The Rapidian

Grand Rapids' hyperlocal radio station seeks support

Radio station WYCE is seeking support from the community for operations with its spring fund drive.
Underwriting support from:

Michigan Tax Credit for Public Radio in Jeopardy

Michigan governor Rick Snyder has proposed to eliminate the Michigan tax credit for donations to public radio stations. The tax credit allows people who make financial contributions to public radio and television stations in Michigan to take a credit against their Michigan taxes. The federal tax deduction for donations to WYCE and other nonprofits still stands, but the special Michigan credit is in question. This tax credit is the same one that Michiganders can use for donations to public colleges and universities, community foundations, qualified food banks and art museums and libraries. All tax credits are subject to elimination if Governor Snyder has his way.

WYCE station manager, Kevin Murphy

WYCE station manager, Kevin Murphy /Paul Jendraisiak

The normally laid-back, music-filled airwaves of radio station WYCE take on slightly different feel this week as volunteer programmers and staff urge listeners to support the operations of the station with financial contributions. It is one of two pledge drives the stations hosts. "It is part of our informal contract with our listener-sponsors," said Station Manager Kevin Murphy. "If they do their part to financially support the station, we will keep interruptions to an absolute minimum."

The goal is to raise $88,100. It is the most ambitious goal the station has ever set for a short time period. Murphy is confident that listeners will come through. "To put it in perspective, we run the station on a budget of approximately $200,000 a year and as recently as five years ago we were raising $40,000 during a single drive. This is a good example of how support for the station has continued to grow as we have expanded and improved our services," said Murphy.

Murphy and some of  the station's 100 volunteers (all music broadcast on WYCE is selected by volunteer programmers) worked hard to convince listeners of the value of the station and work to convert the ordinary listener to a listener sponsor. During a drive between 500-700 people make donations. "We'd love to go over the $88,100 mark," he said. The goal number is the station's broadcast frequency 88.1 FM. The station plays a mix of music, selected by the volunteer programmers from the extensive WYCE CD collection. Music broadcast includes blues, folk, rock, world and locally-made tunes.

Donations to the station can be made online or by calling in to the station at 616-742-9923.

Ideally, donations will come from credit cards. "We have a very small staff and the more streamlined the donation process is, the better for us. We don't mind paying a few percentage points in fees to have the money immediately available to support station operations," said Murphy. Using a card also takes away the work of sending pledge statements and reminders.

There is no minimum donation for the drive, but the average donation is around $115. "It is worth noting that a lot of donations are around the average amount, as opposed to very large or very small donations. We survive on a steady diet of $50-$150 donations," Murphy said.  The station offers a wide variety of incentives and premiums for its donors. Everything from stickers to t-shirts and mugs to dinner and music show packages to weekend music festival passes.

The programmers who work the drive often emphasize over the airwaves that the brand of the station is a reason for giving. That is, commitment to local musicians and to musicians and music styles that might not otherwise be broadcast on radio and its commitment to community: that alone is a reason to get involved.

Through events like its Hat Trick concert series WYCE raises funds for local nonprofits.

This year's spring fund drive began on Friday, March 25 and will end on Friday, April 1. 

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