TPT Faces Deficit as Donations Tumble

The nonprofit ended its 2010 fiscal year with a projected deficit of between $200,000 and $400,000 as donations fell nearly 5 percent from the previous year.

Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. (TPT) is the latest local nonprofit to struggle amid the recession, reporting a projected deficit of between $200,000 and $400,000 for its 2010 fiscal year that ended August 31.

The nonprofit said that the primary reason it saw a shortfall in its 2010 fiscal year was a drop in donations. TPT reported donations of $11.4 million for fiscal 2010, well under the $12.6 million that it had budgeted for and down nearly 5 percent from $12 million in fiscal 2009.

Despite efforts to cut costs-including recently cutting three positions and converting one to part time-TPT decreased its budget for the upcoming fiscal year to $20.8 million, down from $21.2 million in fiscal 2010.

TPT set a fundraising goal of $12.3 million for 2011 and does not plan to cut programming or staff during the year, according to Stephen Usery, TPT's chief fundraising and marketing officer.

In addition, it plans to expand online initiatives, which have been put on hold in recent years due to financial troubles but will be invested in significantly thanks to donors who have stepped forward to finance online expansion.

To achieve its fundraising goal for fiscal 2011, the organization is focused on moving its membership base to a “sustaining membership model” in which people sign up for ongoing monthly donations as opposed to an annual fee.

Usery said that the new model will reduce costs, since the organization will not have to send out renewal notices, and increase donations because people tend to donate more with the monthly model.

The organization is also looking to expand kids and family services in fiscal 2011 through partnerships with local organizations, including local school districts and other nonprofits focused on learning and achievement gaps.

Usery said that TPT's new initiatives will require adding five to 10 employees to its current staff of 176.

TPT is based in St. Paul and operates channels tpt 2, tpt LIFE, tpt MN, and tpt WX. Its productions include the SciGirls science series for kids; the Peabody Award-winning Depression: Out of the Shadows; and a public affairs program Almanac.

-Melissa Loth