June public television pledge drives up 13.5 percent from last year

By Dru Sefton

PBS member stations raised $21.8 million during June on-air fundraising drives, up 13.5 percent over that month last year.

As in the March fundraiser, Suze Orman’s Financial Solutions scored the top spot in raising the most money overall. For the June drive, it generated $3.1 million for 121 reporting stations, according to final pledge data compiled by PBS and obtained by Current. The program, from Twin Cities Public Television, presents the personal finance expert’s tips on investing, buying or renting a home and saving for retirement.

The intrepid Rick Steves hikes high above the small Swiss village of Gimmelwald in his pledge special, Rick Steves’ Europe Travel Skills. (Photo: APT)

The intrepid Rick Steves hikes high above the small Swiss village of Gimmelwald in his pledge special, Rick Steves’ Europe Travel Skills. (Photo: APT)

It’s yet another wildly popular pledge offering from Orman, who has been creating fundraising shows for public TV since 1998. TPT’s Gerry Richman, producer of her pledge specials, attributes their continuing success to Orman’s message. She “doesn’t just talk about money. She talks about it in the context of the emotional lives of people,” he said. She also uses humor to relate to the audience. And her financial acumen is spot-on, he said. “This is solid advice, really useful information.”

Although the number of June pledges nationwide was down 4.9 percent compared with June 2013, the average donation rose 19.4 percent, from $135.73 to $162.07. The total number of on-air pledge days dropped across the system, falling 11.4 percent, from 1,789 in 2013 to 1,585.

The show that brought in the most dollars per minute was The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, hosted by Henry Louis Gates. Although just four stations pledged the National Program Service documentary history series, it garnered $97.67 per minute, compared with Orman’s $33.48 for 117 stations.

The Executive Program Service-distributed self-help 30 Days to a Younger Heart with Steven Masley, M.D., generated around $1.3 million, according to Alan Foster, founder of the Virginia–based service. In that program, Masley discusses the link between pre-diabetes and cardiovascular disease, with tips on how to avoid both.

Travel guru Rick Steves continues to generate positive results with 10 shows distributed by American Public Television. The average pledge amounts generated by Steves’ programs ranged between $150 and $200, according to Jamie Haines, APT spokesperson. Titles included Rick Steves’ Europe Travel Skills, shot in Amsterdam, Germany’s Rhineland, Venice, Siena, the Italian Riviera, the Swiss Alps, Paris and London.

Doc Martin: Revealed, released by APT for March pledge with cast-member pitches, also did well in June, Haines said. It has raised more than $1.2 million over both drives. APT also plans to release a new behind-the-scenes Doc Martin fundraiser coming out for August pledge.

Rounding out the Top 5 pledge performers for June were re-ups: My Music: Big Band Years and My Music: ’50s and ’60s Party Songs; the self-help 3 Steps to Incredible Health! with Joel Fuhrman, M.D.; and another My Music nostalgia re-up, Classical Rewind.

Questions, comments, tips? sefton@current.org
  • altfactor@hotmail.com

    Not too many years ago, there were very few June pledge drives on PBS stations.

    I guess the reason the June pledge drive was added is that with the exception of most major markets, PBS stations are owned by states, either through state universities, state boards of education, or state public broadcasting authorities. Most state fiscal years end July 1st, so the June pledge drives will not only help with the end of stations’ fiscal years, but perhaps also “send a message” to state legislatures to continue funding state-owned PBS member stations.

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