on the air, but the incessant begging for bucks can be a real turnoff. (True confessions: In our household, the TV and radio stay silent during every pledge drive.)
But this time Channel 8 is trying something a little different and results have been promising.
During the HoustonPBS winter membership campaign, which ends Sunday, the station has kept popular programs in their regular timeslots instead of pre-empting them for special programming as has been done in the past. And they're offered bonus incentives to entice loyal viewers to pony up for an "experience" around their favorite show.
The opportunity to go on a bus trip to Galveston hosted by The Daytripper's Chet Garner took in $6,248 from 42 people in one night. A broadcast of El Camino Olive Trail, a film about the olive industry along the Mexico/Texas border and beyond, featured a blind taste-test match between olive oils from Texas and Sicily to determine who produces the best (alas, Sicily won) and admission to a seminar on how to grow olives in Texas. It brought in close to $4,000 from 23 pledges.
Fans of the popular Antiques Roadshow snapped up 500 tickets for a local Appraisal Day event modeled after the hit show, raising $35,000. Houston antiques dealer David Lackey, a popular appraiser on the show, and Bill Stubbs, who hosts the PBS series Moment of Luxury, will offer non-binding appraisals of objects brought in by pledgers.
Fans of the popular Antiques Roadshow snapped up 500 tickets for a local Appraisal Day event modeled after the hit show, raising $35,000.
"That went over fantastically well," said Houston Public Media executive director/general manager Lisa Trapani Shumate. "We had a real win-win in that we had something to offer and it didn't cost us anything.
"Essentially the TV pledge has become about the premium — this DVD, that book. That's all fine if that's what the viewer wants. But there is a cost associated with those (offerings). So if you gave $50 not all $50 would go to our mission. So what we've tried to come up with now is a blend of those traditional things — people want their Celtic Thunder tickets — and some new things, like what they did with Antiques Roadshow."
Trapani Shumate took over the top post at Houston Public Media overseeing Channel 8 and radio stations KUHF-FM and KUHA-FM on Nov. 1, after planning had begun for the pledge drive. She credits the Channel 8 team for coming up the innovative fundraising ideas but added a couple of her own to signal where she hopes to direct the public TV and radio stations.
At her suggestion, Channel 8 is devoting a chuck of prime time over the next two nights to live studio broadcasts under the banner, Celebrate Houston.
On Wedneday night, the theme is Science and Technology, with a lineup that includes interviews with Catherine C. Mosbacher of the Center for Houston's Future, The High Tech Texan Michael Garfield, "The Engines of our Ingenuity" host John Lienhard and Houston Technology Center's Adil Jafry. Representatives from Space Center Houston, the Museum of Natural Science, the Children's Museum and the University of Houston's CORE (Coordination of Robotics Education) will perform live demonstrations.
On Thursday night, the Houston arts scene is the focus, with live performances by Project Grad (STARS Opera Group), Music Box Theater, Ensemble Theater, Theatre Under the Stars Humphrey's School and HSPVA. Among those scheduled to be interviewed: Houston Grand Opera's Ana Maria Martinez, Houston Ballet's Lauren Anderson, Society for the Performing Arts' Karen Watassek, Da Camera's Sarah Rothenberg and Houston Symphony's Mark Hansen.
On both nights, the live broadcasts will take place from 8-10 p.m.
"We need to make money no doubt about it. But we thought that building the relationships with these two communities in particular was critical. Why not do it in prime time? And why not do it around the idea that it's the end of the year, so let's celebrate," Trapani Schumate said. "Let's talk about these great nonprofits who are out there really forging our future when you're talking about science and technology and the arts.
"These are things we need to celebrate and embrace."