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Civic-Minded Donors Contribute $3 Million to Help Fund Unique Media Merger For Deeper, Expanded Coverage

Twenty-four individuals, four foundations and two trusts have contributed $3 million to support the expanded news operation of St. Louis Public Radio – the local NPR member station licensed to the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

The expanded newsroom is the result of a merger that integrated 13 veteran journalists from the online news publication St. Louis Beacon into St. Louis Public Radio late last year. The combined news staff is located at UMSL at Grand Center, 3651 Olive St. in St. Louis, which houses university classrooms and St. Louis Public Radio. Grand Center is the region’s largest arts and entertainment district.

Longtime benefactor of St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, contributed a $1 million lead gift.

Donors contributing more than $100,000 include Josephine and Richard Weil, Connie and Dan Burkhardt, Nancy and Ken Kranzberg, William H. Danforth, M.D., Harriet and Leon Felman and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Members of the newly-combined newsroom. Photo credit: Jessica Luther

The merger, the first of its kind in public radio, brings together two fully-staffed newsrooms to provide expanded in-depth coverage of the stories and issues that affect the St. Louis region. As the consumption of news across digital platforms has increased significantly over the past several years, the need to reach more people in more places has become paramount.  The merger, which provides for robust coverage both on air and online, came about to enable people to become more deeply informed of the issues that affect their lives, to be better prepared to make decisions and to become more engaged in the community.

“We’ve created a national model for a sustainable, multiplatform news operation that can provide in-depth coverage of issues important to a vibrant democracy and flourishing region,” said UMSL Chancellor Tom George.

The St. Louis Beacon began publishing in 2008 as an exclusively on-line, not-for-profit news organization. Margaret Wolf Freivogel, a veteran journalist and former reporter and editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was a Beacon founder and served as editor throughout the publication’s life. Freivogel worked closely with St. Louis Public Radio’s general manager Tim Eby in seeing the historic merger of the two media into one multi-platform organization.

As more people continue to seek news and information in different ways on different platforms, St. Louis Public Radio will create content that offers insight, has long-term value, and has the potential to stimulate and promote conversation within four areas of inquiry.

How We Learn:

A focus on how education and lifelong learning can be transformative for our region;

How We Grow:

A focus on economic development, sustainable growth, jobs, urban planning and environmental issues;

How We Live:

A focus on the people, neighborhoods, culture and diversity of experience within our community;

How We Decide:

A focus on policy- and decision making, and the mechanisms of elections, with an emphasis on information that helps people weigh options and take action.

Since combining forces on December 11, 2013, St. Louis Public Radio has seen a strong increase in audience on its web site, a deepening of engagement with people across social media and increase in the stations’ radio market share.  St. Louis Public Radio is now serving the St. Louis community better than ever before and is better suited to provide seamless coverage across its many platforms.

“This is a unique endeavor that might not have been possible without the generous support of individuals and foundations whose interest is community development and an informed democracy,” said Tim Eby, general manager of St. Louis Public Radio


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St. Louis Public Radio | 90.7 KWMU and Quincy Public Radio | 90.3 WQUB provide the St. Louis and Quincy regions award-winning, in-depth news  on-air and online, insightful discussion, and entertaining programs that focus on the issues and people who shape our communities, our country and our world. Signature programs include: Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Fresh Air, This American Life, Marketplace, Car Talk, St. Louis on the Air, BBC World Service, The Tavis Smiley Show, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and A Prairie Home Companion.

St. Louis Public Radio, which broadcasts in HD on 90.7, 90.7-2 and 90.7-3, and is online at reaches 515,000 people a month in the bi-state area. Quincy Public Radio, which broadcasts in HD on 90.3, reaches nine counties in western Illinois and northeastern Missouri.

St. Louis Public Radio | 90.7 KWMU and Quincy Public Radio | 90.3 WQUB are member-supported services of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.




Fiscal Year-End Highlights

June 30th marked the end of our 2012 fiscal year and it has been another amazing year at St. Louis Public Radio. First, here are a few quick bullet points that highlight the year:
St. Louis Public Radio mobile app

  • Started broadcasting from UMSL at Grand Center on June 18, 2012
  • Received a $1 Million pledge from Monsanto for UMSL at Grand Center
  • Estimated surplus at fiscal year-end of more than $200,000 – an operating surplus of approximately 4% of revenue
  • A 4% increase in overall revenue including a 4% increase in individual giving and 2% growth in corporate sponsorship billing
  • Unveiled new mobile app for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices that resulted in a 150% increase in listening to our three webstreams
  • St. Louis Public Radio news reporters recognized with seven awards for journalism excellence from the Missouri State Teachers Association, Missouri Broadcasters Association, and the Illinois Associated Press.
  • 2013 St. Louis Arts award recipient from the Arts & Education Council as “Champion For The Arts” and St. Louis Magazine’s “A” List for classical music programming.
  • Sponsored more than 80 community events focusing on the arts, science, education, literacy, cultural diversity, green living, civil discourse and community development. This list of events includes the two most-successful blood drives in the history of the station, a symposium on entrepreneurial business start-up and development, an international business career conference, and awards ceremonies honoring St. Louisans for their contributions to the arts and business communities.

