For many years, I was a strong supporter of Oregon Public Broadcasting (which is Oregon’s NPR affiliate).
But recently, I stopped. You see, I’m a credit card churner. That will be an important piece of information later, but what it means is that I’m cancelling credit cards every year or so.
The reasons to support public radio are abundant:
- There’s no commercials
- I like the way they convey information
- Their tone of voice is comforting
- I always like to sound smart, so dropping, “well, I heard on NPR” into conversation makes me feel slightly superior
- Just kidding, it’s mostly because they report news that is not shouty and they don’t have commercials
But there’s a huge problem in the non-profit world that just doesn’t exist in my lean startup mentality, and that’s one of efficiency.
Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB, now you can feel superior like me) has an option for donation. They call it the sustaining circle, and it’s brilliant. Instead of donating at the time of the membership drives, you get charged x dollars per month forever.
Great! I hate the membership drives. I understand that they’re essential, but holy cow does that sales pitch not work on me. “Join Polly in Portland who says she listens to OPB while she’s brushing her teeth in the morning. Thanks, Polly!” every time I’m in the car for two weeks.
When I heard about the sustaining circle, I thought, awesome, here’s a chance to automate something I care about. So I called.
Then, six months later, I canceled my card.
Now, in normal-person world, when you have a recurring payment, and you switch your credit card, you get an email or a phone call kindly reminding you to update your credit card information.
I got no such email from OPB.
So I continued on my merry way, feeling smug the next time I heard the membership drive. “I don’t have to listen to this, I am already a member.”
Then I got an email asking me to renew my membership.
Great Scott! What’s this? I told them I already was a member, and had been for months at that point.
“No, actually, your membership expired three months ago,” they told me.
Why hadn’t I gotten an email? I was embarrassed, because I was pretty sure I demanded the commuter coffee mug during the last membership drive.
“I’ll renew right away!” I said, enthusiastically.
I updated my information, and went about my day. This time, I decided to auto deduct from my checking account so there wouldn’t be a problem.
Fast forward another six months, and it’s the same story. I thought I was a member, I thought I was donating my $10 a month (side note: you can be as frugal as me and still not notice a $10 monthly difference on your checking account!) and I wasn’t.
I don’t know what happened this time, but I still didn’t hear from OPB.
This was the second time this had happened, in the two years I (thought I) was a member. And they still hadn’t fixed it!
So I decided to take matters into my own hands, and wrote them an email:
I wonder how many thousands of dollars OPB is missing out on by not having something that catches this — I NEVER hear from you when my card expires. Last time, I set it up to deduct out of my checking account, so if there were a problem, shouldn’t I have heard about it? I purposefully don’t listen during membership drives because I think to myself, “I’ve already done this” — I can’t be the only one! It’s frustrating that you spend so many volunteer hours on answering phones during drives rather than having someone email people when credit cards are rejected.
Let me know when you fix this, then I might renew.
I got a response, and it was something along the lines of “you’re right, we’re working on this, we’ll be in touch when we have something better.”
That is why I have suspended my monthly contribution.
Sometimes I get ranty, but you know what? It’s my money, it’s my contribution, and even though it’s only $10 a month, I’ll wait until they let me know that the glitch has been fixed, so to speak, before I give them more money!