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WETS-FM conducts spring fund drive online

Robert Houk • Mar 27, 2020 at 12:00 AM

WETS-FM is doing some things a little differently now because of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

One of them is how the public radio station conducts its spring fundraiser.

We asked Wayne Winkler, WETS director, to tell us how things are going at the station on the campus of East Tennessee State University.

HOW HAS COVID-19 IMPACTED YOUR FUNDRAISER?

We were planning to do what we always do — have volunteers in the studio answering calls and taking contributions. We were already signing up volunteers when it became obvious that “social distancing” was the most effective way to fight the coronavirus.

We decided that for the safety of our volunteers and of our staff, we wouldn’t have volunteers in the station, but would ask listeners to contribute online.

HOW MUCH DO YOU HOPE TO RAISE?

Our original goal was $200,000. We realize that it will be difficult to raise that amount with online contributions only. During a normal fundraiser, with volunteers and telephones, between 60 and 70% of our contributions are made by phone.

HOW ARE LISTENERS RESPONDING?

Quite well, actually. We’ve gotten a lot more online contributions than we usually do. Most of our contributors understand that not having telephones is a real handicap during the fundraiser, and many have made their current contribution online at www.wets.org.

HOW IS YOUR STAFF COPING?

You’d have to ask them — I haven’t seen most of them since last week. We sorted out what jobs could be done from home and have kept most of the staff off campus and out of the station.

Our operations director, Chad Barrett, can manage our system from his home computer, and our engineers, Mitch Sandidge and Dave Edwards, can monitor the station from home and correct most of the technical problems we might encounter.

Fred Sauceman and I come in every day. Fred does the newscasts and I’m doing production, and we both need studios for what we do. But we work in separate studios, wipe down and disinfect the surfaces and wash our hands frequently. Like everyone else, we’re adjusting to the situation.

WHAT ARE YOUR CHALLENGES THESE DAYS IN TERMS OF FUNDING, AND HOW CAN LISTENERS HELP?

We’ve got all the challenges we’ve always had before, including tight budgets at both the federal and state levels, as well as a certain degree of political animosity toward public broadcasting that always seems to pop up among a few candidates during an election year.

This year, however, we’ve got economic uncertainty, which could affect not only our federal and state funding, but business underwriting and listener contributions as well.

Listeners can make a difference by contributing whatever they can to support this service. Some listeners contribute a lump sum in a single contribution, but many listeners contribute a few dollars every month automatically — $5, $10, $20 — and spread their contribution out that way.

Either way, listener support is the most important source of funding we have. Listeners and supporters can contribute online at wets.org.

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