It will likely come as no surprise to many readers that operating a radio mission in rural Alaska is difficult both logistically and financially.
As a companion piece to the fiscal report that you may have read in our Year-End 2014 issue, we present a handful of unique situations — especially regarding communications between our mission and our base of supporters — that have impacted our financial outlook in recent years, as well as ongoing initiatives and practices to make the most of each dollar we receive.
One relatively recent challenge has regarded postal mail. For several months in 2012 and 2013, a very troubling trend developed regarding individual, mailed donations. Dozens of generous donors inquired about checks sent but never cashed; their business reply envelopes had been mailed to KNOM but never received in Nome. Instances of such missing mail continued into the first quarter of fiscal year 2014, and we believe this trend was the primary reason for the major deficit of our 2014 fiscal year.
KNOM worked extensively with postal authorities to attend to the problem. While the investigation conducted by the postal service did not yield a concrete explanation, we concur with the authorities that missing mail is no longer an issue. (The cessation of this long and very thorough investigation allows us to finally share this news with you.) Naturally, we continue to closely monitor the situation.
It’s worth noting that it is naturally more expensive to fundraise in rural Alaska. Our direct mail appeal to recruit new supporters consists of a simple letter, reply envelope, and response coupon. For reasons both of economy and simplicity, we do not send trinkets, address labels, or other gifts. We purchase mailing lists from a broker but purge the names of those already on our mailing and opt-out lists, which saves thousands in wasted postage and printing. Some charities will barter, sell or share their mailing lists to raise funds. We don’t ever share our supporters’ (and non-supporters’) names or addresses.
Each year, we lose touch with approximately 10-20% of KNOM donors through natural attrition (moving, changes in financial circumstances, etc.). Our mission, in order to maintain a funding base, must replace those generous benefactors. KNOM invests in direct mail appeals and newspaper inserts to sustain operating income. We’ve also invested in software that will help reduce these costs by expanding KNOM’s capacity for electronic fundraising and communication with our donors; this includes email circulation of this newsletter (the Static), of our thank-you letters, and, this year, of our tax receipts to online supporters. The new software has had the added benefit of reducing bank charges by nearly 50%.
Speaking of reduced costs: the ongoing construction and hardware installations of our new digital studios have had an ancillary benefit for our entire station: our new and more efficient heating system has drastically reduced our heating bills, despite the fact that it’s keeping warm both the old studios and the new. More on this in an upcoming issue of the Static.