AETN Foundation

City: Conway
Category: Nonprofit Organization of the Year
Year: 2008

The AETN Foundation, founded in 1985, helps support Arkansas' public television station. The Arkansas Education Television Network has operated in Arkansas for 41 years and now serves almost all of the state and broadcasts using six transmitters, with five broadcasting both analog and digital and one broadcasting only a digital signal.

"We exist solely to raise funds to pay for programs that are played," Mona Dixon, the AETN Foundation's COO and director of development, said.

Phone drives scheduled three times a year take care of much of the fundraising needs, Dixon said. AETN Foundation employees help coordinate the volunteers who staff the phone banks. Throughout the year, the foundation manages more than 1,000 volunteers between fundraising efforts and a few who volunteer at the station on a weekly basis, Dixon said.

Dixon oversees the foundation along with Allen Weatherly, CEO of both the foundation and the television station.

On top of traditional fundraising, 2008 was a busy year, and 2009 promises to be the same. The station lost one of its transmitters in January 2008, when its tower collapsed. The television station used space on the Redfield tower owned by KATV-TV, Channel 7. AETN and the foundation have worked together to get the station's signal transmitting once again, Dixon said.

The station's signal also will play a large role in 2009 as broadcasters throughout the nation transition from analog transmission signals to digital signals. The difficulties of 2008, including the loss of its signal, have prepared AETN for the slowdown in the current economy, Dixon said.

"We were actually prepared to have a down year because of the transition," she said.

While the economy and the transition might be slowing things in 2009, the transition also offers the station and the foundation opportunities to improve the station's content, Dixon said. AETN will add a channel for use in classrooms once the switch to digital is complete, Dixon said.

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