KPFA General Manager’s State of the Station Report

December 2014/January 2015

There is good news and bad news in the results of our year-end fund drive.

The bad news first: We didn’t make our goal during our 2-week campaign, and for a very good reason – we were executing our mission. As you all know KPFA did an excellent job of covering the unexpected local and national protests and demonstrations during the pledge. On air and in the streets, we were everywhere. We sacrificed many pledge hours, united in the belief that getting vital information out on the air wedded KPFA’s progressive spirit and character with our listeners and stakeholders.

Which leads to the good news. After the conclusion of the drive, we initiated a series of soft-sell pitches, once an hour, asking listeners to fill in the gap with an end-of-the-year donation. We received a very enthusiastic response that totaled nearly $93 thousand dollars. On New Years Eve alone $38 thousand dollars was donated online. This really wasn’t a surprise. We sensed in our listenership that this was payback for a job well done.

Yet, aside from the last gasp donations enabling us to cross the finish line, the poor earnings of the end-of-the-year fund drive is a clear indicator that our current schedule of 5 pledge drives a year is not sustainable. Please hear me when I say we have reached the point of diminishing returns. Our listening audience and our programmers are very fatigued. To break this cycle (not enough revenue sources and high expenses) will take a major commitment to reassess our entrenchment and inflexible culture. Ask yourself are you ready as a group to change? Ready to be mutually responsible in reshaping KPFA into a financially secure community radio station.

The old saying applies: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

It takes 3 engines to keep this community powered, non-profit radio station running. On all three our check engine lights are on.

Engine Number 1 is our listener support system. Many years ago this was a powerful 12-cylinder engine. A generous major donors base has now turned their backs to us, run off by historical infighting, public protests and damaging lawsuits. This engine now runs on 4 cylinders, has a ton of mileage and is leaking oil.

Engine Number 2 is the national office. This engine is being rebuilt. Folks are under the hood trying to find the motor under the gunk of unpaid bills, broken contracts and expired relationships. Without this engine running properly we are missing out on additional revenue aid from the CPB, support from foundations and executive group oversight.

Engine Number 3 is you, the local board. This engine has a starter problem – unable to turn over and reimagine itself from a governance board, unnecessarily concerned with micro managing programming, to an empowered and empowering community fund raising vehicle proudly getting and giving the funds needed to keep the radio station cruising toward financial stability.

David Gans is a 5 star board member. Over the years his Grateful Dead marathon has raised nearly a million dollars for KPFA. He doesn’t whine or hesitate to use his talent, contacts and connections to benefit the radio station. The next Grateful Dead drive runs from 9am-1PM on Saturday, January 31st.

The PNB Resolution:

The PNB has requested that the KPFA management create a plan to make $250 thousand dollars in cuts, which would include a formula for reduction in management salaries. To accomplish this goal and if such a plan is executed by the PNB, KPFA will not resemble the media outlet it is today. There would have to be layoffs, furlough days, schedule changes and an overall decrease in operating tools and services. This is Pacifica’s history beginning to repeat itself, as KPFA would be headed down the same narrow road as WBAI. When you cut talent, you’re cutting our unique programming, the only thing that separates us from the rest. We already have seen that you can’t cut yourself into solvency. We have a revenue problem because we’re down two and a half engines and not enough mechanics prepared to do the real work needed to raise additional funding.

The management team has met with the union and proposed a cut to our benefits package, with a change in co-pay from $10 to $20. That would be a yearly savings of $42 thousand dollars a year. Since this would alter the contract, the union must have a secret ballot vote on the proposal.

Other Proposed PNB Cuts:

Reduction in workforce, hours and station schedule
Savings = $175,000

Services reductions
Savings = $14,400

December 2014 Fund Drive Re-Cap:

Unfortunately, despite great encouragement from of our listeners, volunteers and board members to bring the phone room back, the volunteer turnout during the holiday fundraiser was mediocre at best. Emails were sent out to volunteers before the drive and there were promos played before and during the drive to encourage folks to come in, however, the room rarely had more than 5 volunteers at a time.

During the first week of the drive, a new system of pledge taking was attempted with laptops. Although there were some software issues with the interface itself, the majority of issues came from a serious lack of familiarity with computers by many of our volunteers.

Volunteers who knew computer basics could troubleshoot minor issues, however, others lacked a basic understanding of how to open new tabs, how to fill in blank fields or simply how to use a mouse. Because of this unprecedented lack in computer skills and a work-around software issue the laptops were abandoned after the first week. During the second week, the old card system was brought back but unfortunately, our volunteer turnout continued to dwindle.

By the final day of the drive we were about $25,000 short. I am confident that if not for the Comnet rollover service to pick up calls when we lacked volunteers, this shortfall would have been far greater. Until the financial health of the station stabilizes, I will not risk losing precious dollars in the hope that more volunteers will show up.

