You may be surprised that this is not a solicitation, but an explanation. Should you feel motivated to give, we know a few thousand people who would appreciate it!
Radio Kansas operates with a responsibly-sized endowment. Although funds are accessible in true emergencies, the purpose of the endowment is to generate income to offset falling listener donations as those we serve “age out” of their prime giving years. We self-consciously serve the oldest audience in broadcast. This becomes more challenging each year, but we believe that the programs they seek have objective value for the community that is worth preserving using the only means we may have – endowment investment proceeds – which obviously then can’t also go toward other projects.
Our endowment is composed of the cash grants made to us each year by the Board of Hutchinson Community College. We receive a cash input each year as “earnest money,” a $100,000 college investment in Radio Kansas as proof that the institution is earnest about using our frequencies for public service. Conceptually, if the college offered no direct support, another non-profit could claim that their offer of some cash support was proof that they deserve the license.
Prior to 2011, our budget and service were both fundamentally different. More operational support was available from state and federal sources. Periodic equipment grants addressed the burden of buying equipment for such a vast broadcast area. In this same era, A Prairie Home Companion was still on the air. Car Talk was still on the air.* With these popular “listener acquisition,” programs, listenership and donations were enough that much of the HutchCC Board service investment could be saved to the Hutchinson Community Foundation each year. A decade of such surpluses, times compound interest, has – as of this writing – left us with $3 million under endowment.
So, conceptually, Radio Kansas has saved these college-provided funds so that we don’t become a burden to the college. Exactly the protection you provide to your kids by not spending your lifetime savings on unnecessary conveniences. A few tens of thousands of dollars have been donated directly to endowment by generous major donors, but our on-air fundraisers do not generate surplus funds that go into endowment. We’re drawing OUT of endowment to pay for on-air fundraiser shortfalls. If you hear us still asking for money during our on-air drive, it’s because listeners have not yet met this show’s minimal budgetary need. Listener funds are spent as directed – exhausted on program costs.
There are best-practices for sustainable draw-downs for such investment. To generate enough interest income to sustainably cover the demographically-expected donor shortfalls, we have always hoped for $8 million. The less we draw down to cover “this year’s” donor shortfall, the more we accumulate toward a truly sustainable budget. Please call with any questions…especially if you’d like to make a durable investment, yourself!
*NPR news is still a major draw in urban communities with certain demographics, so some national stations you can name aren’t suffering audience loss. Some larger stations have more than $150 million in endowment with (in our opinion) no real need. Listener support for NPR here dropped abruptly with the polarization of American politics in 2016. A fee increase of 59% made it impossible for us to retain NPR, and falling support made it inappropriate.