Looking back at 2022; looking forward to 2023
From Bill Davis
I am writing to provide you with a review of SRG's activities in 2022 and a look ahead to 2023.
The past year marked a transition from SRG's founding executives to new leadership. Terry Clifford and Tom Thomas, along with SRG's Board of Directors, have been supportive, patient, and kind, providing me with everything from sage counsel to practical support. I appreciate how they all have helped me grow both as an executive and in my understanding of SRG's potential.
I am pleased to report that SRG has served its Members well during the past year and, more importantly, to share the critical work that is in store for 2023.
Advocating Member Interests
First, I would note that SRG Members received over $600 thousand more in radio CSG support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting this past year than the previous fiscal year-and that CPB's priorities for distributing the increased federal appropriation were informed by the analyses SRG has provided and the policy positions SRG has advocated. This underscores the ongoing importance of the respected, independent analytical capacity SRG has provided over the years.
In 2022, SRG worked closely with Kathy Merritt and her team at CPB (including Joy Lin and Jacquie Gales-Webb) to support CPB's investments in local journalism, audience diversification, and organizational culture change. Along similar lines, SRG engaged with Stacey Decker and Beth Jacobs at CPB to support "distributed capacity" investments that strengthen local stations' digital capabilities.
Looking forward, CPB will conduct a review of its Community Service Grant program later this year. With additional federal appropriations on the table SRG's role in advocating for local public service media will be critically important during this process-and, perhaps, no other single activity will be as important for SRG and its Members in 2023 than the CSG review.
NPR's "Network Proposals" consumed a significant amount of SRG's time and attention this past year. SRG's approach has been to maintain a collegial approach with NPR's executive team while also being forceful in our advocacy for local station interests. Will Lee, Gemma Hooley, Leora Hanser, Chris Turpin, and Keith Woods have been helpful in their engagement with SRG throughout the year-with me, personally; on Zoom calls with SRG's Members; and at SRG's annual retreat-to provide context and understanding of how they believe the "NPR Network" will benefit local stations as it simultaneously strengthens NPR.
Looking forward, it is too early to assess the impact of NPR's Network initiatives. SRG will maintain its engagement with NPR, analyze the initial results as they become available, and report to our Members throughout 2023.
During the past decade, SRG has been working with its Members to articulate strategic frameworks for making the transition from local broadcast stations to digital multi-platform community media institutions. The paradigm shift from broadcast to multi-platform media is not an end in itself. Rather, adopting a multi-platform approach is the only way for SRG Members, specifically, and public media, generally, to fulfill their public service missions and to realize their ambitions to be significant journalistic, civic, cultural, and artistic institutions in their service communities.
Many SRG Members have focused on responding to the journalism crisis in their local communities, states, and regions. So, SRG dedicated much of its time in 2022 to supporting efforts to provide high-quality, multi-platform, public service journalism and civic engagement. Other SRG Members aspire to join this vanguard in 2023-and, therefore, a significant amount of SRG's resources will be devoted to helping our Members become the premier providers of public service journalism in their communities.
At the same time, a growing number of SRG Members now seek to transform themselves from music stations to invaluable multi-platform community arts institutions that enhance the quality of artistic and cultural life in their service areas. They aspire to join with their journalistic colleagues in convening communities across geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic boundaries.
In the coming year, SRG will play a critical role in advancing these aspirations in local journalism, civic engagement, music, and culture. We will
- Formulate coherent and effective strategies that are mission-driven and market aware
- Assist Members in implementing necessary operational changes at their local institutions
- Promote and advocate for these changes with internal and external stakeholders, as well as individual and institutional philanthropic funders
Transforming Organizational Cultures
To support Members as they increase the pace of transforming operations from local broadcast stations to multi-platform community digital institutions, SRG has worked to identify key personnel-many of whom are not currently CEOs or GMs-who are leading station efforts to make their organizational cultures more welcoming and resilient. These efforts, in turn, ensure that SRG Members' staffs are more reflective of the communities they serve-and, by consequence, enable Members to grow and diversify their audiences on both legacy and digital platforms.
While this has been a multi-year priority for SRG, two initiatives in 2022 are particularly noteworthy. First, SRG "opened the aperture" of those attending our annual Planning Retreat to highlight and amplify the efforts of these emerging leaders at their institutions. Second, SRG convened another diverse group of emerging local station leaders to meet with representatives from CPB, the Knight Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and Media Impact Funders so that these funders would have a better understanding of how their newsrooms are taking a leading role in responding to America's local journalism crisis.
Looking forward, SRG will continue to amplify the work of public media leaders who are at the vanguard of making their institutions more reflective and connected to their service communities. This will include more regular Zoom convenings and more sharing of emerging best practices that will improve Members ability to simultaneously grow and diversify their audiences.
