City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

WABE-FM reaches fall fundraising goal with $1,319,973 in pledges


News/classical station 90.1/WABE-FM concluded its biggest fundraiser last week in the station’s history in total funds pledged ($1,319,973) and number of people who pledged (14,551)

This just beat the spring numbers of $1,299,544 pledged and 14,331 donors.

[UPDATED 11/3/11: The final fall 2011 numbers were 14,618 donors and $1,324,068.90 in pledges.]

Despite the lousy economy, WABE has doubled the number of donors for its fall drive compared to five years ago and has seen actual pledges increase 36 percent.

A year ago, the station was facing heat after National Public Radio fired Juan Williams during its fall fund drive and fell short of its goals for only the second time in the past eight years.

WABE raised 17 percent more money and drew 23 percent more donors versus a year ago.

Its core supporters are being more generous despite the fact the station’s Arbitron ratings are down about 15 percent year over year.

The station in recent years has stopped using a dollar target on air and has de-emphasized free tote bags and other tchotchkes. Rather, it has focused on getting people to donate any dollar amount and emphasizing what it offers in terms of classical music and news/talk programming, that the money donors give goes directly into said programming. That newer approach seems to be working more effectively.

John Weatherford, chief operating officer, said 53.7 percent pledged online and 94.37 percent pledged with a credit card, both up in recent years.  About 21.5 percent were new pledges. And the Tony Bennett CD was the hottest item and garnered 462 pledges and blue recyclable lunch box came in second with 396.

Pledges over the past five years:

Fall 2011: $1,319,973 (updated $1,324,068.90) 14,618

Spring 2011: $1,299,544

Fall, 2010:  $1,131,122 (fell short) 11,918 donors

Spring, 2010: $1,162,428

Fall, 2009: $1,174,014

Spring 2009: $1,034,385

Fall, 2008: $1,077,000

Spring, 2008: $920,000

Fall, 2007: $1,053,000

Spring, 2007: $835,000 (fell short)

Fall, 2006: $971,000 (7,302 individual pledges)

Spring, 2006: $850,000

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By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

24 comments Add your comment

Stephanie Saxon

November 1st, 2011
10:30 am

They deserve EVERY penny!


November 1st, 2011
10:47 am

Let’s just say you get what you pay for, there is a reason main stream commercial radio is free.

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November 1st, 2011
11:48 am

Yeah, we get what we pay for, which is why I’ve been a donor since I moved here ten years ago. That said, sending money to WABE is getting more and more difficult. The station is barely a shell of what it should be for a city this size. Atlanta should have a full-time NPR station instead of a “highlights” channel. Spin off either the classical or NPR division and give each one the 24/7 treatment it deserves. Until then, WABE is an embarrassment compared to other, much smaller cities nationwide.


November 1st, 2011
11:52 am

Alanna, what do you mean a “shell of what it should be for a city this size”? What are they not doing?
WABE has great local news talent and seems to awarded and recognized. I love Lois and the news. How is WABE an embarrassment sounds like you have a complaint but nothing to support it.


November 1st, 2011
1:09 pm

If Congress ever cuts funding to public radio, I’ll just give more to help make it even better.


November 1st, 2011
1:18 pm

I love WABE but cannot stand the 6 hours of classical music every day. There is such great public radio programming out there – why cannot WABE, with their exceptional donor contributions, pick up some of these programs? I would give more if they lost the 6 hours of classical (filler time).


November 1st, 2011
1:23 pm

I am a long time listener and subscriber. WABE is the best thing on Atlanta radio and has been for years. I especially enjoy not being screamed at to buy something every ten minutes.

The beg-a-thons can be a little annoying, but I guess they are needed.


November 1st, 2011
1:44 pm

I agree. I love listening to these stations when I travel. No commercials, interesting news stories and relaxing music. The alternative on the dial is bloviating talk radio, whether sports talk or conservative talk, or top 40 garbage with a ton of ads. If I can’t get one of these stations, pop in a CD and crank it up!!!


November 1st, 2011
1:48 pm

GREAT NEWS for WABE! However….let’s not forget our other and just as important NPR affiliate in Atlanta, WCLK-91.9 FM that’s part of Clark College. For those that get tired of all of the serious classical and opera music offerings that WABE plays during the day and on Saturday, 91.9 offers a wonderful alternative with their lineup of Jazz.


