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Kyle Dowden, program director; Chalmer Harper, general manager; and Stephanie Jenkins, brand manager
Kyle Dowden, program director; Chalmer Harper, general manager; and Stephanie Jenkins, brand manager

2015 Economic Impact Awards 16-29 Years in Operation Winner: 88.3 The Wind

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In 2014, 88.3 The Wind hit a milestone when its revenues crossed $1 million.

“That’s the generosity of our listeners,” says Chalmer Harper, general manager and on-air host. “Being a not-for-profit radio station is a totally different animal. Our listeners, they dote on us.”

The Wind was purchased by Radio Training Network Inc. in 1995 from Parkcrest Media Co., an extension of what is now Life360 Church. A falling out between the radio’s leadership and the church led to tension in the community that made funding a challenge when The Wind started, says Harper. Radio Training Network Inc. brought in $16.2 million total last year and employs 100 across the South, including Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

“88.3 The Wind started with three employees, a revenue goal of less than $100,000 for the year, a less-than-stellar reputation, used equipment, a wing and lots of prayer,” he says. “Three short but hard-working years later, the station had grown immensely, tripling revenue by adding more and more donors as well as a new revenue stream of underwriting sales.” The Wind, which takes its name from a “rushing mighty wind” in Acts 2:2, grew during the next decade, facing its biggest challenge when longtime station manager Ben Birdsong, who had built the donor program and was largely responsible for changing public perception of the station, died suddenly in 2010.

The Wind’s momentum appeared in jeopardy, Harper says.

“In the five years that have followed those chaotic and melancholy days, 88.3 The Wind has ridden the roller coaster of maintaining a successful ministry,” he says. “New leadership has stepped in to build upon the foundation of those before them ... (and) the ministry has remained strong.

“As a reflection of the generosity of the Ozarks, 88.3 The Wind has remained debt-free throughout the duration.”

The station reaches almost 70,000 listeners a week, and 70 percent of its income comes from donations, Harper says. The Wind sets itself apart with its “CleanAir Promise” of positivity, clean language and embarrassment-free programming.

“We’ve gotten great feedback on that, because it creates a safe space on the dial for people, especially no offensive language or lyrics,” Harper says.

As a listener-supported entity, The Wind encourages philanthropy. Anyone can request a prayer at the station’s website. For more than 15 years during the month of October, The Wind has held a clothing drive for Springfield Victory Mission, which last year collected roughly 12,000 pounds of clothing for the organization to sell at its Victory Vintage Thrift Store. And every month, a nonprofit organization is highlighted on the station and receives a 60-second public-service announcement that plays six times a day in addition to a 15-minute interview segment that airs Saturday mornings – a value of about $4,500.

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