How NOT to get my money.

Last year I did a post about charitable giving in the spirit of the holidays, and how we try to incorporate it into our traditions. At the risk of spitting in the face of that spirit, I’ve decided to forgo that post this year, and replace it with this one.

We will still be doing our standard charity-drawing on Christmas this year. One charity that we have donated to in the past will no longer be on the list, for multiple reasons. That charity, is NPR (specifically WETA 90.9FM). They weren’t on the list last year, either.

The main reason we no longer donate (or even consider donating) to WETA is simple. Shortly after we made a donation to WETA, they stopped broadcasting the type of programming we were interested in (NPR talk shows like Car Talk, This American Life, Fresh Air, etc.). Fair enough?

We continue to receive “please donate” letters from WETA, which is fine. I don’t begrudge them the opportunity to ask former members to make contributions. I absolutely understand that WETA is dependent on donations in order to continue their operations. What I object to is the tone of the letter I received from their marketing department. Here is an excerpt from the letter, with the language I dislike bolded (emphasis mine):

The fact is that too many people continue to “let someone else do it.” They leave the support of WETA to the few of us whose sense of fair play won’t allow us to enjoy WETA’s great programs without sharing fairly in the cost to present them.

You used to be one of us. We counted on you. And you never let us down. But recently you let your membership lapse.

That’s terrible news for us since WETA is a “community licensed” public broadcast station. That means we don’t have a financial safety net of an institutional parent to fall back upon.

We have members like you to sustain us. We count on you to replace the institutional funding that we do not get. But recently, you left the family.

Inevitably we have members who don’t renew because they have moved out of our signal area. But you didn’t move. You’re still in the neighborhood.

I really don’t know why you left us. But I do know that we very much need to have you back.

This is just a small portion of the letter, but it is the critical part that strikes the tone that I object to. I’m not questioning NPR’s value or need to raise funds. What I AM questioning, is the method with which they do so. I do not respond well to guilt trips. “Accusatory” is generally not the tone you want to strike if you’re trying to get me to make a donation.

I wonder if they might find a more effective way of marketing themselves and gaining contributions. Here’s a thought: maybe NPR stations could coordinate with each other to help each other out. Maybe something like this: “If you donated because of the excellent talk content that we no longer provide, please consider donating to another local NPR affiliate such as WAMU, 88.5FM.”

I have always thought that WETA was a bit heavy-handed with their fund raising techniques. I don’t know if that is typical of other NPR stations, but I hope not. I know that raising money in the non-profit world is extremely difficult, but I think WETA could stand to revisit their message and refine the way in which they look for monetary support.

Target Portrait Studio: A Public Service Announcement

I will withhold judgment on Target’s Portrait Studio until we get our final pictures. With a coupon the price is right and hopefully the printed pictures we get will look good. However, I will say this. Do not, under ANY circumstances, pay the $4.99 add-on for the ability to download “low resolution” pictures from your sitting.

Because when they say “low resolution”, they aren’t kidding.

In fairness, they tell you up-front that they are low resolution photos that are not suitable for printing. What they DON’T tell you is that “low resolution” means “pixelated pieces of crap that aren’t worth printing OR sharing via the Web and/or email.”

It’s my own fault. I went ahead and ordered the add-on even after the Target employee couldn’t tell me what resolution images I would receive. Shame on me. But I figured I’d save everybody else the pain. In summary, DO NOT BUY the “downloadable” pictures when you have pictures taken at Target.

Christmas 2008 Photo Session Outtakes

Christmas 2008 Photo Session Outtake - Mass Chaos

The Christmas 2008 photo session went well, and I think we got a picture we were happy with to use for our Christmas cards this year. A friend of mine was kind enough to lend me some lighting equipment (2 strobes, a reflective umbrella, and a light stand), and I was able to set up a little studio in our house. I took a metric ton of pictures, and there are probably a dozen or so I’d be perfectly happy sending out with our family’s Christmas cards. This flickr set is the best of the outtakes (view as a slideshow). Enjoy!

Discovering Cancelled TV Series on DVD

Firefly LogoPossibly the best use of our Netflix account is watching TV series that we enjoy without having to wait a week between episodes. Kate and I finished watching Freaks and Geeks a couple of weeks ago, and really enjoyed it. It is one of many cancelled shows that we seem drawn to.

In an attempt to post something with actual WORDS, I’ve put together the following list of canceled shows that you should check out (in your gobs of free time). Keep in mind this list is limited to those shows that really got cut off prematurely (2-3 seasons, max), which is why Buffy and Angel don’t make the cut.

  • Firefly – I’ve written about it before, and it still remains number one on my list of “quality shows that shouldn’t have been canceled.”
  • Freaks and Geeks – Quality characters, great dialogue, and the typical high-school situations that everybody can relate to.
  • Arrested Development. – This show was gut-bustingly funny. Rumors of an Arrested Development movie are making the rounds, but it just won’t be the same.
  • Wonderfalls – A quirky show from the mind of Bryan Fuller. Caroline Dhavernas (as Jaye) deserves another prime-time shot. She’s hysterical.
  • Pushing Daisies – A quirky show from the mind of Bryan Fuller. Do you sense a theme here? This is the most recently deceased show on the list. Lee Pace (who also starred in Wonderfalls) leads a stellar cast in a high-budget show that was only recently cancelled.

I’m a glutton for punishment. There’s nothing like getting sucked into a show with nothing to look forward to after the first (or second) season comes to a close. Use the comments to recommend your favorite canceled show.