By Annette Hinkle
Southampton-based WPPB 88.3 FM is Long Island’s only public radio station. Though it may be the sole voice of public radio on the East End and throughout much of Suffolk County, there are times when its voice can’t be heard at all.
That’s because the station’s facilities are in serious need of upgrade and repair — on-air drop outs lasting several seconds or longer aren’t uncommon.
During a recent visit to the station, Dr. Wally Smith, WPPB’s general manager, led an impromptu tour of a back room where a tangle of wires and a couple banks of equipment are virtually all that’s keeping WPPB on the air — that and two aging transmitters located on the campus of Stony Brook Southampton, former home of WLIU, WPPB’s predecessor.
“We don’t have line of site access to the transmitter from here,” explains Dr. Smith. “Because Southampton is in a hole and there are too many trees between us and the campus, we use the Internet between here and the transmitter.”
“As anyone with Optonline knows, in summer they get overloaded and we’re the last to get space on the Internet link,” he adds.
While replacement of the aging transmitters is a major expense that will likely be addressed as part of a long term capital campaign down the road, the more pressing issue for WPPB is the need to make immediate repairs now to improve the on-air situation.
“One of the things we really need on a short term basis is money to upgrade the equipment to stop drops outs,” says Dr. Smith. “They’re the result of deteriorating conditions and also machines kept in a very bad environment.”
“We want to repair the equipment so it doesn’t break down,” he adds.
For that reason, WPPB has joined forces with Good Circle, an online crowd funding platform which pairs local businesses and individuals with non-profits in the community in order to complete very specific and timely projects.
Good Circle was founded in 2014 by East Hampton residents Fred Doss and Joan Overlock and already it has helped a number of non-profits on the East End, as well as organizations around the world, raise money for projects. The WPPB fundraising campaign is scheduled to launch on Good Circle’s website later this week with a goal of raising $50,000 in 90 days for equipment repairs and upgrades at the station.
Pairing non-profits with local businesses is the hallmark of Good Circle’s philosophy and it’s how the funding platform differs from other crowd sourcing entities. The idea is to create a partnership that raises much needed funding as well as the visibility of both the non-profit and the partner businesses in the community.
For Good Circle, it’s also important that every fundraising project have a definitive beginning and end, as well as a hook. For Ms. Overlock and Mr. Doss, the hook of this campaign is the important role WPPB plays in the life of the community.
“This is the only NPR station on all of Long Island and it can’t be interrupted,” says Ms. Overlock. “In a community like this, with access to all we have, we thought everyone can get behind that.”
“A great town needs a great radio station,” she adds.
When it came to determining the types of businesses she and Mr. Doss felt were a good match for WPPB, Ms. Overlock points to local high end and luxury companies that are “dependent on thinking, intelligent people who are engaged out here.”
To that end, Sotheby’s International Realty has already committed to supporting the WPPB campaign and Ms. Doss notes that other companies are expected to sign on in the days ahead. Ideally, these pairings will bring new supporters to the radio station as well as customers to the businesses while expanding WPPB’s visibility, particularly in southern Connecticut and points further west in Suffolk County where the station may not be as well known.
“This kind of project can put us out in front of new people,” explains Susan Hanley, WPPB’s director of development and marketing.
“To Susan’s point, awareness is a huge issue,” says Ms. Overlock. “If a business or two comes to the table, they’re bringing a customer base with them that now will know about WPPB because perhaps they’re not listeners.”
Another key component that makes Good Circle different from other crowd funding platforms is the fact that it engages the businesses which actively lend their support to the fundraising process. While it’s often assumed that in a partnership such as this, both the non-profit and the businesses have overlapping support, Ms. Overlock and Mr. Doss have found that not to be true.
A good example of this can be found in Good Circle’s pairing of Sag Harbor based Fighting Chance, a non-profit counseling and resource center for cancer patients, with the Hampton Jitney. As part of their fundraising campaign, in exchange for a $12 donation to Fighting Chance, the Hampton Jitney is donating a ticket worth $32 so a cancer patient can take the bus into New York City for treatment.
“You might think there’d be a lot of overlap between Fighting Chance’s supporters and the Jitney’s customers,” says Ms. Overlock. “But 50 percent who gave to that project were new to Fighting Chance.”
“Customers want to know that businesses give back, but businesses are reluctant to talk about it,” she adds. “We give them that little bit of push and they realize it’s a good thing.”
“This is what made it so exciting,” says Dr. Smith. “I love the way the businesses support non profits. To put these together is great.”