Hawaii Public Radio overcame a brief panic about whether it could reach the goal for its fall pledge drive and exceeded it by about $7,000, wrapping up the campaign Oct. 16.
The station had set a goal of $1.03 million, to be reached after a 10-day drive ending Oct. 10. But when that date arrived, HPR was still about $200,000 short of the mark. It was the first time the station had failed to meet a fundraising goal in 15 years, according to HPR President Michael Titterton.
Titterton attributed the shortfall to a variety of reasons, including natural disasters, delayed repairs, loss of power to a relay facility and what he perceived as malaise among listeners due to surmounting crises abroad and at home, including conflict in Syria and an increase in lava flow in Hawaii.
For a week during the drive, HPR was unable to broadcast to Kauai or to Oahu’s North Shore after lightning hit a power line several days before Oct. 1, the start of the pledge drive. The affected line lay in an area inhabited by an endangered, federally protected species of tree snail, requiring experts from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources to accompany engineers assessing repairs.
A delayed response from the Hawaiian Electric Company also postponed repairs, according to Titterton. Power was restored Oct. 8, only two days from the scheduled close of the drive.
Titterton took to the airwaves to announce the drive’s shortfall. HPR suspended fundraising until Oct. 15, then resumed and exceeded its goal early the next morning.
The shortfall also occurred in part due to low renewal among first-year members of the station, Titterton said. The station pushed sustaining memberships in an effort to reduce churn among new donors and signed up 790 sustainers during the fall campaign.
Titterton added, “A decade and a half of meeting pledge goals on time had led to a certain complacency on the part of our audiences, as well as our staff. We’ll be doing all we can to be sure that the takeaways from this fall’s Celebration 2014 [pledge drive] are not forgotten.”
While HPR had several important technical issues, the overall on-air drive was repetitive, unimaginative, and just plain negative. It was ten days of bad radio.