By Karen Z
Recently before the arrival of the notorious tax deadline—April 15—in America, when I tuned in to Pittsburgh’s WDUQ and WQED radio stations, I heard the announcers keep asking audience to make a pledge for the stations. It was their winter membership campaign. So instead of the daily non-stopping music and news on the radio, the programming became a platform for endless solicitation.
I was quite disturbed. All I wanted is my normal favorite program on the radio while doing morning exercises. The call-now-and-support-your-one-and-only-station-in-Pittsburgh type of talk really irritated me, as if they were the pestering advertisements about the cure for sexual diseases in the Chinese radio air.
Why do I need to donate money to listen to public radio? That never happens in China. I thought to myself, given the radio is state-owned. In America, it’s different. Every business, regardless of private or non-profit, is associated with public funding. In Pittsburgh, for instance, behind all these giant buildings named after the Pittsburgh tycoons, from library to concert hall, the sustainability of the organizations rely on public funding. When I open the program of Drue Heinz Lecture Series, there is always a page or more dedicated to the generous contributors. The museum programs too. Almost all the literature I took home from various attractions in America includes an honorary list and a form for donation.
Isn’t this a characteristic in the Capitalist world? Money, money, it’s all about money. As we Chinese often say to ourselves, “no money no talk” in contemporary China. The saying for sure also applies to how the society functions in America. More funding, good service; poor funding, enterprise closes.
Before I came to America, I knew nothing about writing fundraising proposals. When I tell business people in America that I’m a writer now, their first association with my skill is almost always with writing fundraising proposal. “Being a good writer is important in the business world,” a business woman once said to me. “If you can write a good proposal to our potential donors, you’ll do so well in your life.”
I take her advice to heart. I start to question myself if my MFA degree can feed me in the long run as well as being a professional writer for business. I, like the public radio stations, also need sponsors to continue my creative production. Is money really the generator of all humanities and science in our society? This is a great lesson I learn during my education in America. Listening to Celine Dion’s The Power of Love on the radio, I have to ponder the power of fundraising.