Welcome to “turn off the radio month”
Marc, here, with an answer to another question we’ve been asked about the upcoming CKUA Fall Fundraiser 2022.
You wanted to know, what’s new for this fall fundraising campaign?
Let’s start by setting the table with a story.
Imagine your favourite local restaurant taking the time to source the finest local ingredients crafted by excellent chefs and staff who thoughtfully craft a beautifully curated menu. They create a welcoming atmosphere and present you with a soul-pleasing multi-course meal with all the pairings. At the end of the meal, you’re told, “I can’t possibly give you a bill for this. If you feel like it, please leave a few bucks on the table when you’re done.”
Generous, yes, but how long would your favourite restaurant stay in business? CKUA has been running on this funding model for 25 years, thanks to the support of our listeners, and it is nothing short of a miracle.
In my early days as a CKUA listener, long before I worked here or became a monthly donor, I would join the great migration away from the radio dial during on-air fundraisers. I wasn’t alone, as many other listeners “opt-out” of CKUA for a week during these campaigns. Afterall, why would I stick around for the bi-annual ‘beg-a-thon,’ which messed with my regularly scheduled programming? I certainly had other listening options to get me through.
By purposely ignoring the campaign, I didn’t learn why it was essential to support CKUA and help keep the proverbial kitchen running. Why it was my opportunity as a listener to join with others to support something so unique that we shared as a community and brought me so much joy. I had the means to contribute, yet by ignoring the message that CKUA needed to fundraise from people like me, I was passing the responsibility to my fellow listeners to ensure that the CKUA I loved was still around.
But that was okay, wasn’t it? It’s not like passing the collection plate at church, where everyone is watching to see if you put money in. While listening to CKUA alone in the comfort of my home, it was easy to think that someone else would take care of it. Afterall, CKUA is listener supported and there must be a lot of people, other than myself, who will pick up the bill each time.
As I’m sure you can tell, this kind of funding model has risks and limits.
While CKUA is a free public service that touches and enriches the lives of tens of thousands of people every week, it doesn’t happen out of thin air.
CKUA fundraises because there is no magic pot of money. No government subsidy. No mandatory user fees. No major corporate investor or shareholder.
CKUA is people. This community remains largely unknown to one another, save for being connected by a shared passion of music, arts and culture, and an intangible string of airwaves and digital 1s and 0s.
It is only with the support of this community of listeners that CKUA, this cultural gem, is yours to enjoy today, tomorrow and for years to come. Despite tremendous technological advances, we have no way of reaching out to everyone directly to discuss supporting CKUA or to watch and see if they put something in the collection plate.
Our best channels for educating and appealing to more than 90% of listeners who don’t currently support CKUA are mass appeals like this article and… our on-air fundraisers. You’re still tuned in, right?
If you are one of the great migrators like I used to be, and even if you’re not, here are some essential things you need to know about our Fall Fundraiser 2022.
- We’re changing things up. We asked you what you don’t like about the campaigns. “Too disruptive!” you said. “Too long!” you cried. We agree, so we’re taking your feedback and shortening the on-air campaign from ten days to only seven. And we will do more to tighten up the pitch breaks during each show. We are taking this educated risk because we anticipate that this will increase audience participation in the campaign. Also, by doing less to push you away, we get back to regularly scheduled programming faster. Are you with us?
- Approximately 10% of our listeners have supported CKUA for a long time. What? Only 1 in 10 listeners donate to support my favourite station? The time for that number of donors to grow is now. I’d like to see support grow to at least 15% of listeners which is an additional 6,500 donors over time. I believe we can add another 1,000 new monthly donors this campaign.
- Why does CKUA need more budget? There are a lot of things that require funding including recruiting and training new hosts and staff as more of our longstanding hosts and staff retire, CRTC license commitments, expensive and necessary technological advances and investments, community engagement activities like returning to festivals, and increasing music rights fees. These are just some of the reasons, but you get the point. And this year, in particular, it’s a perfect storm of unsexy things like skyrocketing utility bills for an organization that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to be able to reach you, record low real estate values for an organization that has diversified revenue sources as a landlord and record inflation on a multi-million-dollar operating budget that keeps me up at night.
Full transparency: Due to the above factors, our annual budget has increased by $700,000 this year. Not because we thought it would be fun to do but because after extended consultation by management and the CKUA Board of Directors, these are investments we must make, without government subsidy, scalable user fees or major corporate shareholders.
We are a charity. When I say that line, many people immediately think we can or should get by on the absolute bare minimum. And in too many ways, we do. We are also a social enterprise. What is unique about CKUA is that our operational playground isn’t with other charities. It is with the likes of Bell, Spotify, and the CBC, and we have many of the same complex and costly operational commitments as they do by virtue of being in the same media industry competing for the same listeners and customers… minus a billion or two in the bank.
This call to grow the CKUA donor community and increase revenues comes from a place of abundance, not scarcity. You can’t cut your way to prosperity. CKUA is already too lean. The goal is to continue to evolve in the interest of a bright and sustainable future for CKUA and the generations of listeners today and those to come. It means it must be more than the status quo.
As Kodak, Columbia House, and Blockbuster will tell you; the status quo is the quickest way into the history pages.
That’s why we have refreshed our program schedule in recent months to expand our role as a champion for hardworking Albertan and Canadian artists. You met new hosts to broaden your musical horizons. Enhanced your listening experience thanks to a new On Demand service courtesy of one generous donor. And the result? Generating new audiences so that more people will come to care about the station YOU love and, eventually become donors themselves. There’s more to come, including great music to discover, memorable time spent with your favourite hosts, and a 100th anniversary spectacular in five years, but only with your help today.
Please join us this fall as we raise funds to Amplify CKUA. This October, let’s turn it up to 11.
Marc Carnes ,
CEO and CKUA Leadership Circle Donor