Flo Rogers is the president and general manager of KNPR 88.9-FM. She is only the second leader in the station’s history and the first to face trying to fund public radio in the midst of a major economic downturn. We asked her about fundraising in a sour economy.
How was your last pledge drive?
We had a fundraising event on the air in July, and we fell short of the goal. But the goal was substantially higher than it was last time. So, year over year we did increase the dollars raised.
Did you know back in July the economic climate was changing in Vegas?
Yes. But I think like many people, in July we were still of a mind-set—seeing CityCenter coming up, knowing Encore is opening soon and seeing Echelon being built ... well, up until three or four months ago we thought those massive developments meant we could literally see the light at the end of the tunnel of this economic downturn. We were not alone in thinking that. Ever since the announcement about Echelon we have realized that this is not something that is going to be fixed by 40,000 hotel rooms on the Strip.
So, as the leader of KNPR how do you deal with something so unprecedented both for Las Vegas and for your station?
Well, Nevada Public Radio has been an active nonprofit in the community since 1980. One of the big leaps forward was the expectation that we would build up an endowment and we would have very prudent fiscal planning. So every year we would put money away. We operated in a way where we funded cash reserves like any responsible business would. So to answer your question, we have been very prudent in the last few years. In the times we have been able to save money, we have. We feel we can sustain a drop in income quite well without anyone hearing it on the radio.
How much of the money for your budget is from government sources? Is it really mostly the Las Vegas community that supports you?
Yes, it is. The budget to run all of the stations and operations of Nevada Public Radio for this upcoming fiscal year, which began October 1, is a little over $4 million. I would say nearly $3.8 million of that comes directly out of this community. Less than 10 percent of our budget comes from state or federal sources.
Do you think you will need to try emergency measures and find new methods or longer and more on-air drives to continue to raise the money you need?
Just like any prudent organization, when we see that the economic landscape is changing, we look ahead. We see what is essential to providing the radio service that we are known for, and we look at our plans, and we look at our aspirations. We put some things off. We look at what we are doing. For example, many people saw our billboard campaign. But that doesn’t affect what you hear on the radio. So, to us that is optional. We know some of our donors who gave $120 last year are looking at their checkbook this year and may only be able to give $60.
How do you compete for support from people in tough times like these, when so many other charities are calling out for help, focused on the economic crisis and matters of life and death?
What is amazing about Las Vegas is that even though we have fewer individual givers than stations in cities of our size, our donors are more generous by about 20 percent than the donors in any other city our size, or the national average. The people who support us are not only generous, but they also have a different relationship with us than the other four or five charities they may give to annually. When you give money to other charities it is philanthropy and other people who benefit. You hope you will never need the Red Cross coming to your house. But in the midst of all of this—the election, the economic crisis, the war—there has never been a time where it is more important to be informed. And you can make a compelling argument with people who listen to public radio to whom being informed has become a priority. People may not be able to be as generous as they have in the past, but they recognize what they do give has a direct relationship on what they receive.