FAQ: Bridge the Gap

Feb 22, 2021



Q: What is “Bridge the Gap”?

A: Going into 2021 will be difficult for many. Small businesses are on the edge, many are recently unemployed, and COVID-19 numbers are rising.  KWBU is not exempt from these challenges, facing a permanent funding loss of over $60,000 plus $10,000 in increased programming fees. However, we have a plan. Working in tandem with “Build the Base,” “Bridge the Gap” establishes increased revenue and membership goals. We will be reaching out to listeners, current and past donors, and corporate supporters with specific ways we can work together to overcome this shortfall and continue to grow.

Q: What can I do to help?

A: If you haven’t already given, please do it now! Your pledge of support is exactly what is needed to assure a strong NPR station in Waco and McLennan County (https://www.kwbu.org/become-member).

     If you’re already a donor, please consider increasing your annual gift. Better yet, become a monthly donor. If you now give $60 a year, think about increasing your pledge to $10/month. Or, if you already give at that level, possibly move to $20/month. If you can afford it, consider moving up to the Cornerstone Society ($50/month) or President’s Circle ($100/month). Or perhaps you can afford to give a ‘Visionary’ gift of $2,400 or more.

We know that many have been affected by the current pandemic and can’t afford to support as they have in the past. We’re confident that those who are able will step in and help “bridge the gap.”  

Q: I hear spots on the air about KWBU’s finances. How is KWBU doing?

A (part 1): On the air, KWBU is doing very well indeed!  The station produces more local programming than ever (https://www.kwbu.org/programs). 

  • KWBU is Waco/McLennan County’s only broadcast source for:
    • NPR News (Morning Edition, All Things Considered, etc.)
    • BBC News
    • Regional news (Texas Standard)
    • Business news (Marketplace, Marketplace Morning Report, Business Review)
    • Public radio talk and entertainment (Fresh Air, Think, Latino USA, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Splendid Table, Travel with Rick Steves, etc.)
    • Music: classical, jazz, blues and Americana.
  • The station continues to seek out good programming.
    • Most recently, KWBU added to its schedule the new radio edition of the popular podcast The Daily (weekdays at 6:30 PM on 103.3 FM, Waco Public Radio).
      • The Daily podcast was the most-downloaded new show in 2017 on Apple Podcasts and won the DuPont-Columbia University Award for audio excellence.
      • The radio edition will give public radio listeners a deep analysis of one or two of the day’s top news stories.
  • Listenership is up!
    • Since 2014, the number of weekly listeners has increased by 50% to a consistent level of 15,000 or more.

A (part 2): Financially, there are challenges:

  • Operational revenue comes from four primary sources:
    • Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), Baylor University, local businesses, and individual donors.
      • CPB revenue is not expected to increase, as those are federal funds.
      • Baylor’s support is very generous, amounting to approximately half of KWBU’s revenue.
        • However, this amount is fixed – it does not increase annually.
        • It is expected that the community will make up the difference.
      • Corporate programming support (underwriting) has increased over the past five years by 96%.
        • We will continue to seek new business partners, but due to the non-commercial nature of our programming, it is a limited source of income.
    • The most important source of revenue for Waco Public Radio is from individuals who use the service –  contributing listeners whose financial support helps pay for quality national, regional and local programming – making KWBU unique for the Heart of Texas. 
  • While listenership went up, membership continued to decline.
    • From 2012 through 2019, the total number of individual supporters of KWBU declined by 33.6%, with fewer than 5% of listeners donating to the station.
    • Thanks to response to the “Build the Base” campaign, which began in June, 2019, the number of supporters started to increase over the past year. Still, only about 6 out of 100 KWBU listeners support financially.
    • The national average of public radio donors-to-listeners is much higher (about 10%).
  • To meet the budget, KWBU has increased the new-member goal to 12 new members per month.

Q: How urgent is the need?

A: Time is critical.

  • The station continues to operate with the tightest budgets in KWBU’s 20-year history.
    • When KWBU-TV closed 10 years ago, we promised to always keep listeners informed about the financial health of the station.
    • This year, due to the pandemic, major funders have had to permanently curtail their support of KWBU, totaling a $60,000 reduction in annual revenue.
  • The budget for FY 2022 will be drafted in February/March 2021.
    • In order to pass a balanced budget for FY 2022, there must be a demonstrated sustainable increase in membership (both in revenue and in total number of supporters) by the time the budget is drafted.

Q: Can’t you just reduce expenses?

A: Cutting expenses cannot solve the problem.

  • All unnecessary expenses have been eliminated over the last several years.
  • The two largest expense categories are personnel and programming.
    • The station has just 6 employees, the minimum staffing required by CPB.
    • Most programming is acquired from distributors (NPR, APM, etc.) that require affiliation fees. In light of the pandemic’s impact on local stations, NPR delayed scheduled revisions of its program-fee formula this year. However, NPR itself is experiencing financial difficulties, and we have been notified that they cannot delay rate hikes in the coming year. KWBU faces program-fee increases of an additional $10,000 next year.
    • Cutting any individual program would require replacing it (no significant net savings).
    • Realizing meaningful savings would require severing ties with a distributor and all its programming (harming our schedule, doing a disservice to listeners).
    • Steep discounts have already been negotiated with all distributors.

Q: Besides keeping my membership current, is there anything else I can do?

A: Yes!

Thank you!