It was a fitting golden anniversary for University of Winnipeg radio station CKUW at this year’s Fundrive, where the community station raised a record amount in donations. The week long Fundrive (held February 8-15) hit $59,000 and celebrated 50 years of community radio. As a CKUW volunteer, I had the opportunity to experience the excitement of the record setting week working as a phone operator registering pledges.
Fifty years ago, on the campus of what was then United College, and soon to be the University of Winnipeg, a radio club started broadcasting on closed circuit intercom throughout much of the school. That was 1963. By 1999, the station gained CRTC clearance to be on the FM dial throughout Winnipeg.
CKUW is listener driven radio that depends less on advertising and instead relies more on volunteers and public donations. The station is on air 24 hours a day 365 days a year and features a wide variety of programs, from talk radio to new music to everything in between. CKUW also has the ability to play music for longer durations than most stations, and to offer a wide range of information programming. The mandate is to offer an alternative to mainstream radio.
During my time on the phones at Fundrive, we received many calls; some listeners even called back to offer more, and some were fairly big donations. My personal biggest pledge that I received was $500 from one call. The noise level at the station was excessive at times with live bands, often two or three playing, one after the other. Still the callers were quite good about this when we could not hear their normal tones of voices on our phones. So, they raised their voices, or even waited for a break in the music to complete their pledges.
The weeklong fundraiser was a time to get to know many people including (but not limited to) the 100 plus CKUW members. We received phone help from CKUW members’ friends and families, as well as from University of Winnipeg Student’s Association members and from former CKUW members who haven’t forgotten the excitement of past Fundrives.
Some programmers created handmade incentives to generate interest in Fundrive. Robin Eriksson made a gramophone out of paper and box materials and demonstrated it for me as I shot this video:
She’s using a safety pin as the stylus. And she’s turning it by hand, at varying speeds I note. We had a studio mic near it for an on air demonstration during her show, Hit the Big Wide Strum!
We also had CKUW swag offered in the form of the common kazoo, demonstrated by station manager Rob Schmidt in this video, and issued to all who supported us. You can look for these and other videos on our CKUW website.
Over all, it was a good learning experience in community driven radio; humbling to see how the public is so willing to help out in various ways. Supportive companies offered pizzas, drinks, sandwiches and other food products for the people here. We had interviews with members of the local community and we had live band performances. All of them were a big part of our success and we thank every one of them.
Our goal was $53,000 — our most ambitious target yet. Throughout much of the week we hit the daily goal amounts needed towards earning this total. Then, in the last few days we were surpassing that and hitting a higher goal total. Rob Schmidt said in an email to our members on February 27, 2013, “I’m very pleased to report that with post-drive pledges we have passed $59,000 for Fundrive 2013.”
CKUW accepts public financial support outside of Fundrive, and encourages the public to help increase this year’s total even more.