Oregon Public Broadcasting recently received a $2 million donation, the largest gift so far in a four-year capital campaign focused on transforming OPB’s facilities and original reporting.
The donation to “Campaign 2022: Connected, Empowered Communities” came from the family of Gert Boyle, the late CEO of Columbia Sportswear, and established one of OPB’s newly built studios as the Gert Boyle Studio. Boyle died in 2019 and was a longtime listener and supporter of OPB, according to a press release about the donation.
OPB’s first capital campaign in 30 years has been fundraising since 2017, with the goal of raising $15 million by the station’s 100-year anniversary in 2022. CEO Steve Bass said he feels confident that this initial goal will be met, if not surpassed. While fundraising momentum slowed for a year due to the pandemic, Bass said that the Boyle donation is an encouraging sign that the campaign’s momentum will pick back up.
“I think you had people in the donor community that were trying to figure out which way their investments were going to go and how this would impact their lives … but the fact that the financial markets stayed pretty strong dispelled a lot of the initial concerns,” Bass said. “… Our individual giving has remained very, very strong since the pandemic began. Part of that, I think, is because we have proven ourselves to be even more essential in people’s lives.”
OPB boasts roughly 90,000 monthly contributors, Bass said, but lacks robust financial support from larger donors. To address this, Campaign 2022 is focused on growing OPB’s base donor support while expanding OPB’s portfolio of high-level benefactors.
The Boyle gift will go to the Impact Journalism Fund, a subsection of the campaign whose funds will allow OPB to develop and improve content by hiring new reporters. So far, OPB has used the funding to hire eight reporters covering science, business, breaking news and state government.
Reporting and editing positions will continue to expand as funding allows, Bass said, with the Boyle donation ensuring that OPB would “blow past” its original goal of raising $3 million for the Impact Journalism Fund. OPB is now closer to raising $5 million for reporting positions and is developing a new fundraising goal before the campaign ends.
The other $10 million raised will support building renovations and the implementation of new technology, including a content management system and app development. OPB recently implemented Arc Publishing, the same CMS used by The Washington Post, Bass said.
Many of the planned renovations to OPB’s Portland headquarters are already complete. The renovations, which wrapped up in February 2020 right before the coronavirus pandemic hit, included the installation of seven new radio studios and the creation of a two-story performance studio for performances, events and forums.
“Those studios have been incredibly helpful to us during COVID times, but we have not yet commissioned the multimedia studio,” Bass said. “We don’t even know how to run the equipment, so it’s all kind of sitting there waiting for us when we get back.”
Although the performance studio sits unused, Bass said that the additional radio studios have allowed OPB to remain flexible during the pandemic, providing enough spaces for reporters to record during the day without crossing paths.
Other donations to Campaign 2022 have created opportunities OPB didn’t originally plan for, Bass said.
“We had one donor who gave us a very nice gift to create an emerging journalist fellowship for four years,” Bass said. “That same donor provided funding for a legal fellow to come into OPB and learn how to do law related to nonprofits and journalism and media, and that’s also funded for four years.”
Bass likened the campaign to “leaving a porch light on” for larger donors who want to contribute their own ideas or donate even after fundraising goals have been met. He said that the ultimate goal of fundraising is to serve the interests of listeners, not donors.
With less than a year left for Campaign 2022, Bass hopes that fundraising will continue with force so that OPB can improve its content and generate more, which it often shares with local partners.
“We are in a state in which journalism resources are shrinking relatively fast,” Bass said. “We are certainly one of the largest news operations in the state, and our presumption is that we will at some point, and maybe not in the terribly distant future, be the largest news organization in the state of Oregon. So that brings with it a certain responsibility to be caring about the whole ecosystem, not just ourselves.”