Frequently Asked Questions: VPR Next Capital Campaign

Sep 21, 2016

Read on for frequently asked questions about the VPR Next Capital Campaign.

What is the Next Campaign?
The VPR Next Campaign is a VPR Next is a $10 million campaign that will transform and allow VPR to serve its community better than ever before. The initiative will fund a renovated and expanded facility, news and programming innovation, and a public studio for convening events, discussions and music performances.

You’ll find full details about the campaign and VPR’s plans here.

Who is providing the $1 million match?
Vermont Public Radio has received a $1 million commitment from the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation in support of the VPR Next Campaign.

The Byrne Foundation gift’s intention is to inspire members of the VPR audience to participate in the campaign. All gifts to the campaign from here on out will be matched by the foundation, up to a total of $1 million.

Dorothy Byrne is making this commitment to honor her late husband and in part, because of his appreciation of VPR during his lifetime. “VPR was an important part of  both our lives, both at home and while traveling throughout the Upper Valley,” Byrne said.

What is the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation?
The Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation supports dozens of nonprofits in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont and has been a longtime supporter of Vermont Public Radio. The late John J. (Jack) Byrne Jr. was an insurance executive and philanthropist who was called the “Babe Ruth of insurance” by Warren Buffet. He was known for rescuing GEICO from near bankruptcy in the 1970s and was inducted into the Insurance Hall of Fame in 2009. Later in his career, he formed White Mountains Insurance Group, a financial services holding company with offices in Hanover, N.H. Mr. Byrne passed away in 2013.

Why does VPR need expanded headquarters?
VPR moved into its current location in 1995, at the conclusion of a renovation project that started with the shell of the long dormant Fort Ethan Allen veterinary hospital in Colchester and transformed it into a state-of-the-art broadcast facility. At the time, there was no vision for VPR to have the local news presence it has today. There was no newsroom or space in the building plan for reporters, editors, or news producers. The building was designed for a maximum of 27 full-time employees.

In the last 20 years, not only has VPR become a leading Vermont news organization, but it has also created two distinct broadcast services: one for news and the other for classical music, as well as extensive digital services at VPR.net.  VPR now has a full- and part-time staff of more than 70.

Over the years, VPR maximized its space, using every possible nook and cranny to accommodate our team, but quite literally ran out of room to grow. Also, the original facility was in need of important upgrades such as fire suppression, technology infrastructure improvements, more efficient cooling and heating systems, more bathrooms, and accessibility for all visitors. The expansion gives VPR the space and setup it needs to serve our community into the future.

How will the $10 million be spent?
The capital costs total approximately $8M to fund construction of the VPR News Center and Studio One, a public performance venue and studio. It also includes restoration of VPR’s historic facility located in Colchester’s Fort Ethan Allen, including critical infrastructure upgrades and additional engineering and operations capability.

The remaining $2M will create a programming innovation fund. This will create the capacity for VPR to tell the whole Vermont story, providing crucial seed money to launch new programs and initiatives, try new things, quickly respond to opportunities, and keep pace with the rapidly changing media landscape. This includes investigative and enterprise journalism, podcasts, digital-first projects, all while maintaining our commitment to in-depth reporting and long-form storytelling.

Why do you need to have an on-air campaign for this effort?
We believe that every aspect of what the campaign is making possible will improve our public service and directly benefit our audience. With more than 80 percent of the goal raised and an incredible matching opportunity, we believe it is a natural time to invite our audience at large to participate in shaping VPR's future during this “grassroots” phase. This is VPR's first public capital campaign in more than 20 years.

Hundreds of listeners have enthusiastically supported VPR Next so far, and we are thrilled about the excitement our audience has shown for what's ahead. The on-air campaign ends on Saturday, September 24 at noon.

Why does VPR have to evolve? I like it the way it is.
As a community-supported organization, VPR's top priority has always been to meet the needs of our audience. As a result, VPR has been constantly evolving throughout its nearly 40-year history: growing our footprint to serve our entire region, building an award-winning news team, and investing in our online streams and digital services - all of these changes have led to VPR having its largest audience ever. The need to adapt and evolve to stay relevant is even more acute now because people today have more choices than ever for getting their news and information. VPR Next marks the next step in our evolution, and it will position VPR to stay relevant and thriving in the years to come.

Will this campaign reduce pledge drives?
VPR Next is a special fundraising effort with the goal of funding this particular project. Regular financial support from individual listeners and local businesses is what helps VPR meet our annual budgetary needs and provide the programming you rely on every day. While membership drives are likely to remain a vital part of our funding model, we are committed to reducing their impact on your listening.

Can I set up my gift as a Sustaining Membership?
VPR Next Campaign contributions  cannot be set up as a sustaining membership. However, if you are interested in setting up a multi-year pledge, please contact us at next@vpr.net.

Is my membership gift going toward construction costs?
No, only funds raised through the VPR Next Campaign will be used for construction and renovation.

Is VPR growing too fast? Is this expansion sustainable?
VPR's leadership has been proactive in addressing the long-term sustainability and health of the organization. As we made plans for our capital expansion and renovation, our board of directors, working closely with management, designed a financial plan with an eye toward long term sustainability. VPR prides itself on being a prudent steward of community and donor support, and we always look for ways to make the most with what we have. However, we reached a point where the lack of a proper facility was inhibiting our ability to best serve the citizens of Vermont and beyond. The expansion and renovation are not extravagant; they are responsible and “Vermont-sized,” but the VPR Next Campaign and all that it's making possible will transform our service to the region. Our most recent annual report includes a snapshot of our financial position.

Have any other questions? Feel free to contact us here.