2017 was mainly dominated by a number of large multi-year programs that ran for the second year; the Strategic Partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Russian Language News Exchange program and the 5-year Syria program with the Swedish development agency Sida. Besides this continuation, 2017 was characterized by the expiry of several grants for our project Radio Dabanga. That is why Free Press Unlimited partly financed this project in 2017 from its own resources.
The latter is partly reflected in the operating deficit of 2017, although this remained limited to an amount of 30,000 euros. The fact that the deficit is not larger is mainly due to the fact that the structural contribution from the Dutch Postcode Lottery increased from 500,000 to 900,000 euros since last year. We have been able to use this increased amount mainly to support Radio Dabanga.
The operating deficit has been withdrawn from the continuity reserve, which remains virtually the same as the reserve at the end of 2016; nearly 2.3 million euros. That is about 75 per cent of the operating costs and as such well within the margin. The policy is to keep the continuity reserve at between 70 and 150 percent of the operating costs.
Compared to the budget, the total income was almost 950,000 euros lower; a total of just over 14 million euros. This was due in part to the fact that, as mentioned above, we were unable to find new funding for Radio Dabanga on time. In addition, the budget assumed that co-financing would be found for our Syria program. However, competition in acquisition processes is high, and particularly for this region, limited. During the year, these ambitions were revised and we discussed this with Sida. Along with the lower incomes from government grants, these are the main causes of the lower total income.
As far as the benefits of lottery organizations are concerned, a positive picture can be seen compared to the budget. On balance, 575,000 euros more income was realized than originally budgeted, with the main reason being the increase in the structural contribution of the Dutch Postcode Lottery, which was not known at the time the budget for 2017 was being prepared. Of course we are very pleased with that, especially since this contribution is not linked to a specific project and can therefore be used optimally and flexibly in places where Free Press Unlimited can make a lasting difference for the objectives for which we were founded.
Unfortunately, 2017 also meant the end of the project financed by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery: ‘Our Future is Now’ (with which we set up news programs for children all over the world). A new application aimed at young people and media has been submitted to the Swedish Postcode Lottery, and of course we now make sure that the youth is included in various other projects. Because it also (or maybe precisely) applies to them: People deserve to know!
Finally, in terms of risk, we can also conclude that obtaining financing for our activities continues to appear high in our risk analysis for the coming year. Followed far behind by much more manageable risks that can be identified for our organization, such as working in conflict areas. We will therefore make an extra investment in our Donor Relations department in the coming year.