These bullet points are highlights but the year also included on-going excellence in our news and programming areas. You regularly hear our reporters from St. Louis Public Radio on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Marketplace. St. Louis on the Air continues to discuss the important issues facing our region and Cityscape serves as a connector to the arts in St. Louis. Our web site and social media efforts have evolved to serve a new platform for audience engagement and public service.

In May, we announced the intent to acquire WQUB-FM from Quincy University. WQUB is the public radio station service more than 120,000 people in and around Quincy, IL and serves as a northern extension of our coverage area. The costs of this acquisition should be around $100,000 with our business plan calling for operating the station in the black in three years. The most important aspect of this acquisition is that we have preserved the public radio service for this community.

Also in May we completed the second year of live Saturday evening broadcasts of the St. Louis Symphony from Powell Hall. These broadcasts have been a resounding success in audience and financial terms for the station. We begin season three in September as neighbors to the Symphony where we envision new opportunities for collaboration.

On the subject of collaboration, we end our fiscal year beginning an exciting project with the St. Louis Beacon and the Nine Network of Public Media focused on the 2012 election and government accountability. Beyond November, with funding from the Deer Creek Foundation, will be our first serious collaborative effort with our new Grand Center neighbors. We view this collaboration as a test effort for future opportunities.

We also initiated another partnership this year with Sauce Magazine that explores the food culture of St. Louis. Sound Bites is heard monthly on Cityscape and has been very well received by our listeners.

Our fundraising efforts were highlighted by significant growth (up 18%) in gifts of $1,000 or more and with the expansion of our sustaining membership program. We now have 26% (5,300) of all current donors in our sustaining membership program.

Finally, from a financial standpoint, our expected surplus this year will bring our case reserve up to approximately $1.7 million. It’s a tribute to the station’s staff that we went from no cash in reserve to where we are now in just four years.

Thanks for your great support of the station this year. Looking forward to a very exciting FY 2013!


Philanthropy and The Firewall

Last week we were thrilled to share the news of a gift of $1 million from Monsanto Company in support of our future home in the Grand Center Arts & Entertainment District in midtown St. Louis.

The Monsanto Community Education Center will be located on the first floor of the new UMSL at Grand Center building, 3651 Olive Street in St. Louis. The building will also serve as the new home for the studios and offices of St. Louis Public Radio | 90.7 KWMU.

With this exciting gift from Monsanto Company, the $12 million campaign for a new home for the station is now just $2.6 million from completion.

As exciting and important as this announcement is for us at the station, it also resulted in some questions from a few  listeners worried that a gift of this size from a company that we frequently report on might adversely influence our editorial decision-making.

We have always maintained a strict policy that separates our funders (individuals, corporations, and foundations) from the editorial content that you hear on the station.  We model this firewall from similar policies that NPR has in place to protect its editorial integrity.

Like NPR, the journalists at St. Louis Public Radio – including senior news and programming managers – have full and final authority over all journalistic decisions. We work with all other departments at the station toward the goal of supporting and protecting our journalism. This means we communicate with our sponsorship and development departments to identify areas where we hope to expand our reporting. It also means we may take part in promotional activities or events such as coordinated fund drives, listener support spots, and public radio audience-building initiatives.

St. Louis Public Radio greatly appreciates the financial support it receives from individuals, from foundations and from corporations. Their support is essential. At the same time, it is the staff of St. Louis Public Radio who make their own decisions about what stories to cover and how to report them. Neither the people and the organizations who support NPR financially, the sources we come in contact with, our competitors, nor any others outside our newsroom dictate our thinking.

But we observe a clear boundary line: St. Louis Public Radio journalists interact with funders only to further our editorial goals, not to serve the agendas of those who support us.

In the specific case of Monsanto, this is certainly the largest gift we have received from this St. Louis-based company, however they have been a supporter of St. Louis Public Radio for several years and, like our other funders, understand and honor the firewall that exists between our funders and our editorial content.

If you are interested in more information on who provides funding to St. Louis Public Radio, I encourage you to review our annual report.

Notes From the Spring Membership Campaign

Our Spring 2012 Membership Campaign ended on Friday with more 3,250 pledges from listeners supporting the programming on the station.

The Spring Campaign will mark the final on-air drive from our current studios in Lucas Hall on the University of Missouri – St. Louis campus.  We’re moving this summer to a new facility that we will share with UMSL in the Grand Center arts & entertainment district in midtown St. Louis.

We’ve looked through our records over the nearly 40 years of broadcasting from this location to estimate that this most recent campaign was the 97th pledge drive from this facility and that we have raised more than $12.5 million in pledges from those drives over the years.

We were also the recipient of a “love letter” (so to speak) during the membership campaign from our friends at the Riverfront Times last week.

The RFT ‘s Kristie McClanahan penned an ode to the campaign titled Drinking With St. Louis Public Radio’s Pledge Drive  offering a valuable public service to help its readers achieve the most enjoyment possible from our on-air fundraising campaigns.

And if that’s not enough, just as our campaign was ending, a guy by the name of Greg Studley released a video using a parady of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” using the names of NPR and public radio reporters and personalities.

