KALW Public Media (KPM)
Painter Executive Search is supporting KALW Public Media (KPM) in its search for an experienced leader to grow the visibility, audience and financial support required to ensure sustainability and build upon the legacy of innovative programming that serves and celebrates the vibrancy and diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area.
KALW (91.7 FM), an NPR-affiliated radio station, has been at the forefront of high-quality, socially minded media for more than 80 years. Deeply rooted in the San Francisco Bay Area, KALW produces and curates inspired content that reflects the diversity, ambition, passion, and resilience of the people of the region and their place in the world. KALW trains and nurtures the next generation of public media talent and gives voice to fresh perspectives. A public radio station with a uniquely local orientation, KALW showcases the Bay Area and the sounds that reflect its distinct communities. Recently the station embraced its dual format by adding increased music offerings that are reaching new and younger audiences and connecting KALW to the Bay Area’s vibrant music scene.
KALW is a hidden gem of a station, at a time of tremendous opportunity. A new management agreement, signed in December of 2020, allows KPM, a 501(c)3 nonprofit to operate and manage the station. KPM can now address the station’s need for growth without the fundraising limitations that hindered it previously. The station is located in the nation’s 5th largest and very public-media friendly market. With deeper attention to growing visibility and funding and thoughtfully building the infrastructure needed, KPM could evolve significant local and online growth. KALW is now positioned to develop new audiences, grow its ability to pay and retain the makers of the quality programing it incubates and forge a path to sustainability.
KALW’s website attracts approximately 200k views per month and its podcasts have been downloaded over a million times. The terrestrial radio station has the potential to reach 4.4 million listeners in nine Bay Area counties. It currently has an average of 100,000 on-air weekly listeners, approximately 175,000 digital downloads monthly and over 6,000 members. KALW has received dozens of national and regional awards over the years. Its recent awards include the Public Media Journalists Association national awards, Edward R. Murrow regional awards, and Society of Professional Journalists regional awards.
KPM receives a significant portion of its current income from loyal listeners with additional support from foundations for operations and specific programs. Efforts to grow a more robust sponsorship program are developing. KPM continues its important relationship with the San Francisco Unified School District, which houses its main facility, holds the FCC license, and employs the station’s operators who are represented by the Service Employees International Union. With the transfer of operations, KPM has greater visibility and flexibility around its financial status and greater latitude to diversify funding as an independent nonprofit. Now in its second year of this agreement, KPM is beginning to see the results of its initial strategies for developing the station and the foundation for diversified support.
The station is deeply engaged in addressing racial equity and is aligned with the Public Media for All movement across the country. Continuing the effort to build accessibility to the airwaves and to new digital audiences will be an important part of its future. The station’s vision and strategy for growth will also need to address changing dynamics around public media listener patterns and build upon traditional audiences.
KALW Public Media (KPM) located in San Francisco is seeking an Executive Director (ED) with a clear vision for serving the dynamic, diverse communities of the Bay Area through news and music. This ED will provide the strategic and operational guidance required to foster the station to financial health. The Executive Director will be responsible for leading the development of the strategy for organizational growth and for communicating the necessity of those actions internally and externally. This role holds the broad vision and master plan for the organization and actively works to develop the resources for implementing it. Broadly, this role provides leadership through the continued adaptation and evolution of the station required to ensure it maximizes its public service to a broader community, growing the reach of the station and translating that success into financial health. The ED will need to recognize priorities and act with thoughtful, decisive diligence. This role will need to build foundational policies and practices much like a startup organization adapting a business model while evolving a highly developed, engaged culture. The continued investment of the community of content partners, staff and listeners will require the ED to have exceptional communication skills, high emotional intelligence, and a clear commitment to lead in service to the greater community.
The ED reports to the KPM Board of Directors and oversees reporting to the San Francisco Unified School District as agreed to in the operating agreement. The ED will work together with an incredibly talented and committed staff of reporters, artists, and technicians to forge a 21st century media organization that is relevant and embraced by the local communities it serves. Together with the Board , the ED will grow and evolve the financial support and community connections needed for success.
Organizational History and Summary of Program Highlights
In 2021, KALW celebrated 80 years on the air, making it one of the oldest FM stations in the country. As the second largest public radio news station and NPR affiliate in the Bay Area, KALW reaches listeners in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Oakland, Berkeley, Marin and beyond. Its programming is proudly eclectic, combining locally produced, award winning news and arts programs with the most highly acclaimed shows from NPR, BBC, The New York Times, Center for Investigative Reporting, and other quality media organizations.
