Infomercials and Telethons: Do they really work?

Reading Lee Grady's thoughts on Christian fundraising this morning got me to thinking about the whole idea of TV telethons and raising funds for charitable organizations. In his article Lee compares many of the crazy Christian telethons with those of organizations like the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) network. Here are a few of his observations:
During the PBS telethon I wondered why Christian networks couldn't simply offer music, books or other premiums instead of resorting to the typical arm-twisting and tear-jerking that we've come to expect. We need an overhaul in this area. Somebody needs to lead the way in pioneering a new style of on-air fundraising that doesn't treat people like brainless zombies.
I so agree with Lee about the style of fundraising but I do wonder if telethons really work. On one hand it seems that organizations like PBS would be a bit crazy to hold as many as they do if it they did not achieve their objectives.. yet the one they did recently during a Roy Orbison documentary was a bit annoying.. seems like these things might turn folks off. I guess telethons just don't do much for me. If I had thought about it I would have DVRed the show and fast forwarded through the PBS pitch-talk.

Several years ago I asked a similar question about the MDA Labor Day telethons (read it here) and had a bit of a mixed response. I guess the issue boils down to how people donate to charitable causes. I know that the telethon for Haiti (in response to the earthquake) was huge - but it seems that responding to a crisis might be a bit different than planned giving to great charitable or religious works.

Still, it boggles my mind how, in this world of digital video recording and mega-TV-selections, things like telethons and infomercials even work. Anymore I don't even watch commercials.. except the Super Bowl ones. Like the cartoon above indicates - people have alternatives to watching hockey.. and infomercials ..and telethons.. and such.

What do you think about TV infomercials and telethons? Do they compel you to buy or give?


  1. I recorded Video Games Live off of PBS the other night, not knowing it was a fund raiser showing. I fast forwarded through all the fund raising.

  2. A lot of the stuff on PBS ends up on Netflix anyway so I may just go that route next time.

  3. I really dislike the tear-jerking displays and guilt dumping. Don't even listen to them anymore. I like some of the PBS sharathons but actually don't listen to any of the pledge times. I just flip to something else for a while.
    Disaster one time giving is different than charity on a regular basis. People wait to see what their "gift" will be more than anything.


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