Alan Sack, pubTV direct-mail pioneer, dies at 87

By Andrew Lapin

Sack

Sack

Alan Sack, a longtime fundraiser who introduced direct-mail fundraising to public TV, died June 8 at his home in Exeter, N.H., of complications from congestive heart failure. He was 87.

Sack managed the Boston-based fundraising consultancy Hub Mail, specializing in direct-mail marketing. He took on Boston’s WGBH as a client in the early 1960s, and WGBH introduced him to the rest of the system. He eventually took on nearly 60 pubTV stations nationwide as clients, according to former Hub Mail employee Lo Hartnett.

“He brought a level of sophistication to direct mail being used for fundraising and PBS,” said Sack’s son Jonathan. Though Hub Mail was a for-profit company, Sack and his wife were connoisseurs of the arts and believed in pubTV’s mission. “It was natural, of course, for them to fall in love with PBS and WGBH,” Jonathan said.

Without pledge drives, telemarketing or the Internet yet at their disposal, pubTV stations had limited fundraising tactics in public broadcasting’s early years. Sack’s direct-mail methods were so successful that stations still use them. He also helped orchestrate large-scale mailers among multiple stations tied to events such as holidays.

“He was an incredible teacher and mentor to us,” said Hartnett, a former WGBH employee who joined Hub Mail in the late 1980s. “One of the things he taught me was that direct mail was a very personal medium.”

“The best thing about Alan was his uncanny insight into our industry, to be able to see the future of where direct mail was heading,” Hartnett said.

Sack retired in the mid-’90s.

In addition to Jonathan, Sack is survived by his wife Miriam, daughter Martha and grandchildren Benjamin and Emily. The family asks that donations be made to the Boston Artists Ensemble, 85 Hillside Ave., West Newton, MA 02465.

Please send obituary notices to lapin@current.org

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