Major giving is the only source of transformational revenue to drive the profound changes in public service and institutional significance that SRG Members seek. For SRG's purposes, major giving comprises mid-level giving programs, capital/content campaigns, and planned/testamentary giving programs. Don't get me wrong: government support, foundation grants, local underwriting, and membership are all very important sources of revenue for all public media organizations. But these sources of revenue are unlikely to accelerate at the speed and scale public media need to fulfill our missions and aspirations. By contrast, leading SRG Members have seen their major giving programs expand exponentially-and yet major giving remains a largely untapped source of funding for a majority SRG Members and other public media institutions.
In 2022, SRG focused its efforts on helping SRG Members CEOs and their leadership teams become more successful in securing major gift support for both specific initiatives and for general operations. One of my first actions as Principal was to retain Margaret Hunt, the former Chief Revenue Officer at New York Public Radio, as a consultant to provide services to both SRG and individual SRG Members. Margaret is one of the preeminent fundraisers in public broadcasting, and her work with SRG and individual SRG Members has highlighted the importance of major giving for SRG's local leaders.
SRG and Margaret have worked closely with Joyce MacDonald and Greater Public to enhance local stations' efforts to strengthen relationships with their most loyal supporters. At a time when public radio is witnessing a leveling of-or even a decline in- the number of individual donors, major gifts from individual donors will be an increasingly important source of both revenue for current operations and a source of capital for investments multi-platform initiatives.
In 2023, SRG will increase its focus on major giving initiatives to include providing financial support (via loan guarantees) for stations seeking to expand their major giving activities. SRG will also expand its support for Members' capital and content campaigns, mid-level giving programs, and planned giving programs.
As I have noted earlier, SRG's 2022 Planning Retreat was well-attended and well-received. "Opening the aperture" for participation beyond CEOs and GMs to include a wider range of leaders at Member institutions increased the level of participation and engagement. Looking forward, we will strive to find the optimal balance between the inclusion of emerging public media leaders who aren't GMs or CEOs and the sense of camaraderie among the most senior executives that is necessary for the retreat to be an invaluable experience for all the participants.
SRG's 2023 Activity Plan
SRG's Board of Directors approved a 2023 Activity Plan that's detailed here. The presentation provides operational detail but is informed by the overarching goals and objectives below.
- Strengthen Local Public Media Institutions
- Strengthen Member's Major Giving Initiatives
- Represent Members' Interests
- Convene A Compelling Planning Retreat
- Strengthen SRG's Management, Administration, and Governance
The SRG Board approved specific objectives that support these overall goals. These include:
- Provide SRG Members with strategic frameworks for making the transition from legacy broadcast stations to multi-platform digital media community institutions
- Assist SRG Members implementing these strategies
- Support new CEOs and General Managers as they assume their new positions
- Support CEOs and General Managers in securing major gifts
- Support Member DEI efforts
- Increase knowledge sharing among SRG Members using office hours, newsletters, and videos
- Advocate Members' interests during the implementation of the NPR Networks proposals and NPR's program pricing review
- Advocate for CPB and philanthropic foundations to support Members' investments in local journalism, and for the equitable dispersion of increased CPB appropriations
- Support Members' efforts to strengthen their local public service journalism
- Develop and pursue "Actionable Intelligence" to improve existing local public service journalism and identify opportunities to increase service to communities
- Pursue opportunities to develop digital benchmarking tools to inform local investments in programming and products
- Support Members' efforts to strengthen their music, arts, and cultural programming
- Implement a Listserv to support communication across all institutions focusing on music programming
- Develop and pursue "Actionable Intelligence" to improve existing music and arts programming and identify opportunities to increase service to communities
- Pursue opportunities to develop digital benchmarking tools to inform local investments in programming and products
- Strengthen SRG as an institution by expanding its membership and operating revenues by 10%
Given the iconic stature of SRG's co-founders, Terry Clifford and Tom Thomas, in the history of public broadcasting, many of our colleagues wondered aloud whether the transition to new leadership would be difficult for SRG. Fortunately, SRG has avoided such an outcome. Please note: I am not saying that avoiding a leadership implosion qualifies as success. Rather, my point is that making a smooth transition in 2022 positions SRG and its Members for significant successes in 2023. The Activity Plan that the SRG Board approved for 2023 sets forward an agenda that matches our Members' ambitions to transform themselves from local broadcast stations to invaluable community media institutions.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about my report or SRG's plans for 2023. In addition, SRG will be holding "office hour" Zoom sessions later this month to discuss our plans for the coming year. The invitation for those sessions will be arriving in your email inbox later this week.
I look forward to working with you to fully realize our public service mission-for our local communities, for our states, and for our country.
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