Waco public radio station KWBU-FM (103.3) is hoping for listener-fueled power — the financial kind — in its Power Morning pledge drive from 6 to 9 a.m. Thursday during the “Morning Edition” news program.
The on-air fundraiser, in a slightly different format due to coronavirus protection measures, aims to raise $60,000 for the local station as part of its regular $750,000 operating budget and to expand its subscriber base in the process.
While past Power Mornings have featured community leaders and supporters on the air with volunteers manning phone banks, coronavirus protocols will reduce the number of on-air guests with volunteers on cell phones in separate rooms to field pledge calls to the station at 710-1033.
Joe Riley, president and CEO of the Brazos Valley Public Broadcasting Foundation that runs the station, said advance pledges received online and over the phone over the last few weeks have been encouraging. “I think we can make (the goal), but we have our fingers crossed,” he said.
Previous Power Mornings have had similar $60,000 targets, but increasing financial pressures on the station, some due to the coronavirus pandemic, are raising the stakes for this year’s drive.
Riley said corporate giving has dropped during the months of the pandemic as businesses tighten their belts. At the same time, National Public Radio, also under a pandemic-induced financial strain, will implement a postponed increase in programming costs to affiliated stations. The combination of revenue loss and higher costs could mean a hit of $70,000 to the station’s budget, Riley said.
The budget pressures will cause KWBU to redouble ongoing efforts to increase the percentage of listeners who contribute to the station. A tower upgrade and relocation in 2014 expanded the station’s signal reach, resulting in a boost in its listenership from less than 10,000 people to more than 15,000, a higher level that continued even after a boost in 2016 due to the presidential campaign, Riley said.
While listeners increased, those willing to contribute to the station didn’t appreciably. As a result, KWBU staffers and supporters set in motion a “Build the Base” campaign to grow the number of subscribers by adding six new subscribers per month. Over 18 months, that emphasis saw station support grow slowly to 6% of listeners, but widespread social and economic disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic cooled any momentum the drive had.
Even with a successful Power Morning, the 20-year-old Waco radio station expects revenues to fall short of expenses. It’s asking supporters to give more as it increases its monthly new member goal to 12. “We do anticipate there will be a gap in the coming years,” Riley said. “We’re appealing for more people to come on board.”