General Manager Report to Local Station Board Jan. 15 2023
I dedicate this report to the spirit and memory of LSB member and PNB Director Lawrence Reyes who passed to the ancestors on Dec. 31, 2022. Lawrence’s devotion to KPFK and Pacifica was unsurpassed because of his heart, commitment and insight into community service and the cause of freedom and solidarity. He is irreplaceable, but I know we will all recommit to keeping his spirit alive at KPFK and in Pacifica as a whole. Lawrence Reyes, presente. I know I speak for everyone in expressing condolences to his family and co-workers over this grievous loss.
KPFK continues to work on overcoming some technology issues related to difficulties with our networking and phone systems, and to various deferred maintenance issues. I have constituted a technology task force with local paid and unpaid staff members, Pacifica national technology/compliance staff, and other volunteers with technical expertise. These include Jon Almeleh and Otis Maclay, D’Angelo Jones, Terry Guy, Mark Maxwell, Stuart Landau, Ali Lexa, Matt Perez, Fred Blair, Richard Dawson, Brendan Miller, Tom Voorhees and Eric Gill, plus Mark Torres of PRA. We have charted out a list of priorities including replacing the office phone system for KPFK and PRA that appears to be the source of some of the networking issues, reconfiguring the station’s intranet into a single functioning system, so that all computers and devices can communicate properly, addressing issues with the transmitter, developing a ticketing system to identify hardware and software issues and responsibility for addressing them, and pricing needed repairs and replacement of equipment so they can be integrating into our budgetary planning. Work is underway on the various priority items.
Social media promotion
We are working on improving our social media reach and promotion/marketing efforts. We had a volunteer who worked on this with us, and has provided aspects of a media kit, some resources for design and for obtaining royalty free graphics, and some short instructional videos that have been shared with programmers and staff. We have set up firstname.lastname@example.org as a contact point for staff, programmers and board members to share the various social media accounts they use to promote programs and the station/foundation so we can coordinate those efforts. I have set up a social media/multi-media team to look further into these matters and also increasing audio-visual production so that we can post videos tom various platforms. I have also obtained permission from the service that hosts and provides templates for our website to create an experimental page to work on improvements in the website without affecting the actual site, so that we can “beta-test” the changes with people. I have offered a survey to listeners and programmers as to whether they would use a system that includes blogs for each program with an opportunity for listener comments. The team working on these efforts includes Ali Lexa, Brendan Miller, Marlena Bond, Vic Gerami, John Kawakami, and Jose Benavides. Thanks to Vidy for the work they did on Instagram and other social media. Maggie Le Pique asked to add her intern Belen to the mailchimp account to produce material about our music and performance media sponsorships, which I did.
Budgeting, finance and fundraising
KPFK’s financial picture continues to be very challenging. We are stepping up off-air fund-raising efforts. I have put together a team to collaborate on budgeting and other financial matters, and we met with the ED Stephanie Wells and Pacifica national Business Manager Markisha Venzant; this includes Jeanine Rohn, who will be functioning as an unpaid interim business manager for the station and assistance from two accountants, CPA Stephen Kaiser and Michael Corral. After a slow start due to serious technical issues including the loss of internet access at the station, the inability to stream our signal to KPFK.org and the archives, and intermittent phone problems that all arose the first few days of the December membership drive, we overcame those and had a strong showing in the second week, raising just shy of $75,000 in 16 days. Totals by program here: https://kpfk.secureallegiance.com/kpfk/CampaignReport/Report.aspx?CAMPCODE=P2212&SOLMETH=Total&PROGRAM=&LOCKED=YES&CHECK=44p98iypLKAg6Iqkj0zJPhWGorTd0qWuK4VO7UCR0AAQuu9r+8cv2vHjtjBjVbvueL7j/zeSGSI=
We also did a number of off air fundraising efforts, including our first online auction, organized by LSB fundraising chair Jeanine Rohn, a webinar with Greg Palast and Thom Hartmann and Greg’s powerful film: Vigilante-Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hit Man, and a successful Re-Encuentro Festivo/Festive Reunion that raised about $5000 for the station. We continue to meet payroll and benefits, and to make payments on various aged payables, and I am working on a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year with Jeanine for submission to the LSB Finance Committee by their meeting later this month. We anticipate on-air fund drives timed to correspond with those at sister station KPFA in February, April, June, August, October and December. Although this is still an inordinate frequency of six times a year, we are hoping to reduce the length of each drive through increased off-air fundraising, improved donor stewardship and increased listenership and membership. I made contact with an obtained access to data and analysis from CDP, which provided us a report on opportunities for improving our fundraising, donor retention, and related matters. I arranged a call with ED Stephanie Wells and myself to review this report and some insights about priorities for work to improve it, and I have started to review it with membership director Terry Guy to see what reports we can get from Allegiance donor management database to improve such efforts. Because so many of our donors in past fund drives have been essentially donating for a particular high-priced “thank you premium” our retention rate for first-time donors is very