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EMU Foundation

Loyal Listeners Show their Passion for Local Programming

by Jeff Samoray

In 2011, Eastern’s public radio station, WEMU, faced some serious financial challenges. With state funding to public colleges and universities cut by 15 percent, subsequent station budget cuts would eliminate much of its local jazz and blues music programming—content not widely available anywhere else on the dial.

Knowing the deep passion WEMU listeners have for its programs, station leaders took action.

“We enacted a plan to reduce our dependence on Eastern’s general fund by $250,000 over three years,” says WEMU General Manager Molly Motherwell. “We’d offset those cuts through increased fundraising.”

Through on-air pledge drives, regular mailings to station members and social media posts, fiscal year 2013 became the most successful fundraising period in WEMU history. Pledges, commitments, contracts and gifts totaled $756,000 with $663,000 collected by June 30, 2013, the end of the fiscal year. These funds include a generous major gift of $5,000 from the Mosaic Foundation.

“We broke our previous collections record set in 2012 by $25,000,” Motherwell says. “The $756,000 we raised in commitments is remarkable and speaks to the passion our listeners have for our programming. We hope to set a new fundraising record during the 2014 fiscal year.”

Nearly 75 percent of the funds raised pay staff and support WEMU programs. WEMU has 15 on-air personalities and news reporters, most of whom work part time. The remaining funds pay for National Public Radio [NPR] and Public Radio International programs, student help and support staff.

“WEMU has a unique position in public broadcasting,” Motherwell says. “We broadcast in an area with no daily newspaper or local TV news. Our listeners support us because we’re hyper-local. We host our own music programs and include local artists in our music mix. We also promote and support cultural events in our area. We remain unique and separate from other NPR stations by helping our community maintain its individual identity. That really matters to Washtenaw County listeners.”

In addition to offering a variety of programs covering modern and classic jazz and blues and important community news, the station also puts Eastern in the spotlight, Motherwell says.

“WEMU is a vibrant part of the community and an important part of the University,” she says. “An NPR affiliate is a badge of distinction for any institution and we raise Eastern Michigan University’s visibility. We’re here for the community and we feel that we represent the University very well.”
WEMU broadcasts at 89.1 FM and online at wemu.org. You can also listen to live content on your iPhone or Android device by downloading the free WEMU app at the iTunes store.

EMU Foundation is located at 112 Welch Hall, 850 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti, MI, USA 48197 Phone: 734.484.1322