Student-Run Radio Station WKDU Donates Proceeds to the ACLU

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WKDU 91.7 FM, Drexel’s free-format, student-run radio station, donated all proceeds from its merchandise sales in the month of February to the Pennsylvania affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and other products were sold through the radio station’s online store to bring in $1,200, with about $440 of that donated after manufacturing and shipping costs were taken out. During the 28-day sale, 60 items were sold through 29 unique orders.

The philanthropic endeavor was inspired by the White House’s Jan. 27 executive order temporarily suspending entry into the United States for refugees, immigrants and visa holders from seven Middle Eastern and African countries, said Cooper Beaupre, general manager of WKDU and a pre-junior business and engineering major in the LeBow College of Business.

“We were sitting around during one of our executive meetings when someone brought up that the ACLU only had 200 staff attorneys, which we thought was kind of crazy. Then the travel ban came up,” said Beaupre. “We knew that the ACLU would be fighting this and could probably use as much financial help as possible.”

The idea to donate merchandise proceeds came about because some of the WKDU apparel hasn’t changed in over 10 years. The student DJs saw an opportunity to deplete its stock and create new merchandise (and possibly even a new logo). As it turns out, certain items sold out over the course of the month — so much so that when the merchandise director had to inform people that they could get their money back, many ended up donating the money anyways. The WKDU’s website also featured a page that easily linked users to the donation page of the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s website.

“I don’t know why I was surprised by this, but people were overwhelmingly in support of the ACLU,” said Beaupre. “We definitely exhausted our inventory, but that was kind of the goal.”

A surprising perk of the project was the raised level of engagement WKDU DJs were able to have with their audience. 

“On the radio, you’re just playing music and hoping people are listening,” said Beaupre. “But we’d have DJs announce that we were selling things to donate money to the ACLU and immediately afterward all these people would call asking how they could buy stuff. It was pretty amazing to see as someone who’s been with WKDU for three years.”

Listeners also called in during two “Resistance Roundtable” events WKDU held that featured local layers and activists discussing current events regarding the Trump administration and ways to get involved in the community — with music, of course. Cosmo Baker, a prolific DJ and longtime friend of WKDU, hosted the panel in the radio station’s studio in between song blocks. 

The first “Resistance Roundtable” featured Ryan Hancock of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, Ben Waxman of Wage Change and Lev Hirschhorn of Reclaim Philadelphia. The second discussion, held March 2, featured Andrew Hoover, communications director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania; Conrad Benner of local photo-blog Streets Dept, Ben Miller of South Philly Barbacoa and local artists Ursula Rucker and Michael The Lion.

WKDU’s decision to hold a month-long philanthropic fundraiser was a first for the station, which traditionally hosts the annual Electronic Music Marathon (EMM), a nonstop four-day event. WKDU has raised over $25,000 for local nonprofits since the tradition was started in 1997. This past fall, WKDU raised $2,500 to give to Philly’s largest no-kill animal shelter, PAWS, after playing 98 hours of live Philadelphia DJ sets and accepting donations through its secure website.