We don’t often turn the spotlight on ourselves, but the last four months at WBHM have been unlike any other time in the station’s history. Like many organizations, most staff have been working remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. The station has not been immune from the outbreak’s financial impacts either. In advance of WBHM’s one-day fund drive on Thursday, WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with the station’s executive director Chuck Holmes for an update on how COVID-19 has affected WBHM.
How the station’s finances have been impacted:
WBHM, like a lot of nonprofits and businesses, we are feeling the pinch. The recession caused by the pandemic has hurt a lot of businesses. We depend on corporate underwriting for part of our revenue and, of course, membership. People are hurting and feeling pain out there and we’re seeing some decline in membership as well. The big issue for us was we canceled our planned pledge drive in April. We did that because, one, we wanted to keep bringing people the news that they needed to have. And two, when we do these week-long, eight-day-long pledge drives, it involves a lot of people. We just felt we couldn’t do that in terms of the pandemic, the health risks involved.
We have had to furlough staff and we have open positions that we have not filled. Not having that drive in April has deprived our budget of a fair amount of revenue. About half of our revenues come from membership.
The reason for a one-day drive:
We’re really kind of taking our cue from some other public radio stations out there who have done this and done it successfully. [It’s] one day primarily because we want to limit the amount of time we’re on the air asking people for money. We’re living in such extraordinary times of the pandemic and a recession and all that’s gone on since the death of George Floyd and the reckoning with racial injustice in America. It’s an election year, let’s not forget. There’s just so much news out there and we felt like if we could try and do it one day and appeal to people to step up and support a public radio station that they love, let’s see if we can do it. We’re kind of in a race to finish our fiscal year, which ends September 30, and we want to try and do it with a balanced budget.
The goal of the drive:
Based on our current budget projections we’re down about $200,000, which is what we need to raise between now and the end of September. If we can knock it all out of the park in this one-day drive, wow, wouldn’t that be great? If we have to come back in September and make more appeals, we’ll certainly do that as well.