90.1/WABE-FM spring fund drive exceeds mark following federal budget cut threat

Denis O’Hayer is morning host of WABE-FM. CREDIT: WABE-FM

This was posted Friday, May 12, 2017 by Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV talk blog

I’m on vacation from May 5 to May 16 so I am not posting any breaking news at that time. In the interim, I am posting a few things I wrote in advance. If you are seeking breaking entertainment news, check out Jenn Brett’s buzz column at buzz.blog.ajc.com or Melissa Ruggieri’s music.blog.ajc.com

All public radio stations saw cutbacks and layoffs in their future when Donald Trump‘s proposed budget last month would zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

But potential bad news like that could also be used as an opportunity for fundraising. And 90.1/WABE was able to take advantage of that fear. Anticipating new pledges of $800,000 this spring over eight days of fundraising. the station passed the $1 million mark.

“It went really really really well,” said Christine Dempsey, vice president for radio at Public Broadcasting Atlanta, which also runs a TV station and website. “I’ve been through CPB threats before. We expected to do better than usual but we didn’t expect to do as well as we did.”

Last fall, the station – which holds two individual fundraisers a year – took advantage of interest in political news and outdrew its anticipated goal by $175,000, pulling in $800,000.

Fundraising methods have evolved. The station introduced a “sustainers” program in the spring of 2014 allowing people to contribute a small amount each month taken out of their bank accounts or credit cards. At 24,000, sustainers represent 60 percent of the station’s estimated 40,000 individual contributors. That’s among the highest percentages among NPR stations nationwide.

The advantages of “sustainers” are multi-fold. The money comes in throughout the year, smoothing out cash flow. And a vast majority of people renew year in, year out. The station managed to get many sustainers to even up their monthly offerings by $3 to $5 a month.

CPB provided about $1.4 million of PBA’s $14.7 million budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. The loss of those funds would hurt the station but not fatally. So far, Dempsey said they are taking a “wait and see” attitude about the CPB funding.

PBA is on target to meet or exceed its entire year’s budget, said Amanda La Kier, director of individual giving.

Individual giving and underwriting represent more than 80 percent of the station’s budget.

WABE’s ratings have been strong out of the gate this year, averaging a 3.4 rating, up from an average of 3 in 2016. “Morning Edition” finished at No. 4 among both 25 to 54 year olds and 18 to 34 year olds in March.

 

 

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