Last Call for WDFH,
Westchester Public Radio
February 23, 2012
Dear supporters and friends of WDFH,
As you probably know, WDFH has been fighting an uphill financial battle
for its entire life. Now, after years of very difficult financial
circumstances, we are having to make significant cutbacks, and the end of
the road may be very near.
Even though we are completely nonprofit, we have the usual expenses that
any business has — rent, utilities, insurance,
phone and internet service, payroll, and so on.
Unfortunately, our financial revenues are not meeting expenses, important
budget items are simply not being funded, and WDFH's future is in
immediate jeopardy. I am writing today to let you know about this
situation before you hear about it in any possible press coverage. (See
It is not too late to turn things around, but any turnaround would have
to happen quickly, as the clock is officially ticking. I'll talk
about that later in this letter.
WDFH has had a history going back to the early 1970s. As you may
know, we completed a major expansion of our broadcast signal in 2009.
Also in 2009, we re-established our webcast, and in late 2010, with the
help of an anonymous but extremely generous donor, we
we able to re-establish our live studio.
So for the first time ever, we now have all of the necessary pieces of
the puzzle in place. The stage is set for a vibrant new era of
public radio service to our lower Hudson valley communities.
But WDFH is, right now, functionally a startup. We're facing
the challenge of having to build a following essentially from scratch.
That's something that takes years to accomplish, especially in these
difficult economic times.
The 2009 signal expansion, necessary though it was, consumed most of our
cash reserve, and we've been living hand to mouth ever since. We've
been working very hard not only to bring you an expanding range of
high-quality local programs but also to reach out into the community to
find additional support.
But as I mentioned, that support isn't developing fast enough. We've
also applied for foundation grants, but many foundations are scaling back
their giving, in many cases accepting applications only from organizations
they've already funded.
This strange juxtaposition — launching a new
beginning at the same time that we're running out of money
— has made the past 20 months both vibrant and
eerie. We've brought in new volunteers and created new shows:
And just in
October, we debuted OutCasting, a vibrant new public radio show
we've created to give voice to issues facing LGBTQ youth. We
believe that OutCasting is the only program of its kind in public
radio in the United States. It landed us on the front page of
The Journal News.
To see what's been going on, have a look at the first (and hopefully
not last) edition of our
At the same time, we've been working under the burden of a
constant financial emergency. That has seriously dampened morale and
made it impossible to begin to carry out any kind of long-range goals.
WDFH is a unique local resource: a public radio station, operated by
community volunteers, that is specifically for us here in the lower Hudson
Valley. WDFH doesn't have its head or its heart in New York City
— it's right here. People all over the
country are struggling to get what we already have: a legitimate,
fully-licensed public radio station on the FM dial.
But we are an independent, freestanding radio station,
not part of a college or other larger organization. That means that
we have no parent organization that can provide financial help or even a
buffer against hard times.
significant additional financial support, WDFH will soon have to shut down
completely. Our irreplaceable broadcast license will be turned over
to a public or religious broadcaster that will almost certainly eliminate
all possibility of local programming.
If we can't prevent this, it will be the death of a local public radio
station here in the lower Hudson valley, and the end of all of the
possibilities and potential that a local public radio station can provide
to our underserved area in the future.
It is a very difficult time for us. I have personally spent my
entire professional life, starting in 1973, to establish WDFH. It
has been like pushing a boulder up a mountain, starting with the fact that
it took 20 years to get the FCC to approve WDFH. As I said, it's
really just in the past year that we have had all of the elements in place
— studio, viable signal, webcast
— to start building a public following.
And our following is starting to grow. But cash income is increasing
much more slowly than our remaining cash is being spent, even with
operating expenses cut to the bone.
Last weekend, I did one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do:
I signed the contract engaging a broadcast station broker to begin the
process of selling our irreplaceable broadcast license. This was a
heartbreaking step, as you might imagine, but our financial position
requires that we at least start this process.
The sale process is not irreversible — not
yet. In fact, right now it's completely reversible.
Tax-deductible donations could stop the process in its tracks.
To stop the sale process, we would need an infusion of cash starting
within the next few weeks — firm pledges of
$10,000 per month to keep the station going for the next year.
An annual budget of $120,000 is tiny compared to the budgets of larger
public radio stations. In fact, the annual compensation of just one
executive at another public radio station in our area would run WDFH for
more than four years.
If you care about keeping a local public radio station serving our needs
right here in Westchester and Rockland, we urgently need your involvement.
We are in immediate danger of losing WDFH forever —
just when so many other things are going exactly right.
So if you value what it means to have a vibrant public radio voice right
here, not a station in the city but right here in our own communities, now
is the time to step up to the plate.
We need you to
tell your friends, acquaintances, contacts, and social networking
followers about WDFH and urge them to support us as well.
We need you to
help us build an active and successful funding committee focused both on
solving both our immediate financial emergency and, once the emergency
is solved, on developing and carrying out longer-range funding plans.
We can reach our $120,000 annual goal in several ways:
secure, in the short term, would be a small number of philanthropists
making very large donations to keep us going for three years so that we
can start to build a more diversified funding base.
We don't have
access to these one or two or three philanthropists, or the sixty, or the
thousand. But we hope you can help us reach these people.
Please visit us at wdfh.org. You can donate
online or by check. (For large donations, we prefer a check because
both Network for Good and Paypal take a percentage.)
If you know people who have the ability to make large donations, please
tell them now about WDFH and how important it is not to lose this
precious local resource.
To those who have made recent donations even with the
knowledge about our difficult financial situation, we humbly offer
you our most heartfelt thanks.
And to all of you, however things turn out, thank you for your support.