For the fourth consecutive fund drive, 90.1/WABE-FM broke a listener campaign pledge drive record, pulling in nearly $1,5 million over two weeks ending Oct. 26.
The preliminary total – $1,487,565 – was up 12.3 percent from the fall 2011 campaign and 41 percent over five years.
The non-commercial NPR affiliate also drew a record 15,468 individual donors, about 900 more than during the spring drive.
John Weatherford, chief operating officer, said recent comments by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney about eliminating federal support of stations like his may have fueled more donors.
He also said the station changed the messaging to say that if someone doesn’t want a “premium” gift like a tote bag, they don’t have to take it. As a result, the percentage of people taking gifts dropped from 30 percent to a preliminary estimate of just 17 percent. Obviously, if the station doesn’t have to send out a gift, it can save money.
All pledge money, he said, go directly into programming costs.
Individual donations now exceed corporate and non-profit underwriting, which is down between 4 to 10 percent month over month this year compared to 2011. Weatherford said many non-profit groups who normally support WABE have cut back more than expected.
With human resource and programming expenses going up, he said FY 2013, which ends June 30, 2012, has been the most challenging the station has had in years. But WABE has avoided layoffs and in fact, plans to add two more news people on its staff, expanding from 9 to 11 in that department.
To note, the pledge numbers are not exactly what the actual dollars will be though it’s usually pretty close. While nearly 94 percent of pledged via credit card, a small percentage used a “bill me later’ feature, which means they may not necessarily come through with the pledges.
Charity Navigator ranks WABE-FM two stars out of four based on its data from Form 990, a financial disclosure form required by the federal government. The site has given WABE a two-star rating for five consecutive years.