CKUA CEO, Marc Carnes has collected some common questions we receive from listeners when we don’t make our goal. It happens from time to time, just like in most organizations. The difference with CKUA is that you have a front-row seat when we do.
Q: Why don’t you just keep the campaign going since you didn’t make your goal?
A: We could extend the campaign, but after a month of campaigning, the horse will be sufficiently dead at some point. There are only so many times we can extend a campaign, as we did three years ago, before losing credibility with our listeners. And what if we still haven’t gotten to the goal by then? We’d still have to switch gears and do something else, anyway.
Q: Why don’t you do another campaign rather than rely on just two every year?
A: To be blunt, campaigns are a ton of work. We basically stop our regular business for four months of the year to focus on planning and executing two fundraisers. They are significantly more complicated than you can imagine, and at the end of each campaign, our staff are wiped out. At some point, it’s no longer a good return on our team’s time, energy, or emotional investment. And they deserve a break. We also know that many listeners tune out during the campaign period. Giving people another reason to tune out for a prolonged period isn’t suitable for our audience growth strategy.
Q: Why don’t you cut your expenses?
A: Every expense line is carefully planned for each budget cycle. It is an exercise led by seasoned non-profit and media executives and overseen by a board of directors comprised of sharp, successful business minds. We do everything we can to stretch a dollar, which means we are actually under-resourced when running CKUA’s 126-hour workweek. Additionally, our ability to stay updated on technological changes, planned obsolescence, and skyrocketing utility and service bills is more problematic each year. For example, as a small sample of our cost of doing business, within 18 months we are working with the following which are expenses not visible or audible to the listener:
- Planned obsolescence of one of our databases forced a replacement cost of an extra $55,000/year.
- Planned obsolescence of our traffic system—the nervous system of CKUA – will force a replacement cost of nearly $100,000.
- The necessary replacement of our aging Edmonton transmitter and tower facility repairs will cost us nearly $130,000.
- The necessary replacement of our Drumheller region transmitter cost us $120,000.
- Upgrading our IT systems with critical cyber security investments to ensure we aren’t hacked and taken off the air. Together with the planned obsolescence of some equipment and systems have added nearly $25,000/year in extra costs.
- Insurance premiums, like for most of us at home, have jumped and now stand at nearly $125,000/year
- Credit card processing fees have increased to around $100,000/year.
- Increases in legally mandated music tariffs now cost us an additional $25,000/year.
Q: Why are the listeners the ones to pay for CKUA?
A: Despite repeated efforts, our level of government operating support has been fixed for many years. It winds up being 1.5% of our total budget, compared to many non-profits, which often receive between 15% and 40% of their operating budget from the government. Business advertising and sponsorship revenues can grow, but there’s a delicate balance since we know that one of CKUA’s appeals is that we offer a listening experience not found on commercial stations. Once you remove government and business funding sources from the equation, all that remains is you, our listeners.
Q: Why didn’t you make your goal?
A: I could go on (and if you ask my staff, they’ll tell you I do) about macroeconomic and social factors, commercialization and the competitive landscape, the case for change amid changing listener and donor demographics, evolving fundraising methodologies and donor expectations, and the challenge with public airwaves being a free, pay-what-you-will service, but I’ll save you the business case for some other time.
Q: What does this mean for the future?
A: We have to be fundraising year-round. I can’t think of any thriving enterprise that only does “sales” two months out of a year. It doesn’t mean doing the same blitz that we do during our campaigns year-round, but it would be irresponsible to not look at adapting with the times. I realize this may be uncomfortable for some listeners and donors who are used to the way things have been for more than 20 years, but this is not unique to CKUA. We only have to look to our public media peers in the U.S. They are also looking for new and different ways to raise critical funds at a time when music, media and the arts are increasingly being devalued in the marketplace.