KALW is a producing station. From newscasts throughout the day to local public affairs shows and documentaries, KALW is renowned for its in-depth, award-winning local news productions, including Crosscurrents, Your Call, Your Legal Rights, and State of the Bay. KALW generally does not break the news, but it provides a more comprehensive consideration of it through long form magazine-like formats. In spite of its limited resources for developing programming, the opportunity to explain and explore content in depth makes KALW a magnet for thoughtful program developers and listeners.
KALW has also been a beloved part of the local music scene for decades. In 2021, it amplified that legacy by embarking on a new music mission and adding 20 hours of new and eclectic music featuring six dynamic Bay Area DJs and began a partnership with the legendary 25th Street Recording studio in Oakland including a new live broadcast studio for KALW music programmers. KALW hired its first-ever Music Director and Senior Advisor for Music and Culture Initiatives and has launched a new music marketing and promotional arm of the station “KALW Presents”. KALW’s music mission aims to continue to roll out plans to deepen connection to younger and more diverse audiences through the creation of music and cultural partnerships, content, and event production. This new initiative builds on a long legacy of music discovery and eclectic music programming including a broad range of sounds such as African beats, Bluegrass, Blues, Folk, and World Music, both new and old. The current music strategy is built on regional data that pointed to market opportunities to reach an unserved audience. That program strategy is beginning to show traction in both increased listeners and financial support.
From the beginning, KALW has been a pioneering broadcaster, and for the past 50 years it has played an important role in the development of public radio. Among those contributions is a nationally recognized ten-month, tuition-free journalism training program, the Audio Academy. KPM’s programs provide opportunities for early-career journalists, high school students, and people in prisons to transform the field of public media. This dynamic training is one of the reasons KALW attracts emerging producers from near and far. In part due to this intentional development and fostering of new talent, KALW has become an incubator of podcasts that feature diverse voices and a stunning degree of creativity and social relevance. Examples include The Spiritual Edge, TBH, The Stoop, The Intersection, and Uncuffed (which is produced at San Quentin and Solano Prisons), and Crosscurrents, KALW’s signature local news show. These programs are bringing under-represented voices from the margin to the center.
In 2020, a new nonprofit, KALW Public Media (KPM), was formed and entered into a Public Service Operating Agreement with the license holder, the San Francisco Unified School District. This structure effectively allows the station to manage and operate independently of the district, expand sponsorship support, and pursue diversified support.
Culture and Opportunities
The evolution of KALW has often been organic and opportunistic. Previously embedded within a large school district, the organization has been chronically underfunded. Throughout the life of the station, dedicated volunteers have developed new, creative programming and made the station a home platform for the development of their ideas. The sense of ownership and passion of program contributors is an important part of the internal culture of the station. The culture of fostering and incubating new programs has been aided by the openness to innovate and engage with new ideas. As the established programs make way for new offerings, a renewed sense of community purpose around serving new audiences is required.
KALW’s overall quality of programming is high but the listener base is insufficient to be sustainable. The transition to a management agreement through KPM allows the organization to begin to address the underfunding and to strengthen operations and brand continuity. This management change is seen as a major turning point for the organization which will allow it to fully step into its potential. With this change, there is a need to consider the overarching mission and the opportunity to serve an audience that more closely reflects the makeup of the Bay Area.
KALW sits in a market with other regional NPR stations. Its brand identity needs to complement and define it as unique. The challenge of the organization is to retain the current base of support while finding new audiences for both current programming and for new programming designed to reach broader audiences and grow membership. Building brand continuity and station recognition is critical for growth.
A central challenge for the new leader will be executing an overarching strategic growth plan while retaining the qualities that have made the station fertile ground for developing dynamic new programing including providing deep creative license, flexibility, and an atmosphere of genuine support.
ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
- Develop a master vision and business model to grow KPM to a sustainable size;
- Provide leadership to the organization, ensuring that the values of open inquiry and reflection, cultural sensitivity, and accountability are upheld and fostered within the culture;
- Keep central the role of public media and the opportunity and responsibility to thoughtfully engage and entertain a growing audience through creative and well-produced programming;
- Work collaboratively with the Board, staff, content producers and partners to develop and implement program schedules that balance growth and diversity with continuity and stability;
- Be an effective partner, a good listener and collaborator to all those who are important to KPM’s mission, impact and operations and foster a dialog with listeners that grows loyalty and support;
- Work closely with the Board to ensure the development of strong Board governance, establish clear lines of communication and organizational transparency; assist the Board in the recruitment of new board members and inform and engage the Board in issues of importance to the operations and strategy of the organization;
- Continue to evolve KPM as a welcoming and supportive place for broadcasting talent and local storytellers; build upon the access provided to diverse voices and experiences in order to enrich the experience of listeners of all backgrounds;
- Be an ally and liaison with School District administration, the School Board, and other representatives of the licensee;
- Orchestrate new and meaningful partnerships to enhance the visibility of KALW and serve community members, with an eye to residents of Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond as well as San Francisco and Silicon Valley;
- Steward the airwaves as a rare resource and seek to maximize KALW’s value to the greater regional public.
