FAQ: Build the Base

Jul 11, 2019


A message from KWBU President and CEO, Joe Riley:

In June 2019, we began the KWBU Build the Base campaign.  This is an on-going effort to increase the membership base of KWBU, NPR in Waco and the Heart of Texas.  

Now, the Covid-19 Pandemic is taking a toll on all of us in one way or another.  KWBU is sensitive to that fact.  We, like you are unsure of what comes next. How long this will last, what impact it will have on our organization, communities, and families? 

In order to continue providing trusted news and information from NPR we must continue to remind you of the importance of your support and continue to ask you to support this vital resource in our community. 

Already we have had some donors and underwriters cancel memberships or suspend orders.  We understand. 

We cannot afford to lose any of the ground we’ve made in these first 9 months of the Build the Base Campaign. 

We are currently working on our budget for next year.  If the level of support decreases, we will have to make some hard decisions moving forward.

Please, if you are in a position where you can give.  

Thank you.


Q: What is “Build the Base”?

A: “Build the Base” is an initiative to strengthen KWBU/Waco Public Radio’s base of support by adding at least six new donors per month. This will help counteract the decline in numbers resulting from members who no longer support our station due to relocation, passing away, or changes in personal finances.

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).

Joe Riley with Kris Olson in studio during the Big Membership Event.

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, Business of Health Care)
    • 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 has added to its schedule the new radio edition of the popular podcast The Daily.
      • 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.
      • The Daily, weekdays at 6:30 PM on 103.3 FM, Waco Public Radio.
  • 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 is up, membership continues to decline.
    • Since 2012, the total number of individual supporters of KWBU has declined by 33.6%.
    • Surprisingly, fewer than 5 out of 100 KWBU listeners now support financially.
    • The national average of public radio donors-to-listeners is much higher.
  • On average, KWBU’s expenses increase 3½% per year.
    • After this year, balancing KWBU’s budget will require revenue from membership and local businesses to increase 7½% per year (average).
    • Unless the member base increases, this budget is not achievable.
  • To meet the budget, KWBU has set a goal of bringing in 6 new members per month.

Bo Mello in studio during the KWBU Big Membership Event

Q: How urgent is the need?

A: This year is critical.

  • The FY 2020 (6/19-5/20) budget is the tightest ever.
    • The station began letting listeners know about our financial situation immediately after the board of directors passed the FY 2020 budget in April, 2019.
  • The budget for FY 2021 will be drafted in February/March
    • In order to pass a balanced budget for FY 2021, 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.
    • 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!