Thursday, May 15, 2014

Every Little Bit Helps

image from Clipart
When I was little enough to watch Sesame Street, I remember seeing a pledge drive that caused me to run with panic to my father and tell him we had to donate right away to PBS. I still remember my absolute relief when he told me we were already members.

I've always been taught it is right to do my part, and this philosophy applies in many areas of life, but it certainly affects the way I see pledge drives from the member-supported services I use such as NPR, Wikipedia and PBS.

As happens three times each year, it is pledge week again at WNYC, which means multiple interruptions of sometimes funny and sometimes factual requests for donations. From the way the newscasters talk about it, it sounds as though there must be a lot of people who listen regularly but who do not donate to help keep the station going.

When I first moved here, I thought I might need to be one of these people who rely on others, as I really couldn't afford to donate. I had no television, so I did listen to WNYC a good deal, and upon hearing the first pledge drive, I felt extremely guilty. I wanted to help, but I knew it would be a rather irresponsible thing to do for my finances. Still, I heard all the reasons listed about how my support would help, and I felt a pang for each one, feeling terrible that I just couldn't do anything. The suggestions of $60 a month, $1 a day, or even $120 a year were just completely unattainable for me. 

But then, during one of these requests, an announcer said "Think about how much you would choose to pay to be able to listen to this station each month. How much would that be? Donate that amount -- every dollar helps." So I gave it some thought and realized I certainly could afford to donate the same amount I paid for a favorite magazine subscription: A dollar a month.

I felt very nervous about calling in to donate such a tiny amount. Would the operator get snotty with me? Would I be laughed at? To my relief, when I hesitantly said I would pledge $12, the operator took my pledge as if it had been a pledge of $312 -- no judgement, just an appreciative "thank you." It made me feel proud to know I had done at least a little something, and not just relied on other people's money. Over the years, my donations have grown, and each time I pledge, I remember that first time I proudly made the jump from a passive listener to someone to helped to support the service used.

I have since worked on many fundraising campaigns for different non-profits, and I have realized how much each donation is truly appreciated. Yes, the $100 bill recently discovered in a donation jar brought excitement and appreciation for the generous person who donated it so quietly, but so did each $5 bill. It is a wonderful reminder of how kind people can be to watch donations accumulate for a good cause.

I've also seen how a high participation rate makes a big difference. In fact, on Wikipedia recently, I read that if each of their readers donated just $3, their costs would be covered. 

So even if it's a small amount, consider doing something. Not only will it be appreciated, but it also does inspire just a little extra pride.

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"There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- God damn it, you've got to be kind."
-Kurt Vonnegut