low, only about 1/3 of the average public radio station. We got strong support from CDP’s analyst for reducing such efforts, and pledged based fund-raising in general as a percentage of our listener support and working to improve sustaining membership, donor retention and donor stewardship. I urge Board members to join me in such efforts including calling and emailing donors to deepen our relationships with them. I have been sending out the KPFK Dispatch regularly, generally at least once a week. This goes to 20,000+ subscribers, which is far larger than our current active donors. I also sent a year’s-end thank-you video to a list of our sustaining members. We need to devote all our efforts systematically and productively to restoring the station to fiscal solvency. The threat of a building sale, which would likely increase our operating expenses, continues to hang over us. I had a meeting yesterday to show available space in the building to a representative of the DSA-LA chapter which is considering rental of some office and meeting space from us, and King Reilly and Vic Gerami are working on obtaining discretionary funding from LA City Council members and the County of Los Angeles. We also need to intensify our efforts at obtaining bequests and other forms of planned giving. We are looking into partnering with FreeWill, a website that works with nonprofits to promote this. A decade or more ago, KPFK raised $60,000 a week on average; our current goal is to increase our much lower level of revenue to at least $20-25,000 every week to cover our reduced operating expenses and then to build back to those prior capacities and beyond. We have also begun discussions, based on the technology issues and fixes mentioned above, about launching a capital campaign to cover upcoming and ongoing costs for technology repairs and replacement, such as for the 2KW power supplies at the transmitter.
Based on some of the above insights, we have been continuing our on-air reports to the listeners. I did a report as iGM in December, and also scheduled a report by the LSB. There were unfortunate telephone issues that struck in the middle of the latter, which also impeded participation by LSB member Paul Roberson, but Ziri Rideaux gave out her personal cell number and was therefor able to receive and air many listener calls. We are also in the midst of a one-week period of specially focused programming on the continuing and current relevance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s philosophy and practice of revolutionary non-violent civil resistance on contemporary social, political and cultural developments and struggles. Although not an on-air fund drive, we are intensifying appeals along with some of that specially focused programming by our locally-produced programs to encourage sustainer memberships based on the value of that type of unique programming and the shared values with our listeners that KPFK embodies and broadcasts. I anticipate a few additional programming changes later this month, bringing back Bibliocracy and launching an Indigenous environmentalism program approved by the PNB with former LSB and PNB member Lydia Ponce of AIM and Idle No More. This would be part of the half-hour strip of arts and culture programming following the health and spirituality bloc, followed by half-hour public affairs programs that we initiated in November and would be accommodated by some other time changes. I have also initiated discussions regarding RFPs for new programming including a parenting program, a locally produced labor program, and a program focused on veterans affairs and concerns (including health care, housing, disability issues, the VA, issues facing women veterans, and other significant public affairs matters that would also be of general interest. The team working on the labor program, including Steve Zeltzer, Kirby Washington, Joe Ayala, Dan McCrory, Lawrence Reyes until his untimely passing, and a number of labor studies instructors from CSU Dominguez Hills and LA Trade Tech College, will be providing an MLK Day labor special on Monday, following another MLK Day special from the Scholars’ Circle program, which has mainly been a podcast recently. We will also be adding to our podcast offerings, and will create greater focus on them in the website re-design. I have asked all current programmer to engage in a self-evaluation and goal-setting aimed at increasing engagement with and responsiveness to listeners and the community, as part of an overall programming evaluation and improvement process. I have initiated a discussion with Stuart Landau, Moe Thomas and others about the possibility of HD capacity, which would greatly increase our potential programming bandwidth or the possibility of having more than one stream of programming over the internet.
I continue to seek additional volunteers in all areas to augment our reduced paid staff, and to obtain the kind of volunteer support that all non-profits rely on. I am looking for an additional volunteer to serve as a co-coordinator of volunteers. Mark Maxwell has begun training volunteer board operators to provide additional engineering coverage for gaps in our current schedule of board ops. We have obviously greatly augmented our staff of volunteer producers and programmers, and I would like to add one or more volunteers to work on front desk reception. Greg Foisie, a long time local peace activist and phone room volunteer has been providing volunteer custodial services, and as noted above, many people have been volunteering to help on social media, multi-media, and technical matters. Depending on the success of our fundraising efforts, there may need to be additional reductions in paid staffing. Any Board members or others interested are very welcome to participate in helping to write grants for specific projects or other general purpose operating grants would be very welcome, to work on donor stewardship, as well as to participate in recruitment of volunteers on all aspects of station operations.
Michael Novick, interim General Manger