Tue July 8, 2014
Finances, Fundraising And Programming At KUOW
We recently received a number of questions about KUOW’s operations, specifically, about changes to our local programming and the state of our finances. It is a compliment that our listeners care enough about this station to inquire after these important issues — and that they want to hold us accountable. Here are some responses to the questions we have received.
Have a question that is not addressed here? Please submit it in the form below. We will continue to update this page with other frequently asked questions.
Why does KUOW have reserves?
Our reserves are designated for several purposes including mandated cash reserves, large scale equipment replacement, signal improvements and emergency contingencies. In other words, as a media enterprise, we have to be prepared for a variety of unforeseen issues in any given year.
What is the current state of KUOW’s reserves?
Our assessment is that some of KUOW’s reserve components are adequate (for example six months of operating cash and the equipment replacement fund) and some could even be stronger (endowment and the signal improvement and/or building fund contingencies).
What is the endowment and why does it need to grow?
The endowment (an amount separate from our reserves) stands at close to $1.7 million. This is the investment fund held for our future strength and resiliency. This is the pool that is underfunded; at a conservative 3 percent annual payout, it would only yield $60,000 a year — not much of a hedge against a $12M operating budget. So this fund really needs to grow.
How much is KUOW’s reserve?
KUOW’s operating reserve is $6.1 million (half a year's operating budget). The total amount in cash and investment holdings that KUOW expects to have at the close of FY 14 is $14M.
- $6.1M for operating reserves
- $3.2M for property and equipment replacement (e.g., KUOW's studio equipment is 15 years old; optimal shelf life is about 10 years)
- $1.7M for the endowment
- $3.0M for the building fund and enterprise/major project fund (e.g., signal improvement)
Please note: This information is updated annually on our website: http://kuow.org/about-kuow
Why is your reserve that amount?
A high-performing, stable nonprofit organization needs to have a certain amount in reserves in order to be sustainable.
KUOW is unique in the world of nonprofits and even in public radio in that we are a vital community information service, especially in the event of natural disaster or civil emergency. We must continue to broadcast even during times when fundraising might have to be suspended, and we must be prepared to quickly replace damaged equipment and/or move to alternative transmission sites.
How much local programming is on KUOW?
Since the roll out of our programming changes last September, we are featuring a greater number of local stories, at shorter intervals, on a weekly basis.
In any given week, our staff produces more than five dozen local radio news stories. They take the form of “spots,” which you hear in newscasts; field features, which you hear during Morning Edition and All Things Considered; and studio interviews, which you hear in our midday news magazine The Record. The staff also produces a one-hour Friday news roundtable program called Week In Review, and original content is produced by Bill Radke and his team in the morning. KUOW staff also produces custom stories for our online audience and live events.
RadioActive, Swing Years & Beyond and Speakers Forum are also locally-produced programs for which staff showcase local youth stories, curate unique music playlists and record local lectures and performances, respectively.
Why the changes to local programming?
Recent programming changes are one way we are responding to the different ways people listen to radio. We want to be able to report on a wider range of topics. We also want to better distribute local programming throughout the day, rather than in single time slots. Finally, our local programming is now mirroring the format of the most successful programs in public radio — Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
What are some new ways in which KUOW supports local programming?
In recent years, KUOW has also been able to deepen our commitment to local programming via the Web, community events and social media. Some examples of this include:
“Local Wonder” is a series that focuses on stories exclusively about the Puget Sound region with topics chosen by our listeners.
Program Venture Fund, which provides support to independent reporters covering stories about local issues. For example, “Black in Seattle,” KUOW’s award-winning four-part series that examines the stories of the black experience in Seattle and surrounding areas. And the corresponding “Black in Seattle” community forum that brought listeners and black community leaders together for a discussion, which elevated our local radio into a multi-platform experience.
Community events, such as our neighborhood conversation circles and live remote broadcasts of The Record (as we did in Pioneer Square in September, 2013; Georgetown in December, 2013; and South Lake Union in August, 2014), where KUOW explores the stories of people, places and things that make our neighborhoods unique.
What determines the length of a pledge drive?
KUOW has seen remarkable growth over the last 10 years! We have increased our services to the community with things like the addition of reporters, a new and improved website, HD radio, and upgrades to our signal. Consequently, our operating budget has grown — and pledge drive goals have grown along with it in order to raise the revenue needed to sustain the station’s services.
Larger goals can sometimes (but not always) equal longer drives. It all depends on donor habits and when they chose to donate (early or later) during a drive. However, while both the overall operating budget and pledge drive goals have grown, the percent of revenue from pledge drives as part of that total budget has remained the same or even decreased in some fiscal years.
That said, in consideration of listener feedback, we are exploring shortening future pledge drives. We want to fundraise efficiently and with as little impact to programming as possible — and we are ever grateful for your support.
Please submit any additional questions or feedback we have not addressed here. We will continue to update this page with additional information as appropriate.