When Larry Satkowiak came aboard as president and CEO of The Cable Center a bit more than one year ago, he described himself as a fiscal disciplinarian who insisted that his priorities included raising $10 million to put the Center on sound financial footing. A pair of just-announced gifts put him closer to his goal.
Comcast Corp. has committed $1 million to a two-year endowment drive called The Chairman’s Campaign, which is being led by cable icon Bill Bresnan, The Cable Center’s chairman and chairman/CEO of Bresnan Communications. Mr. Bresnan has made a $500,000 challenge grant to the campaign.
The Center secured $30 million over the years to pay for its stunning facilities in Denver, and another $30 million endowment was raised for the Center’s programs. The $10 million "will carry the basic overhead," Bresnan says, "so we can be sure that the Center will be able to operate without any additional funding ad infinitum." The Center intends to use 5% of the fund’s earnings, or about $500,000 a year, "to carry our nut," he adds. "It guarantees a certain permanency for the Center."
Echoing the fiscal ethos of Satkowiak, who still teaches accounting at the college level, Bresnan says, "If [the Center] adds any programs in the future, they’ll have to be self-sustaining."
While the Center originally was funded largely by cable operators, and subsequently by programmers, its board will be extending solicitations beyond cable. For example, the banking community, which has profited from cable, as well as other professional organizations will be solicited, Bresnan says.
Those contributing $50,000 or more will be made part of the Chairman’s Circle, and receive certain "extras," including special invitations to events run by The Cable Center.
The campaign might adopt a "Rat Pack" marketing theme, playing on the idea of Frank Sinatra and his Chairman of the Board moniker. Bresnan and Satkowiak say it’s still not certain exactly how that theme will be used, however. What is certain is that instead of huge, splashy events, a softer approach will be used. Board members will be reaching out personally via phone calls and other means of communication to solicit funds.
Last April, The Cable Center’s board approved a strategic plan that called for the Center to focus on a few activities. The Center ran some 21 programs in 2004; there are now just five. The initiatives concentrate mostly on higher education, including running a highly successful course with C-SPAN at the University of Denver and other schools, designing a customer service track at the graduate level and interacting with college professors and students to inform them of career opportunities in cable. In addition, there is the Center’s training component for cable employees and its wealth of papers, memorabilia and information about how the cable industry was born and grew. The Center, located on the University of Denver campus, also contains a research library, meeting rooms and exhibits open to the public that highlight cable’s Hall of Fame, cable’s history and its new technology.
"We haven’t been raising money in the last couple of years until we made sure we had a [strategic] plan that the industry could embrace," Satkowiak says. "As people see the programs, we’re hoping they will be encouraged to participate in other programs that the Cable Center has, and to contribute to the work we’re doing."