KPFA, along with our sister stations KPFK and WPFW have signed on with a new telephone rollover service called Telerep. WPFW has used them in the past with great results. Already in our dealings with them we find this organization to be more professional and are looking forward to better communication between them and our donor base.

Local Protest Coverage Re-cap:

During the December Fund drive KPFA interrupted Saturday, December 13th fund raising to bring National Pacifica coverage of the Black Lives Matter march in Washington D.C., along with coverage of the many local protests throughout the day in special headlines culminating with a Saturday edition of Flashpoints.

KPFA’s Anita Johnson and Davey D and many others were in the streets covering the shut down of I-80, the Oakland Police Headquarters, the Oakland Federal building to name just a few.

KPFA also organized special call-ins from reporters and programming throughout the run up to and on the MLK Holiday.

It has been a whirlwind of response by the station and in the process we are creating new channels of communication between programmers and the news department to increase our coverage of actions in real time.

Considering our dueling need to fund raise and fulfill our mission, KPFA continues to come through against the odds.

Where Are We Now?

I find it amazing but there are folks on the board who still ask the question, where does the money go? I’ve only been GM for 6 months and it didn’t take me long to find out where it goes, who gets it, and where it’s not coming from right now. Here’s a simple breakdown of our first quarter money distribution.

I should add that this so-called financial crisis we’re in has been caused by a downward trajectory of income for the last five years making present revenues less than our expenses. Examples:

Listener Support has declined

Two years without CPB funding (approximately $240 thousand dollars) that the station has relied on.
Declining income from major donors and foundations run off by historical infighting and lawsuits.
All of the above makes the deficit between revenue and expenses more acute.

Annual Payroll & Benefits Expenses:

  • Benefits = $450,468
  • Payroll & taxes = $1.953 million

BANK ACTIVITY for Oct-Dec 2015:

Deposits $1,170,000

  • Listener support
  • Crafts Fair revenue
  • Events

Withdrawals $537,497

  • Payroll
  • Bank charge

Checks $586,350

  • Premiums
  • Crafts Fair expense
  • Utilities
  • Operating expenses

Payroll for 3 months = $505,800

  • $168,600/month (avg)
  • $84,300/pay period (avg)

Benefits for 3 months= $120,000

  • $40,000/month

Ending Balance = $46,153

The New Fund Drive Campaign: January 27th-Februry 13th

Our goal is $630 thousand. Again the pressure is on because the station lives from drive to drive. The staff’s moral is low because of the looming PNB resolution, yet we all will move forward and do our best to present a mix of interesting and entertaining programming during Black History Month.

Our new campaign slogan is “Pass it On.” Our own in-house research tells us that only 1 in 8 of KPFA listeners actually donate. We will be asking our real donors to pass on the request from us to family members and friends, who listen to KPFA to join in and support us in this drive. The second part of the campaign is to encourage listeners to “Pass On” the link to our donation page onto their Facebook or Twitter accounts in hopes that through social media we can raise additional publicity and funds.

New website:

Unfortunately because of some continued backend technical issues we aren’t able to launch the website as planned for this fund drive. We need more time to workout the tech issues and test the site before it goes public. You only debut once and we want it to be impressive. Right now, the launch goal is late February.

Yet in this drive we will be showcasing our new logo in a PASS IT ON pack of Water bottles, T-shirts and Tote bags.

KPFA Crafts Fair Re-Cap: December 2014

Our first year at The Craneway Pavilion proved to be very successful. Our attendance went from 3,200 in 2013 to over 5,000 in 2014. Our 3 hours of live air (from 9am to noon) both days were well executed and contributed greatly to the culture of the event. Over 200 Artists & Craftspeople, Fair Traders and Non-Profits exhibited. Free parking and plenty of it was icing on the cake. The Craneway Pavilion, a little known destination is becoming an attraction in and of itself. The Managers of the Craneway were thrilled that we moved our event there.

We have already booked the venue for the third weekend in December 2015, as well as for the third weekend in June, when we hope to produce a new KPFA Summer Fair, building on the success of the December show. This is under discussion with management and Jan Etre, because both events offer fabulous opportunities for donor outreach and off-air fund raising.

2014 Numbers

Income + $100,000 (aprox) Exhibitor Fees

+ $35,800 Net Door

Expenses – $47,800

Salaries – $63,000

Net Income: + $25,000

There will be a staff meeting after the winter drive.

Quincy McCoy
GM, 94.1 KPFA, January 21, 2015

One response to “KPFA General Manager’s State of the Station Report

  1. Great transparency and addressing the challenges facing KPFA head-on!! The new tone in leadership is refreshing and desperately needed. I hope everyone who recognizes the value of our programming puts aside their differences and starts to pull together to keep KPFA viable as an important resource in our communities.

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