WIU Foundation, Marketing Dept. to provide $25,000 support each
MACOMB — As Tri States Public Radio seeks to bridge the funding gap left by the loss of its appropriated funding, a measure of support is coming its way.
Western Illinois University announced via a press release Friday that the WIU Foundation Executive Board has approved a $25,000 contribution to the radio station. WIU University Marketing within the Division of Advancement and Public Services has also entered into a $25,000 sponsorship agreement with the station, for a total of $50,000 in support for the upcoming fiscal year.
The news comes about seven weeks after TSPR learned the university was planning to cut all state appropriated funding to the station effective March 1, 2019. Of the approximately $660,000 in appropriated funding, $453,920 provides salaries and the remainder provides benefits for nine of 12 staff positions. The appropriated funds make up the largest portion of the station’s revenue. The decision to cut funding to TSPR prompted significant public outcry and demands for greater transparency related to the decision-making process, according to the Voice and other media reports on the issue.
TSPR Developmental Director Sharon Faust told the Voice Tuesday she was “very grateful” to have the financial support from the foundation and marketing departments as the station seeks additional financial support from listeners and other potential donors.
“It will help tremendously,” she said, and added that the station has a long way to go to close the funding gap for the looming deadline of March 1. She said the funding received from the Foundation and sponsorship will go directly to programming.
In addition to the $50,000 in support announced Friday, she said a number of listeners and donors have also given or pledged to give during the station’s recent pledge drive. According to the TSPR website, the station has added 192 new members and has $163,443 in pledges. The numbers are not final, however.
“We’re still tallying from our recent fund drive. Typically, we earn around $250,000 to $300,000 from our community. That would be individuals and businesses. So we would have to basically triple what we earn in the next couple months.”
Pledge money will come in over the course of the current fiscal year and into the next, rather than as a lump sum. Having it come in spread out over time is helpful because it is a steady stream of income.
Even with the donation and sponsorship, the large funding gap is still a cause for concern, she said.
“We’re grateful for it; no question. That’s a lot of money, no question about it, for all of us: the university, and it’s a lot of money for Tri-States Public Radio. As you can see, it still leaves us a large amount that we have to find, to raise,” she said.
About 250,000 individuals and businesses reside in the radio station’s service area. Citing an agency that reports on station listenership, she said between 8,000 and 9,000 people use TSPR’s services weekly, either through tuning to the radio station or by using the station’s website. Not all listeners give, however.
“More than a thousand give to us, but you can see the typical industry standard is about one in ten listeners or users support the public radio station. So there’s plenty of room for growth if we could talk to, or entice people who are listening who are not supporting. Even in a small amount, $100, that would be $900,000 (if all listeners gave), and we would be very capable, even if 50 percent gave $100 average gift, that would be another $500,000. That would pretty much help us through this,” she said.
Not every listener gives, however. “As you know, not everyone that goes to church puts money in the (basket) that comes along,” she said. Complicating giving matters is the perception that radio is free because it costs nothing to tune in. “You turn the radio on, and it does seem free because you get it… It’s not like cable TV. They won’t install the box until you’ve paid the down payment.”
The station is also constrained by FCC guidelines, which don’t allow ads on public radio that one typically hears on a commercial station. The station has to acknowledge businesses that support the station by mentioning them as sponsors in advance of programming.
TSPR gets some funding - about 20 percent of the approximately $1 million needed to run the station - from federal sources, she said.
The university is continuing to provide facilities, utilities and janitorial services to TSPR at no cost to the station, according to the Oct. 5 release. WIU Foundation Executive Officer Brad Bainter also spoke about the decision to approve the additional financial support.
"President Thomas had asked me to look for ways my division could assist Tri States Radio this year, and I was happy to try to find a way to provide some assistance to TSPR because of the professional conduct displayed by Tri States Director of Development Sharon Faust when the news broke that appropriated funding had been eliminated," Bainter explained. "She has remained professional and cordial during a time when emotions have run very high."
In addition, the Foundation and Development Office has also provided additional support to further research the Tri States donor base for those individuals who may have the capacity to make substantial contributions to the radio station, as well as research for foundations that may provide funding support for public radio.
"I strongly believe that when facing adversity, one should look to build support from all corners to overcome obstacles," Bainter added. "The Foundation and Marketing will do its part to provide a measure of support for TSPR."
The Foundation will also continue to provide accounting services and the station’s 501(c)3 status, the release said.
Editor's note: This story has been edited to include comments and details from the university release about the decision to provide financial support, and clarifies the name of the marketing department which is providing support.
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