Membership Drives and Program Listings

I wrote this post last year during a membership drive.  Thought this might be a good time to bring it out again.

When we’re in a membership drive we usually receive at least one phone call from a viewer letting us know that, according to the cable program guide or the newspaper, we’re airing the wrong program. Most of the time the phrase “you messed up again” is used. Usually these calls come from viewers who were looking forward to the program that was originally scheduled, so I do understand their frustration. I’d like to explain why this occurs and assure you we aren’t messing up.

About two months out from the beginning of a membership drive, PBS and our other program services start sending us information on the new membership programming. Rob Walker, our Membership Director, and I then start compiling all our research on membership programs and then select what we think will be the best fundraising programs for the upcoming membership drive. Sometimes programs we think will perform well don’t and some programs surprise everyone, and turn out to be very successful fundraising programs. When these things happen, the program schedule changes and programs get moved around or taken off and replaced with others.

Depending on how the membership drive is going, there may be lots of changes to the program schedule because we’re behind on our goal or we may be doing well and so only need to make a few minor changes.
Unfortunately many of these decisions are made anywhere from 24 to 72 hours in advance, not always enough time for the cable guys or even the newspaper to make the changes in the published listings. So you tune in expecting to see the program that was originally scheduled and you end up with something completely different. We haven’t messed up, we just had to make a last minute change and the program guide wasn’t able to get updated in time. If you ever have a question about what we’re airing you can always check our web site listings: they’re always correct.

This is nature of putting together a program schedule for a membership drive, it will always change that I can guarantee. I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion with the program listings and also answers the question, of why your seeing the same membership program airing over and over again. If you see a lot of it, it’s a good fundraising program for us, so you’ll continue to see it a lot.