This week is Sharathon week at one of the radio stations for which I work.  For those unfamiliar, it’s essentially the same as a PBS radio fundraiser.  For those who don’t listen to public radio, we’re a listener supported, commercial-free station, so our money comes from our listeners.  Once a year, we take a week and ask them to support the station.

It’s a fairly legally structured system.  "Lister-supported, commercial-free" is actually a legal term set up by the FCC, and they have lots of rules about how they can be managed, how they can ask for money, and what they can say on the air about businesses.

We have a bank of phones, and volunteers come in and answer them and take pledges from callers.  In past years, they wrote them on triplicate forms, and rang a bell when they had one completed.  A "runner" (typically a very young person) would come get the paper, and take it three different places, and people would madly do math by hand and enter the numbers in several places.

When I started working here, we added a web form, so people could give online, but it never made a big dent.  We also have a web page to promote it, and it kept a running total.  So someone had to update that every few minutes etc.  We tried various ways of automating that update, but nothing was really satisfactory.

This year, we decided to go the other way, and have ALL pledges go in via the web.  For our people on the phones, we have WYSE terminals, so when people call in, they simply enter the information into a web form.  Some information goes into a database for the calculator etc, and private info gets s00per d00per encrypted and emailed. 

We also have a Day Sponsor program, where a person can underwrite a given day.  Only one person can have a day, and in the past the days were all marked in a paper calendar.  When someone called, the phone operator would have to raise their hand, and wait for someone to bring over the master calendar.

Now, the calendar is online, and people can see available days and simply click the day to reserve it.

It’s cut down a LOT on math errors from people adding incorrectly, cut down on the amount of paper flying around, the number of people running around, etc.

I was sure I could pull this together, and had confidence, but at the same time was scared to death.  We get the VAST majority of our annual money via sharathon, and if it went down because of some flaw in My Plan, I have no idea what we’d do.  We had paper on hand in the event of a total crash, but I was afraid I’d have some deep math error that would screw everything up.

But here we are on the last day, and everything appears to be working wonderfully.  There were 2 small errors that I could fix, and actually boosted our total rather than over stating it, but that’s it.


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