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WFMU Asks Listeners to Donate, Vote for Billboard

Innovative campaign hopes to turn commuters into listeners

Fundraising is an ongoing challenge for most noncommercial radio stations. Usually it takes the form of on-air fund drives, where listeners pledge a certain amount of money in exchange for membership and premiums such as tee shirts, mugs or boxed CD sets. Fund drives usually work, but can be slow torture for listeners and station staff alike.

At WFMU, a listener-supported free-form radio station in Jersey City, N.J., the creative well never seems to run dry, and there are always new innovations to raise money and engage with listeners. Their most recent effort is a billboard campaign like no other.

Entitled “Your Billboard. Your vote.” the kickstarter campaign hopes to raise $5,000 to purchase a 14-foot x 48-foot billboard visible from the westbound lanes of Route 280 near Newark, N.J. Listeners who pledge get to vote for one of eight proposed designs. All of them appear to be the outcome of a National Lampoonesque think tank. It is estimated that 75,000 commuters drive by the billboard every day, and the plan is that a quirky WFMU message at this high-visibility location will attract new members.

The idea for a WFMU billboard campaign had its origins with Andy Beckman, host of the comedy program “Seven Second Delay,” and station manager Ken Freedman. What began as humorous banter was soon distilled into a real plan with numbers and goals.

WFMU promises that if it can’t raise $5,000 by the October 11 deadline, the pledges will not be charged to listeners. On the other hand, if the goal is met, the station may add stretch goals to keep the billboard up longer, add a second or third billboard design, or to purchase new billboards.

To date well over $3,000 has been raised.