Check out the NPR Name song below … and thanks to everyone for their support!

Those Commercials on the Non-Commercial Station

By Frank Pfau, Corporate Accounts Manager

Frank Pfau, Corporate Accounts Manager

Frank Pfau

When people ask what I do, simply saying that “I’m the Corporate Accounts Manager” doesn’t mean a whole lot to most people. So, I’ve developed a short description that goes something like this:

Myself: “Are you a listener of St. Louis Public Radio?” (Assuming they are):  “So, when you hear ‘support from St. Louis Public Radio comes from XYZ Company…’ well, that’s what my department does.  We obtain corporate dollars for the station.”

Them: “Ohh … you mean the advertising.”

Well, sort of.

“Underwriting announcements” “advertising” “corporate support announcements” are all terms used to describe the same thing:  the announcements of acknowledgement of financial support from local, regional, and national organizations.

St. Louis Public Radio corporate support dollars account for about 20 percent of our entire operating budget, which is about 1.6 million last fiscal year.

St. Louis Public Radio Revenue

Why would an organization want to have their name mentioned on our station?  After all, they are just fifteen-second scripted announcements read in a calm, conversational tone.  No jingles.  No dialog.  No calls to action.  No mentions of price and/or discounts.  No rhetorical questions. No fast-whispering disclaimers.

Clearly, these aren’t commercials.

Let’s face it: “announcements of acknowledgement of financial support” doesn’t exactly scream BIG BLOWOUT BONANZA!

So, why would an organization even put up with all of these “restrictions” (we prefer the term “guidelines”)?

Is it the great programming? Perhaps. Is it because they love the station? Maybe.

The paramount reason is:  You, the listener.

While it’s true that just about all of the organizations do love the station, they also understand that St. Louis Public Radio listeners are a very unique and desirable demographic. Without sounding like a promotional sales call, let’s just say that, generally, the STLPR listener is more likely to be educated, employed, and engaged in the community with discretionary income.

So, add that demographic to the fact that:

a) Our listeners don’t turn the station when the corporate support announcements come on so they will actually *hear* the announcement (thank you “restrictions”) and,

b) Our listeners will actually like them more.  Well, it’s true.  Public Radio listeners view the organizations that support the station they love in a more positive light: as a good corporate citizen with shared interests.  Oh, and all things being equal, Public Radio listeners are also more likely to do business with these organizations.

Are the announcements for everyone?  Probably not.  (If only the folks from Dirt Cheap would call me back!) However, for the majority of businesses, non-profits and institutions in the region there is nothing quite like being acknowledged for supporting a valuable St. Louis institution: St. Louis Public Radio.

*If you would like to investigate how corporate sponsorship might help your organization… contact me at 314-516-6910 or email: Sorry, I can’t help myself.

It’s October … which means it’s membership campaign time

Our Fall 2012 Coffee Mug

If you’re an avid public radio listener, October is one of those months out of the year when you can turn to just about any public radio station across the country and find the station on the air encouraging its listeners to support the station.

On-air fund raising campaigns have been a staple for public radio stations for more than 30 years and continue to be one of the most critical times of the year for stations to raise money to pay for the programs that listeners enjoy throughout the year.

The St. Louis Public Radio Fall On-Air Fund-Raising Campaign begins on Thursday, October 13 and runs through Friday, October 21.

The results and reliance on these on-air campaigns vary from station to station across the country. Some smaller stations rely almost entirely on on-air fund raising, while many larger stations, including St. Louis Public Radio, have developed a balance of support from on-air campaigns, direct mail, e-mail, telemarketing, sustained memberships, and philanthropy to raise the needed funds to pay for the local and national programs.

Only about a third of our total support from individual contributors comes during our two on-air campaigns. What these campaigns do best for us, though, is to bring in thousands of new contributors to the station every year. It is far and away the most effective and efficient way for us to gain new supporters to the station.

Around three years ago, we made some changes in our strategy with our on-air drives to focus more on new donors and the results have been phenomenal! In 2008, 13,000 donors gave to the station and now more than 20,000 are active supporters of St. Louis Public Radio.

We are also giving our listeners a voice in talking about why they support the station. These testimonials help to tell the story of what listeners value about the station and are very effective in moving people to donate.

For the campaign that starts this week, we have some wonderful audio clips.

Sometimes the testimonials are extremely personal, as in the case of this story from Richard Rubin about his ailing wife’s love of classical music.

In other cases, the stories can be humorous and something that most listeners can relate to as in this story from Marc Mendolia.

And, other pieces, like this one from Karen Kalish and her new friend (and taxi driver) David Woods can be surprising.

And, in addition to these regional voices, we’ll also have our share of the friends from the national programs to add their voice to encourage you to support the station — THINK IRA GLASS.

We take great pride that St. Louis Public Radio is among only a few public radio stations in the country doing just two on-air membership campaigns each year.  Last year we were able to raise nearly $1.1 million in just 18 fund-raising days, making us among the most efficient in the country in raising money from our listeners.  Your support is essential and I hope that we can count on you again in the coming days.