KDNK trying to hit financial targets by year’s end

Ryan Summerlin

About 50 people squeezed into KDNK’s board meeting Monday evening to hear the “state of the station” following news of the station manager’s firing and a budget looking solidly in the red.

The board fired 11-year station manager Steve Skinner two weeks ago. After the KDNK board unanimously agreed upon Skinner’s dismissal, board secretary Andrea Korber said the key issue had been the station’s finances, which were looking deep in the red by mid-year projections.

While the station sits on about $166,000 in reserves, the end-of-the-year deficit could take a major bite of that. Korber said mid-year projections showed the station could be $40,000 to $67,000 in the negative.

The station’s income is roughly split into one quarter from membership, one quarter from underwriting, one quarter from Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding and the last quarter is broken down into many smaller revenue sources. About 70 percent of that goes to staff and around 30 percent goes to operations. And the station has cut its operations about as much as possible over the years, said Bob Schultz, board president.

The revenue downturn may end up being expensive for KDNK. The station makes about one-quarter of its income from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which places the station in a category of public radio stations that bring in more than $300,000 minus fundraising costs.

KDNK needs to continue to hit that $300,000 mark to continue getting about $120,000 in funding from CPB, said Schultz.

At this point the station is about $30,000 to $40,000 short of that, so there’s a good chance the station is not going to make it, said Schultz. That doesn’t mean that CPB would pull that funding immediately. Rather, the station would be put on a probationary period for the next year.

Schultz keyed in on a few of the station’s current weaknesses: its income issues, turnover, audience research, lack of consensus on strategy and the staff’s compensation and benefits levels.

Until now, the station’s worst year in revenue after the financial crisis came in 2011, when KDNK pulled in about $445,000. Projections now put this year’s revenue at about $435,000.

KDNK saw stagnant revenues over the previous five years, hovering between $450,000 and $485,000. During that same period Aspen Public Radio has seen its revenue climb from $776,000 in 2011 to $1.4 million in 2015.

The station doesn’t have any intention of becoming Aspen Public Radio, said Schultz, but it needs to learn from what APR and other stations are doing that is making them more successful.

Much of the talk Monday was about how the radio station can tap into an increasingly online world. And the staff is branching out into some new innovations that will make the station’s content more mobile friendly and more easily archived for users to be able to recall content.

The media landscape for community access radio is going to continue to evolve, and the number of people accessing it through the Internet and social media is only going to increase, said Schultz.

He also listed some opportunities the station has in focusing fundraising on large donations and planned donations, as well as resetting KDNK overall strategy with a new station manager and three new board members. He also noted the building has fiber optic cable built in that KDNK can take advantage of.

Some of KDNK’s staff felt that Skinner’s firing has already put them at a disadvantage going into 2017.

The 2017 budget projections were made based on Steve Skinner’s working relationship with the membership director and the underwriting director, said Gavin Dahl, KDNK’s news director.

And while many community members threw out ideas for new events and efforts to boost the station’s visibility and membership, some staffers pleaded for more volunteer support.

KDNK runs on an extremely small staff with a tight budget, running programing 24/7, Schultz said after the meeting. “So we end up asking a lot from them.”

Reporter Amy Hadden Marsh had a bit to get off her chest before the meeting ended. She said she felt some resentment toward people who had left the station while it was under Skinner’s management, and who were only now returning after his firing.

“For me there needs to be some healing,” she said, as she felt abandoned by their departure. “Some of us have hung into this for a long time,” she said.

She called for loyalty to the station.

The station still has a couple of big fundraising opportunities coming up. KDNK’s Annual Fund is Dec. 23. The day that Skinner’s dismissal was announced the station sent out about 1,000 letters requesting monetary support during the Annual Fund, said Dahl.

And on Dec. 29 and 30 the station will participate in GiveBig to MyStation, an Internet-based fundraising event that KDNK has signed onto for the first time.

KDNK has seen some recent fundraising successes. The station’s membership drive came in at $10,000 over its goal. And its recent Labor of Love Auction on Saturday generated $18,035.

A transition committee is being formed to search for the new station manager, whose job description was posted Monday with a deadline of Jan. 9 for applications. The radio station listed this position as paying $55,000 to $60,000, depending on experience.

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