Operational and Staff Management
- Recruit, nurture and challenge a highly qualified and motivated staff and provide opportunities for professional development; delegate specific responsibilities with appropriate authority and establish accountability;
- Ensure a culture of open communications, shared goals and commitment to quality, equity, and service; foster cross-departmental collaboration that nurtures a collective effort and reflects the organization’s values internally and externally;
- Lead ongoing development and improvement of organizational policies and practices—including personnel policies, decision transparency, regular communication and build racial equity across the organization;
- Monitor the financial health of the organization, implement an effective budget process, and make decisions that align the resources with the goals and needs of the organization;
- Ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local laws, reporting requirements and contractual obligations including those required by the Operating Agreement with SFUSD;
- Report to the Board of Directors regularly on key information including the financial health of the organization, specific updates on fundraising progress, financial results relative to budget, liquidity, and cash flow;
- Monitor industry trends, particularly in areas of technology and competitive market strategies to enable KALW to maximize opportunities and improve market position.
Fundraising, Marketing, Advocacy and Audience Building
- Be an active and accessible external face and voice for KPM; effectively represent the organization and its value to the public at large, among supporters and detractors, with passion and substance;
- Actively develop a diversification of financial support for KPM including building individual support and membership programs, foundation and sponsorship relationships and visibility;
- Together with the staff and Board, cultivate and grow key relationships with individuals, foundations, organizations, local government, and service organizations to develop further opportunities to partner to increase engagement, visibility, and value to varied communities;
- Foster a culture of exploration with the staff in order to cultivate ideas for new audiences, be truly inclusive, and stretch in new directions;
- Develop opportunities for increased marketing and brand awareness;
- Ensure that the Board is supported in its fundraising efforts, facilitate those efforts, and train the Board in fundraising and advocacy on behalf of the organization;
- Engage in efforts to grow KALW’s sponsorship offerings and find success in attracting new partners in the mission;
- Assist in the preparation of grant and contract proposal budgets and reports, as appropriate.
A successful Executive Director candidate will likely have:
- Experience within nonprofit organizations that are growing and changing, including skills in Board development, organizational development, and community engagement;
- Experience with public media, knowledge of station business models and practices and a commitment to engaging with diverse perspectives and retaining the trust of the public;
- Evidence of developing and implementing strategy- a strategic thinker, planner and executor with an operating style that encourages collaboration;
- Demonstrated leadership and management skills, experienced in team building with the appetite to mentor and build cohesive efforts; has high emotional intelligence and personal strength;
- Skilled in change management;
- Past success in diversifying funding sources, particularly with individual and major donors, as well as foundations and sponsorships;
- Strong financial and organizational management and business planning skills; a track record of managing resources effectively;
- A history of strong collaboration; someone who actively seeks strategic partnerships and develops effective relationships;
- Experience as the face of an organization; well-developed interpersonal skills; superb oral and written communication skills, able to present ideas clearly, authentically, and persuasively;
- Knowledge of principles and practices of broadcasting management including broadcast operations and
production techniques, as well as public radio programming practices; familiarity with trends in emerging technology and media distribution platforms;
- Knowledge of public radio programming and funding opportunities including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting;
- Familiarity with content creation, music production or other creative work for public consumption;
- Ability to work well within the public spotlight, responsive to organizational and community needs and exercises good judgment.
- Someone who values the role of public media, understands its importance to a democratic society and its potential for creating community;
- Knowledge of and commitment to honoring the diverse experiences, cultures, and perspectives of the Bay Area;
- A team builder with both vision and strong management skills; one who can motivate and direct diverse partners while establishing accountability and shared success;
- Commitment to bringing diversity, equity, and inclusion to life in public radio;
- Emotionally mature with a good sense of humor, someone who is both confident and approachable; presents as authentic and interested in working with others;
- Extremely proactive approach to work; solutions-oriented with attention to detail;
- Hands-on, willing to roll-up one’s sleeves and forge solutions, create what is missing and support the team;
- A good listener; can hear and consider input from many sources, set a clear direction, and communicate that effectively and with compassion;
- Inspires trust, creativity and cohesiveness;
- Resourceful—able to set priorities, build efficiencies and create opportunity;
- Exercises high ethical standards.
As an equal opportunity employer, KALW stays true to its mission by working hard to make the organization a welcoming and supportive place where everyone can use their voices, help shape the culture, and be visible and valued.
The salary for this role is anticipated to be within a range of $160k-$185K but qualified candidates with higher salary expectations will be taken into consideration.
For additional details or to submit your experience for review, please contact;
(415) 202- 6240