University of Winnipeg (U of W) campus and community radio station CKUW, which broadcasts on 95.9 FM, is currently holding its annual fundraising campaign. The Fundrive started on Feb. 5 and runs until Feb. 19.
As an independent, locally run radio station, CKUW relies on listener support to finance its operations. Station manager Rob Schmidt explains their business model and says they consider themselves a public radio station.
“The formula for funding public radio is to ask the listener for support,” he says. Large stations like PBS follow this model.
“Being supported by your listeners gives you a freedom to do things that you wouldn’t be able to do on a station that’s supported with commercials, because of commercial pressure or the need to sell ads,” Schmidt says.
In fact, a few years ago, CKUW made the decision to go completely ad-free.
“Fundrive, right now, brings in about 25 per cent of our budget,” Schmidt says. “The sort of things we pay for with that money include our online archives, our webstream, some staffing costs.”
“If we beat our ($60,000) goal, then we can start planning for the future and putting money aside for future projects,” Schmidt says. He adds that the Fundrive has allowed the station to better survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Having the Fundrive drive ... has helped us ride it out easier than other radio stations, because we don’t rely on advertising,” he says, adding that many community radio stations across Canada have seen decreased advertising revenues due to business closures.
There are various incentives for donating. For instance, $35 will give a donor the CKUW friends card, $70 will add a T-shirt (designed by local artist Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie), and $280 will add two hoodies and a T-shirt.
Program director Sam Doucet says that during events like Fundrive, the community-driven aspect of CKUW really comes to the forefront.
“We can really prove that ‘community-driven’ and ‘listener-driven’ aren’t just buzzwords,” he says. “We ask listeners to reflect on what CKUW brings to them and how they see themselves as being part of the community and acting to help us keep doing what we do.”
Doucet notes that Fundrive is an opportunity to remind CKUW’s listeners they can engage with the station beyond just listening.
“We offer free training workshops to teach people how to make radio, the rules and regulations involved with public broadcasting and everything that goes into understanding what we do,” he says.
Among the many challenges of this years’ Fundrive is that the usual hustle and bustle of fundraising is unable to occur. Fewer employees and volunteers can be in the same space at once. As such, the usual one-week fundraising campaign has been extended to two weeks to accommodate some of these challenges.
Donations to CKUW can be made at fundrive.ckuw.ca.
Published in Volume 75, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 10, 2021)