Temple University’s public radio station, WRTI (90.1 FM), received the Development Exchange 2003 Membership Award, honoring the largest increase in member contributions of any major public radio station in the United States.
The award was presented in July at the Public Radio Marketing and Development Conference in Utah, held annually by the Development Exchange, Inc. (DEI) to recognize public radio stations across the country for their exceptional achievements.
In 2001-2002 WRTI saw a 70 percent increase, about $1,090,000, in contributions from registered members, beating out hundreds of stations competing for the title. This is an incredible amount according to Anne Todd, WRTI’s membership services manager, who said only 3 percent of listeners give money to the station, contributing an average of $70 per person.
The station’s achievement is also significant considering last year’s winner, WNYC in New York, received the DEI’s recognition for membership contribution for their 22 percent increase.
“The increase indicates people are accepting their role as listeners,” Todd said.
Todd said the station holds on-air fundraisers 17 days out of each year as its sole means of recruiting contributions and to also reach out to listeners who have not yet become members. Of the 340,000 people tuning in each week, 15,000 are members whose generous contributions allowed the station to be honored.
Members account for about a third of WRTI’s revenue, with membership fees ranging from $25 for students and seniors to $40 general.
The fee includes a subscription to “Tempo,” the station’s quarterly magazine designed especially for members, and a membership card good for discounts at various stores and restaurants.
Member contributions support the station and its critical needs including new equipment, service upgrades, student workers and new antennas that will soon be mounted on top of Wachman Hall.
The contributions will allow WRTI to eventually relocate its broadcasts to the building currently under construction on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, offering the station triple the space compared to its current location in Annenberg Hall. The new space will also provide live on-air performance opportunities in the studio.
Todd said listeners “give because they love the station and love the music we play. They use the word ‘love’ a lot.” She added that they “know the station is unique and that we play well-selected classical and jazz.”
Todd noted that WRTI listeners are “intelligent and demanding and value classical and jazz music.” As a result, the station does not buy a lot of pre-produced programming, and the hosts are well educated on all of the music.
WRTI began in 1948 at Temple University by Professor Emeritus John Roberts, who originally intended for the station to be used as a student laboratory. This continues as one of its purposes by helping students learn about broadcasting, equipment and editing. In 1953, it became a licensed FM station. Thirteen years later it adopted an all-jazz format, adding classical music to its roster in 1997.
Members have proven to be exceptionally loyal. A few people even put WRTI in their will.
One person named the station as a beneficiary on her insurance policy, and another person asked family members to send contributions to the station instead of flowers to a funeral.
Realizing their dollars make a difference, students, faculty and administrators at Temple have become members, Todd said. Some employees at the station even have contributions taken directly out of their paychecks.
The split format of classical and jazz “brings in a mixed group of people who are unusually diverse” editor of Tempo magazine, Karin Brookes said.
WRTI listeners and contributors range from 9-year-olds to high school students who tune in during class and to older listeners, Tempo reports.
Receiving the award means “the station is clearly, solidly supported. The future is not iffy,” Todd said. This serves as a “vote of confidence that people like what we’re doing. They’re literally investing in the station because they recognize that it’s their station.”
Andrea Boston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.