WETS’s spring fundraising drive is off to a stellar start.
Coming off a record-setting fall campaign that raised more than $260,000 for public radio programming here in Northeast Tennessee and across the nation, WETS kicked off the spring edition of its biannual on-the-air fundraising efforts at 10 a.m. Monday.
Two hours later, station Manager Wayne Winkler was happily announcing the station volunteers working the phone lines in the WETS studio on the East Tennessee State University campus had received pledges of more than $10,000 toward its $175,000 spring drive goal.
While faithful WETS supporters are known for making their pledges early to help get the station’s fundraising drives off to a healthy start, Station Manager Wayne Winkler said Monday morning’s kick-off tally was the biggest in history.
“We’ve never done $175,000 in a week. It’ll be a record if we do it,” Winkler speculated hopefully Monday afternoon, unaware that by the end of the day the pledges would climb to more than $44,000 or that by noon on Tuesday WETS listeners would put the drive at more than 35 percent of goal.
“We depend on listener support,” Winkler said. “More than half our budget comes from our listeners. People may believe that someone else takes care of it, the government or somebody. But really there isn’t anyone else. Our listeners are our partners and a part of what our programming is.”
According to Winkler, while ETSU support for WETS has remained strong throughout the station’s 34 years on the air, in the past decade listener support has grown to exceed that of the university. “With programming costs going up by an average of 8 to 10 percent every year, that growth is necessary just to maintain service at its present level,” he said.
Nationally, Winkler said, the cost of such public radio staples as “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered” and “Prairie Home Companion” have grown as much as 18 percent while events like the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and the massive Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 have dramatically increased the cost of news coverage.
All of that cost is passed down to the local stations, Winkler said. So, WETS volunteers will be manning the station’s pledge lines from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. throughout the week with hopes of meeting the station’s $175,000 challenge by Saturday evening. And, if not, the volunteers will return to the studio Monday morning and the drive will continue until the goal is met.
All pledges, no matter how small, are appreciated, and all fundraising challenges and requests and programming input are passed on up the line.
“We need to hear from you. So, give us a call and make your pledge. WETS is not just a radio station, it’s a public radio station with information you don’t hear anywhere else. Your support matters,” Winkler said.
To help, pledges to the WETS drive may be made from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at (888) 895-WETS (9387) or any time online at www.wets.org.