The Money Room: How I Got Back to ‘GBH

This entry is part 6 of 14 in the series The Money Room
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Money Room is a bit of history written by John Kerr, John Carver, and Sam Tyler whose fundraising careers at WGBH spanned three decades.

By John Kerr

The story of how one particular person got so smitten by ‘GBH that he became its main beggar.

Although I became involved in successful work in the investment world, I missed the exciting, creative atmosphere of WGBH. So I called Fred Glimp, who then headed Boston’s Permanent Charities.

Glimp told me that Ives had just been made president of WGBH and that that he was looking for a development manager. Noting how excited I had been to work at WGBH as a “scholar” and how I believed in public broadcasting radio and television, he thought that I might fit the bill. So I called Ives. He hired me to take his former job as development manager in 1972.

That was my lucky day.

I threw myself headlong into the station’s fund-raising. I drafted fund-raising mailings for Ives, which he edited and sent to thousands of viewers and listeners over his signature as WGBH’s President.

The very bright and able Hope Green, who later became head of Vermont Educational Television, was there, too, together with Helen Fox, Marilyn Bernardo, and Helen O’Malley who computerized our primitive fund-raising system. We added the very dynamic Jeanne Brodeur, who worked with Alan Sack at Hub Mail and greatly increased giving, as well as volunteers Lorraine Hartnett and Amy Beth Meyers, both of whom became vital staffers in our development department.

We began to institute “membership” at various levels. We tried every trick we could to raise the funds we needed. I trotted around and introduced myself to Boston’s bankers, foundations, and potential donors. We knocked on every possible door to raise funds.

Premiums … and the Channel 2 Umbrella

We offered Julia Child’s cookbooks and then tote bags as incentives for viewer’s contributions above threshold giving levels.

Hudson Stoddard, Princeton graduate and former assistant to the president of LIFE Magazine before becoming Vice President of Development at WNET in New York, called me to say that he had experimented successfully with offering golf umbrellas with a WNET logo as a giving incentive.

By then, the development directors at some of the key public stations were swapping good ideas.

We were trying out premiums as ways to increase the size of contributions or membership levels.

Jeanne Brodeur called the buyer at Raymond’s Department Store at Washington and Franklin Streets in Boston. We both went there together to see which ‘brollies sold best, how much they cost, and who supplied them.

She called D. Klein, a logo umbrella supplier and corporate incentive merchant in New Jersey. Klein came to Boston and filled our conference room with every imaginable type of umbrella.

We selected a large, sturdy golf umbrella with a wooden handle. Our brilliant new Yale-trained Design Director Chris Pullman and his colleagues Doug Scott, Gene Mackles and others helped make it distinctive with its blue, green and white panels and WGBH’s new drop-shadowed logo.

Sylvia Davis, our energetic promotion director, took out full-page ads in the Boston Globe offering donors new umbrellas. “We’d like you to buy this sweetheart of a Channel 2 Umbrella for over four times what it cost us” one of the headlines said.

Viewers snapped them up. Contributions rolled in. In any spring rainstorm, you could see WGBH Umbrellas everywhere.

Read more entries in The Money Room series.

Special thanks to Gene Mackles for the series wordmark.

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