Mission Control: The First 91.9 Pledge Drive

Nov 30, 2016

A few items in this Mission Control:

  • The first drive.  
  • Amanda Vinicky Moving to Chicago.  
  • Election 2016.  Explained.  
  • Past Due.  

Forty years ago the first on-air pledge drive was held to encourage listener support of the public radio programming on 91.9 (WSSR at the time).  Recently, Laura Clark in the UIS Office of Advancement discovered the 1976 newsletter pictured above mentioning the fundraiser.  A sentence stands out, "First, WSSR looks to the community for some of its financial support even though a majority of its funding is provided by the state."

Times have changed.  The community's share of NPR Illinois funding has increased dramatically.  Thank you.  The state no longer covers a majority of our operating costs.  As public media has grown, its reasonable that the state subsidy would decrease.  A broad funding mix including the state is still needed to serve the community.  Coverage of the government from the statehouse, educational programs for students and adults, reading services for the impaired, and emergency communication are several essential services public media provides that are increasingly difficult to find in the private sector. 

The budget impasse has seen NPR Illinois receive approximately $200,000 less in state derived funding over the past two years.  Like many organizations that receive state support, the sudden change is difficult to plan around.  We have cut programs, left positions unfilled, and carefully managed expenses to stay healthy. 

It doesn't appear the budget will be resolved soon.  We anticipate less funding from UIS and from state grants.  This requires increasing the other areas of the mix which include listeners, businesses, grants, and major donors.  Another way of saying, please give as geneously as you can during this drive to support an informed community.

Our FY2016 audit was recently completed.  Here is the current revenue mix.  
Mmm, pie!

NPR Illinois FY2016 revenue sources.
Credit Randy Eccles / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

As mentioned, we've saved funds by not filling positions but that cannot continue.  We will not be able to secure additional support if we do not have the capacity to fundraise let along maintain and increase quality service.  The development director position has been open since I moved into this leadership role.  Sean Crawford has been doing double duty since Bill Wheelhouse retired.  Recently, Finance Director Sandra McGinnis retired (her guidance left us in great financial shape and we need to find another ace).  Amanda Vinicky recently announced she is returning home to report for Chicago Tonight on the Chicago PBS station.

Thankfully, the consistency of your support enables us to begin searches to fill the following open positions:

  • Development Director
  • Finance Director
  • Morning Edition Anchor/Reporter
  • Statehouse reporter

Thank you is not enough to demonstrate our appreciation so we held our annual Thank You Fest last week and we thanked Amanda for her service as shown in this video produced by UIS student worker Carter Staley.

"In-kind" contributions from the CorkscrewMaldaner's, and The Deep Hollow allowed us to have a great time seeing you -- listeners, sponsors, donors -- without impacting the budget.

The "Elephant in the room," is Election 2016 and the Trump transition.  Your support provides for local coverage and for the funding of NPR reporting to explain the will of the country and where we will be going next.  Our campaign coverage provided a sense that many in the country felt the need for change.  The post-election coverage has been even better and you can depend on us to deliver developments and context.

Finally, at a recent NPR Illinois Advisory Board meeting, the members made it clear the number one area for local coverage is the state budget impasse.  We've been following it closely for the past two years and have responded by increasing this reporting under the "Past Due" banner.  Please read through the coverage.  Although we'd like to see public media appropriations return to levels neighboring states provide, the important action is for the state to have a budget.  It is more expensive and less productive to operate in the current uncertainty as Jamey Dunn's recent story detailed.  Public media managers have been engaging our elected officials with the message a budget agreement is urgently needed as the deferred costs are mounting.  

You can help express the need by sharing how the budget impasse has affected you.  Post a video to our Facebook page or email it to us to post here.  To prime the pump, this is my contribution.