Formed in 1970, National Public Radio serves the nation with news, interviews, and entertainment by way of a network of local affiliates.
A $200 million annual operating budget feeds over 1,000 stations around the country with NPR programming, which draws 36.6 million weekly listeners to programs such as All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Data-driven insights keep the mix lively and spending in check.
“NPR is responsible for the programs that we put on; our member partners pay us dues that cover their fees. It's kind of like an a la carte program where they sign up for Morning Edition and other programs and we bill them for access. That counts as revenue when building our budget for the year,” says Reggie Newsome, Senior Financial Analyst.
Phase 1: Wrangling and Fixing Errors
Reggie has been at NPR for 15 years, and for much of that time he and his team would spend two months each year collecting, synthesizing, and analyzing budget data from member stations—and that was before allowing for any changes in 30 different Excel spreadsheets. “We would get back hundreds of budgets and compile it, roll it up, only to find that some formulas were wrong or somebody didn't stay within the format we sent them,” Newsome says.
In addition to the overall budget, Newsome and his team were also tasked with tracking budgets by department—NPR has 14 departments with an average of 10 cost centers per department. Rolling all that up into Excel consumed time Newsome and his team could have spent on more sophisticated analysis.
Phase 2: Host Analytics Automates Operations
Replacing easily corruptible Excel spreadsheets with cloud-based access to the Host Analytics cloud platform and standard templates took first priority when Newsome first implemented Host Analytics in 2010. “We took a leap of faith and jumped in, knowing that there has got to be a better way than what we were doing,” he says.
Newsome and his team have steadily improved the system over time, starting with uploading actuals from the general ledger system to create a data archive that would become useful when budgeting the expected cost of new shows. Today, the system is almost fully automated. Each night, Host Analytics pulls new information from NPR’s accounting system.
Phase 3: From Financial Maintenance to Financial Analysis
With data more readily available—from rolling forecasts to on-demand reporting about every aspect of the organization—Newsome and his team are able to spend more time on analysis and answering the big questions about NPR’s operations. “I wish we would have had Host Analytics seven years ago. But we're on board now and we plan to stay on board. In fact, we just renewed for another three years—Host Analytics works for everybody at NPR.”
To learn more, check out the complete NPR case study.