by Ward Mullens, Published March 17, 2011
YPSILANTI - Eastern Michigan University's public radio station, WEMU 89.1 FM, kicks off its annual spring fundraiser St. Patrick's Day and hopes to find at least a small pot of gold.
"We're calling this fundraiser, 'The Raising O' the Green,' said Molly Motherwell, general manager of the station. "This is the first time we've kicked off on St. Patrick's Day and the first time we have actually put our theme on a t-shirt. Our logo is the station's logo sitting on a pot of gold!"
WEMU's fundraiser begins at 6 a.m., Thursday, March 17, and concludes 7 p.m., Thursday, March 24.
A pot of gold would be great, but Motherwell's sites are set on a more modest $145,000, the goal of the spring fundraiser.
"I look at the fundraiser as a celebration of what we have accomplished during the past six months," Motherwell said. "We raised $152,000 during the fall fundraiser, the most we've ever raised on the air, and we've added more than 3,000 listeners from last year. We're having a strong year despite the economy."
While WEMU is a National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, Motherwell said the recent issues surrounding NPR are a challenge, but not insurmountable.
"We want people to understand that 20 percent of our budget pays for one full time person on our staff and all of our network programming," said Motherwell. "That money allows us to focus on our local programming. Theoretically, we could survive without that funding, but it is a significant portion of our budget and, without it, what we offer would be very different."
WEMU gets about 50 percent of its budget from the two fundraisers it has each year.
Motherwell said the biggest misconception in the current debate about funding for public broadcasting is that NPR and PBS are directly funded by Congress. They are not. Congress funds the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes the money from Congress to member stations.
Despite the economy and other issues, Motherwell said the biggest challenge of the fundraisers is maintaining focus throughout the event.
"Staying on point and reminding listeners of the benefit that we bring them every day can be hard," said Motherwell. "But we look at this as fun because there is always heightened energy and excitement."
Motherwell and the almost 200 phone volunteers that help with the event continue to prove that luck is good to have, but that hard work pays off.
"After 20 years of doing this, I am still amazed that I can write a letter to our listeners or say something on the air asking for their support. And then the money starts showing up right away," said Motherwell.
To make a pledge during the fundraiser, call 888-299-8910 or go to WEMU.org