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WETS-FM campaigning for listener support

Sue Guinn Legg • Sep 13, 2017 at 11:24 PM

WETS-FM public radio is doing things a little differently for its 2017 fall fundraising campaign.

The listener-supported radio station at East Tennessee State University kicked off its biannual drive last week with requests for online donations at WETS.org before opening its phone bank for call-in contributions on Saturday.

Station Manager Wayne Winkler said, “A lot of people prefer to make their contributions online, so we thought we’d start our drive as an online campaign. But this week we’ve also got volunteers in the studio, taking contributions by telephone.

“Either method is good. The important thing is that listeners support this station.”

By early Wednesday afternoon, the phone bank volunteers had logged more than $67,000 in donations, or about 36 percent of the fall campaign’s $185,000 goal. Online contributions and those that come to the station by mail had not yet been counted.

And while the fall campaign phone lines are scheduled to go quiet Friday evening at 7, Winkler said listeners can still make donations at any time.

Speaking on the importance of the fundraising, Winkler said listener contributions account for nearly half of the station’s annual budget.

“Funding from ETSU covers the salaries of the staff, but programming costs are covered primarily by listeners,” he said. And with the cost of NPR programming going up by three percent this fiscal year, Winkler is counting on WETS listeners to provide that additional funding.

“Support from our community has helped this station grow, and has sustained us through several budget cuts in the past,” he said. “Government support is not always reliable, and we can always count on our listeners.”

WETS Operations Manager and Programs Manager Chad Barrett, who was working alongside the phone bank volunteers on Wednesday, said no donation is too small and every gift to the station is appreciated.

“No matter how little, every little bit helps. We don’t want you to think you have to give … but it would be nice,” he said.

Heard by an estimated 50,000 regular listeners in the region and thousands more around the world who listen to WETS online, the station is the local broadcaster of NPR programing and national and international programming from and other sources. The station also produces its own programs — “American Variety Radio,” “Women on Air” and “Celtic Clanjamphry” to name a few — for distribution to other public radio stations across the country.

WETS was the producing station for Rev. John Schuck’s Religion for Life program, which became Progressive Spirit when Schuck relocated from Elizabethton to Oregon last year. And most recently, the station’s “Weekly Constitutional” program, produced by Winkler and constitutional law professor Stewart Harris, was ranked No. 4 on a list of top 10 legal podcasts compiled by the national legal support service One Legal.

WETS fans can help continue the station’s contributions to public radio by making donations online at www.wets.org, or by calling the station’s fall campaign phone bank at 888-895-9387 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Friday, Sept. 15.

Contributions to the station can also be made by mail to WETS, P.O. Box 70630, Johnson City, TN 37614.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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