When it comes to pledge-night drives, no one can accuse KOCE, Orange County's public television station, of aiming its fund-raising expectations too high.
In the on-the-air drive last March, the station had set a relatively modest target--$200,000 --and came up with $208,426 in pledges.
But at its next pledge drive, a nine-night affair that starts Saturday over Channel 50, KOCE will be taking a novel approach: For the first time, there will be no announced fund target.
"We want to try something different, to put aside the usual talk about specific goals and see how this works out," explained station president William Furniss, who will be an on-the-air host with such personalities as Stephanie Edwards and Meredith MacRae.
Pledge drives aren't the only fund-raising efforts being downplayed these days at KOCE.
The station has yet to launch its long-touted community drive for new corporate and viewer donations. Once set to start this year, the campaign is now being projected for early 1986.
"It will be the biggest drive this station has ever undertaken. But we're not yet ready to talk targets or anything else. We still need time to put all our new volunteer forces and special-event programs in place. We're not quite finished with our assessment of who and where our new fiscal sources are," Furniss said.
KOCE is still faced with the phasing out of Coast Community College District subsidies and the district's bowing out as Channel 50 owner by 1987. Such a plan was tentatively approved by the district board of trustees a year ago.
Under that plan, the district--owner of KOCE since the Golden West College-based station went on the air in November, 1972--is to transfer ownership of the public-station operations to the KOCE-TV Foundation, the station's support organization, on or about January, 1987. The plan is based on a 1984 consultant's report that gave KOCE high marks for programming but concluded the station was an annual "cash drain" and recommended a district pullout.
Still pending is final action by the district board on the transfer plan. This is to take place, Furniss explained, once the district is assured of a "smooth transition": that the station has sufficient new fiscal backing to operate as an independent community station and that KOCE will continue to broadcast district instructional programs, as well as Public Broadcasting Service and locally produced programs.
During the next several months, Furniss added, station backers will have to determine whether such "fiscal depth" truly exists.
Based on current projections, the station's overall 1985-86 budget will be $6.1 million, down from last year's $6.3 million. The anticipated $1 million in college district allocations, $918,000 in federal grants and $454,000 in production contracts represent severe cutbacks from last year's budget.
Nevertheless, the station is counting on increases in two regular community categories that are part of the station's existing fund-raising efforts. Projected for 1985-86 are $565,000 in corporate underwriting (up from last year's $295,952), and $600,000 in viewer contributions (up from $562,585).
Raising even more private monies from the community, of course, is the game plan of the massive fund-raising drive to be launched, presumably, early in 1986. And Furniss argues that the signs for success are clearly there.
The station's first formal volunteer organization, the Friends of KOCE, already has 100 "active" members, he said. A slate of fund-raising events, beginning with a reception Sept. 29 in Fullerton, is being planned for 1985-86.
And the dues-paying viewer membership, which had plummeted to 14,000 only 15 months ago, has topped 17,000 for the first time--a station high, according to Furniss. "We won't know exactly how many until the next computer run-through late this month. But we know it's well over our old record," he said.
"We've also won some pretty terrific awards this year--among them, the top Disneyland (service) award, the three (Los Angeles area) Emmys. We've had important new grants from people like the Steele and Keck foundations. Not bad for a station that some people once thought was going to go under," he said.
Furniss has predicted the station's "core programming"--PBS specials, KOCE public-affairs projects and regular instructional courses--would remain sufficiently intact, even if the overall annual budget dropped to as low as $4.5 million after the college district pullout. The staff, he added, would probably stay at about the current level of 58 employees (down from 100 two years ago).
"We believe there is enough community support for at least that quality level of operations," said Furniss. "We know there are people out there who want us not just to exist (as an independent station). They want us to thrive and grow."