November 1st, 2011
2:13 pm

A city this size does need a station with classical music. Thanks, WABE!

David Lee

November 1st, 2011
2:47 pm

Alanna, as someone who’s been an WABE conributor over the past few years (”Preview,” “City Cafe”) I can say I had sometimes felt similarly — until I spoke with friends of mine, some my age or younger, who lament the dwindling classical music programming on the radio. While some (larger) markets have indeed split their stations into two, I’m guessing it’s easier said than done. I will say this: Since I moved to Atlanta in 2006, the WABE news staff has grown considerably, and the station has added much-needed and welcome NPR favorites. It’s a helluva balancing act for any station, and I’d say that do it as well as anyone. Also remember: many of the people who clamor for more NPR/news programming can easily access them online, and a couple years ago WABE started offering both classical-music AND news/talk HD channels on its website. (As well as Spanish-language programming.)


November 1st, 2011
2:51 pm

I like to listen to the radio.

Michael Marr

November 1st, 2011
3:04 pm

The website and iPhone/iPad app stream the simulcast, classical or the news.


November 1st, 2011
3:12 pm

Yes, it would be nice if they had a channel just for music and one for NPR news and programs. But, until then, I think they do a terrific job, and that is why I donate twice a year.


November 1st, 2011
3:39 pm

I’m excited.


November 1st, 2011
5:13 pm

There are stronger NPR stations nationally & WABE could offer more (or more popular) NPR shows, but stations have to pay NPR to broadcast those shows (& more popoluar shows are more expensive). So, WABE is fine for what it is, but I’d agree w/ Alanna- there are better NPR stations out there. But I also have to second Darryl- WCLK is my preferred NPR affiliate in Atlanta. Not so much for news (I LOVE the music, although they do offer lesser heard NPR programming, which I also enjoy). Wanna talk about a beg-a-thon? It’s a shame to see WCLK struggle to raise a tenth of what WABE does.

larry wachs

November 1st, 2011
6:15 pm

Forget WABE, maybe you could come up with another conrtived list where we come in first, you know 17 places higher than we are in the ratings. Look Rodney, we’re paying you good money!!


November 1st, 2011
6:57 pm

Wow, I’m shocked at how few people donate.

Rodney Ho

November 1st, 2011
6:59 pm

@lkjlkj WABE draws more than 600,000 listeners a week. Maybe 30,000 donate in a given year. That’s 5%. So 95% of said listeners are relative freeloaders.


November 1st, 2011
7:00 pm

My wife and I donate every year, but I swear we would double or even triple our donation if we got what every small metro in the country has: a full-time NPR/PRI station. I wonder how many people listen to the music. It’s pathetic that we have to stream from other cities what we could hear on the radio in Valdosta, GA or Johnson City, TN.

Rodney Ho

November 1st, 2011
7:01 pm

The ratings are significantly higher for news/talk than classical and that has been the case for years, but clearly, the WABE management still finds value by airing classical during the mid days.

N. W.

November 3rd, 2011
11:48 am

WABE is great, but it’s true that it’s a joke compared to what it could and should be for a city as big as Atlanta. Look at KCRW, WNYC, WFUV, etc.. and take note. The classical music is great, but it’s ineffective in cultivating a loyal, young audience that will donate for years to come. Dennis and Steve are legendary news voices, but it wouldn’t kill them to sound like they are having fun. WABE sounds like a SNL spoof of what they think NPR should sound like.

juanita driggs

November 3rd, 2011
2:36 pm

If memory serves, I thought I distinctly heard on-air hosts stating that the goal was 15,500 members. Wouldn’t that have put the goal closer to $1.5 million dollars? However, the station reported a total of 14,551 listeners pledging $1,319,973. I didn’t excel in math but I recognize a disconnect when I read one. The AJC article the other day about Milton Clipper’s very generous annual pay package puts all of this into a whole new context for me. AJC media ads now tout the paper as a leaner, meaner more aggressive news gatherer. That said, it’s time to take out the AJC truth-o-meter and do a better job of digging deeper and asking harder, more relevant questions.