WLUW's Pledge Drive...fun or fraud?
If you're a WLUW listener, you probably already know by now that the station kicks off its second pledge drive of the year on August 9. However, do you know exactly where your money is going? Would you believe that out of an annual budget of around $150k, only about 20% of that community supported figure goes towards actual operating expenses? Here's a rough percentage estimate of how WLUW utilizes its donations: Programming: <1% All of WLUW's local programming is produced entirely by volunteers at no cost to the station. DJs and hosts do not receive any money to fund their programs. All of the syndicated shows that the station airs, such as Free Speech Radio News” and “Radio Nation,” are available for free via satellite or on the web. Some programs are even mailed to the station for free on pre-recorded CDs. Music: <1% WLUW’s music library consists of promotional CDs sent to the station for free by record labels and promotion companies. Additional music for the library is provided to the station at no cost via underwriting trade agreements with local record stores. Finally, many volunteers supply their own music by bringing in records and CDs from their own collections. Equipment: <1% Per terms of the recent management agreement with Loyola and WBEZ, new equipment costs do not come out of the listener supported budget. WBEZ picks up the tab on any new equipment that WLUW needs. For example, recent computer and CD player upgrades at WLUW came courtesy of WBEZ. Also per the recent agreement, WLUW’s broadcast license, its studio space and transmitter facilities are still owned and maintained by Loyola University. Payroll: 80% The majority of the listener-supported budget actually goes toward keeping WLUW’s general manager and program director employed on a full-time basis. According to a copy of the WLUW budget from December '03, the salary line read $105,000, with related taxes and benefits adding about another $15, 000. (the total salary line also includes compensation for a consultant who helps out during the station's pledge drive efforts) Misc. other expenses: 20% Equipment maintenance, promotional items, phone bills, office supplies, etc, etc. It would seem that operational and programming expenditures should be at least equal to (and more likely greater than) than the station’s payroll expenses. However, this clearly is not the case with WLUW. Obviously any organization has to have someone in charge to keep everything running smoothly, and such person should be compensated a fair wage for their efforts. However, while its two managers are getting a fair wage, are the listeners and donors of WLUW getting a fair amount of return for their efforts? Using the guidelines set by Charity Navigator.org, “America’s largest charity evaluator,” the answer to this question would be a resounding, “No.” Performance Category 3: Program Expenses "Charities exist to provide programs and services. They fulfill the expectations of givers when they allocate most of their budgets to providing programs. Charities fail givers expectations when their spending on programs is insufficient." Performance Category 4: Administration Expenses "As with successful organizations in any sector, effective charities must recruit, develop, and retain talented people. At the same time, they ensure that these administration and management expenses remain reasonable and in line with the organization's overall expenses." www.charitynavigator.org So before you hand over your credit card to get your official WLUW pledge drive tote bag or t-shirt, call the station first to obtain a copy of the budget and its annual expense report. Investigate the figures and make a judgment for yourself about whether the station is properly utilizing your monetary support. As a publicly funded institution, the power of WLUW is really in the hands of its supporters. Therefore, as a listener, and especially a donor, you have the power to ensure that the station is properly serving the interests of the community that you are a part of. If you are satisfied with how the station operates, keep your monetary and volunteer support coming in during fundraising efforts. If you are not satisfied, express how you think things could be improved and hold back your support until the station can demonstrate that it is, in fact, working to serve you better. Regardless of what judgment you reach about WLUW and its fundraising efforts, make sure you get all of the facts first and don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard. Ensure that the management of WLUW and WBEZ are putting the “community” first at “Independent Community Radio.” Contacts: Craig Kois – WLUW General Manger, 773.508.8071 Shawn Campbel – WLUW Program Director, 773.508.8072 Torey Malatia - WBEZ General Manager, 312.948.4612