Imagine surviving a 10.0 earthquake, only to be hit by the tsunami trailing behind it.
In many ways, this is how the last year or so has felt for Nevada Public Radio, and by extension, for me, as its Chairman. As I step down from the Chairmanship next month, I want to reflect for a moment on how far we’ve come since September/October 2019, and how optimistic I remain about Nevada Public Radio’s future.
As any devoted listener or member knows by now, Nevada Public Radio found itself in a dire financial position last year. We were millions of dollars in arrears with many of our most important creditors. Our revenues had been declining and our expenses rising for years. Our financial reporting and accounting was wholly unreliable. Our management team and staff were disconnected and largely unaware that we were on the brink of closing our doors. In short, for the first time in its 40-year history, Nevada Public Radio faced a truly existential threat.
In times of crisis (and certainly we are seeing it now, on an even larger scale, with COVID-19), people either band together, provide leadership and work the problem, or they scatter and run for cover. I am proud to say that from the first moment we learned the truth about our desperate financial condition, through the end of our financial earthquake (and it has indeed ended), our Board, our senior leadership, our staff, and our devoted supporters never hesitated and never wavered, and that is what got us through. I am pleased to report that as of today — a little over a year since our troubles surfaced — we are 100 percent current on all of our bills; we have taken extraordinary steps to stabilize our financial condition; and we have restructured our organization from top to bottom. None of that could have been accomplished without the selfless contributions of so many.
Under the leadership of our Board Treasurer Kathe Nylen, one of the true heroes of our story, we have completely rebuilt Nevada Public Radio’s finance and accounting functions from the ground up, turning a glaring weakness into a true strength, while also implementing robust financial controls that will better protect the organization from future financial mismanagement or wrongdoing. On day one of the crisis, our Governance Committee Chair Renee Yackira, the undisputed moral compass of our Board, plopped herself down in KNPR’s offices and effectively led the organization through some of its darkest moments. More recently, she spearheaded the tightening up of our governance and organizational protocols, providing another key check and balance against future misbehavior. Our Fundraising Committee Chair Bill Grounds became (perhaps somewhat reluctantly) an expert in the sale of FCC licenses and radio transmitter leases, positioning us to maximize the future value of our assets. Our Investment Committee Chair Bob Glaser brought invaluable insights and relationships from the investment community that helped mightily in righting the ship. Our incoming Chair, Richard Dreitzer, was a consistent sounding board for me, and a calming voice for the Board around a variety of sensitive legal and human resource issues. Beyond that, each and every Board member played an important role at just the right time. I want to thank all of our Board members for their efforts.
Equally important to our survival was the entire Nevada Public Radio staff, who bore the brunt of the fallout, both emotionally and organizationally. I would not have been surprised by (and in some ways, I would have expected) mass departures and crushing morale problems after they understood the scale of the crisis and the painful work that was ahead of us. Instead, the Nevada Public Radio team came together in new and unexpected ways, took ownership of their budgets and their strategic plans, and never sacrificed the core mission, despite the uncertainty that they undoubtedly felt, personally and professionally. I want to thank every single member of the NVPR team for their efforts.
And through it all was Jerry Nadal, our immediate past Chairman and our acting CEO. Beginning with a (slightly panicked) phone call last year — which began with me simply seeking Jerry’s wisdom on finding a new leader for NVPR, and ended with Jerry saying without hesitation (okay, maybe a little hesitation), “I’ll do it!” — Jerry has led the transformation of NVPR, organizationally, financially, and even philosophically. From the e-mails I receive from staff literally begging that Jerry remain CEO, to the existing and new donor relationships he has somehow fostered in an incredibly unstable environment, to the obvious, newfound cohesiveness and transparency of the management team, to the fresh and innovative thinking around some of our newest programming, I (and, I hope, you) can see and feel the changes he has made. I want to thank Jerry for his past and future stewardship of Nevada Public Radio, without which I suspect we would not have made it through.
Lastly, I want to recognize all of you, our supporters, our listeners, our members, our key partners and vendors, all of you who rose to the challenge in so many ways. You are the lifeblood of Nevada Public Radio, you are who we serve, and you ultimately determine the fate of Nevada Public Radio, as you always have. Thank you.
So, we made it, right? What could possibly go wrong now? You can’t have back-to-back existential threats, can you? Well, apparently you can, because the COVID-19 tsunami is upon us all, impacting Nevada Public Radio as it has impacted your businesses and your lives. I am only thankful that there was a bit of a gap between NVPR’s financial crisis and our current global crisis. Had they occurred simultaneously, I doubt we would have made it.
Therefore, as I relinquish the Chair — but not my passion for or commitment to this critically important organization — I have one final request: Please continue your support of Nevada Public Radio. If you are fortunate in this difficult time to be able to give more, give more. If you are struggling, give less — but don’t stop giving. And if you’ve never given, but continue to partake of the very best news and information that Nevada has to offer, please start giving. In the end, Nevada Public Radio’s continued viability rests not on the shoulders of the Chair, or the Board, or the CEO, or the staff. It rests on your shoulders, on our shoulders, together, as Nevadans. Thank you in advance for your continued support, for all that you’ve done, and for all that you will do. In due time, but only with your help, the flood waters will recede, Nevada will be back in business, and Nevada Public Radio will be there, as it always has been.