With funding cuts looming for the arts in general and PBS in particular, leaders of cultural organizations have had to get extremely creative about how to keep the lights on.
So PBS executives have decided to host a charity telethon for itself. But instead of Jerry Lewis standing before a bank of phones, PBS is bringing us Mister Rogers in an online streaming marathon with automated giving technology. The beloved children’s show is now hard to find on most PBS stations, so generations of adults who fondly remember the man in the cardigan can now tune into Mister Rogers Neighborhood and introduce their kids to an old, comforting friend. PBS hopes that the nostalgic experience will translate into donations.
Continuing for about 18 days past its start date of May 15th, all 886 episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood will be streamed consecutively on twitch.tv/misterrogers. This includes many episodes that have only aired once or are unavailable elsewhere online. There will be additional mini-marathons in the following weeks, giving viewers the opportunity to enjoy their favorite episodes once again.
This innovative crowdfunding concept, blending video streaming with fundraising ideas, comes courtesy of PBS, PBS Digital Studios, the Fred Rogers Company, and several innovative technology players. Tiltify has led the charge of bringing together causes with streaming and online games. Twitch is offering a wildly popular live streaming space (the most popular for gamers) to host this crowdfunder. And Causecast is handling all of the donation processing to nearly 150 local PBS affiliates across the country through the Causecast Foundation.
For Twitch, the Mister Rogers streaming marathon continues in the vein of other successful Twitch stream-a-thons such as The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross and Julia Child’s The French Chef.
“From listening to feedback, it became clear that the Twitch community has not only embraced content which goes beyond gaming, they want more of it,” said Bill Moorier, head of creative at Twitch, in a release. “We were drawn to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood because Fred Rogers was a positive voice in fostering inclusivity and diversity, and, like our streamers, he talked to the viewers as if they were in the room with him. While his show was geared toward children, his messages have universal appeal.”
“Fred Rogers created a blueprint for children’s television that still works today, and his messages of acceptance and inclusion remain just as timeless and relevant as they did when Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood first aired,” added Paul Siefken, president and CEO of The Fred Rogers Company. “We are delighted to be working with Twitch to make the show available to fans, as well as reach a whole new whole new audience that did not grow up watching the program.”
Working closely with Twitch is Tiltify, which seamlessly integrates with streaming hubs like Twitch and allows gamers and other viewers to donate live. But what makes this modern telethon service so different is that users can often interact with each other and celebrities in ways that were never possible in the days of Jerry Lewis. For many of Tiltify’s crowdfunding events, technology allows users to see their names pop up onscreen as soon as they donate, chat with other viewers, get instantaneous feedback, and affect what is happening on the stream through their participation.
With some streamers having their own followings of millions, the possibilities for serious fundraising are immense. For the celebrities who get involved, the casual, low-tech experience is an attractive diversion from the grandeur and hoopla of a formal fundraiser. For the streaming viewers, these stream-a-thons are often surprising, giving the audience a rewarding opportunity to see celebrities and influencers in a more intimate and interactive light. For the streaming broadcasters, a livestreaming fundraiser can cast a wider and more positive light on their shows, helping to spread the word about their streams. And for nonprofits, this added channel of fundraising offers an exciting new path towards awareness and engagement.
Throughout the Mister Rogers marathon, the crowdfunding organizers will be sharing personal stories about the importance of PBS and its programming, and encouraging viewers to share their own stories by calling 681-Hi-Fred0 (681- 443–7330) and leaving a message.
Viewers are also encouraged to join in and host the marathon on their own channels. In doing so, they can participate in the Twitch Purple Cardigan Contest and earn a chance to win one of 100 exclusive Twitch cardigans in the classic Mister Rogers style. For full rules, please visit the contest page.
As of May 18th, the streamathon had attracted 2.27 million views and raised more than $12,000. Tune in now for a free and beautiful walk through the neighborhood - and have your credit card ready to help PBS continue delivering this kind of educational programming for generations to come.
If you’re interesting in developing this kind of breakthrough campaign for your own organization, contact us at Causecast. We’re here to help you innovate your giving (and volunteering) programs.