- Assets: $13,487,488 (2017)
- Grants Received: $7,887,565 (2017)
- Grants Awarded: $2,693,321 (2017)
On the recommendation of a task force formed by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) board of directors, the PBS Foundation was established in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) supporting organization designed “to seek, cultivate, and receive philanthropic gifts [for PBS] at the national level.” The foundation’s impact on PBS’s finances was immediate and significant. In 2004, just prior to the foundation’s launch, PBS had received about 24 percent of its operating revenue ($80 million of $333 million) from taxpayers through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. With the advent of the PBS Foundation in 2005, that figure declined to about 20.5 percent ($70 million of $340 million).
The PBS Foundation concentrates its funding in four primary areas:
1) Program Venture Funds: These “genre-specific pools of money for programming and content” are used to finance programs and resources of three distinct types:
- Arts & Culture: This fund seeks “to embrace, feature and promote exposure to, and involvement in, the broad range of genres in the arts across the United States by highlighting the contributions of diverse cultures to the American arts scene.”
- Children’s Programming & Education: Bankrolled by funds in this category, the PBS website offers free online educational resources for teachers at the pre-K through 12th-grade levels, including thousands of lesson plans, classroom activities, videos, and interactive games and simulations. PBS also offers more than 130 graduate-level courses for educators in: Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics, Instructional Technology, Instructional Strategies, and Science.
- News & Public Affairs: This PBS initiative seeks to “strengthen public media’s role as a provider of trusted, highest quality news and public affairs reporting; develop a plan for sustaining investigative journalism; bring up the ‘next generation’ of public media news providers; innovate on the latest platforms for digital news delivery; reach new audiences; and significantly grow our engaged audience base.”
2) The Establishment of an Endowment: The PBS Endowment is a permanent fund that utilizes interest income to support PBS programs and services.
3) Planned Giving: Through this arrangement, people can bequeath money to the PBS Foundation as part of their estate planning.
4) Discretionary Support: Gifts in this category are used for whatever purposes the PBS Foundation considers to be most immediate and pressing.
The PBS Foundation’s most significant donors between 2005 and 2011 were the Adobe Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. James and L. Knight Foundation, the Newman’s Own Foundation, the Orfalea Family Foundation, the Richard and Rhonda Goldman Foundation, and the Skoll Foundation.
The PBS Foundation’s first executive director, Cheri Carter, was a veteran Democratic Party political operative who previously had worked for the late Ron Brown, Commerce Department secretary during President Bill Clinton‘s first term. Carter subsequently served as chief of staff in the White House office of public liaison (1996-1999), and as chief operating officer for the 2000 Democratic National Convention. Just before joining PBS, she was a fundraiser for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
In 2010, Brian J. Reddington took over as the PBS Foundation’s executive director. He previously had served as director of development for Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York from 2001 to 2006, and as director of institutional advancement at the Smithsonian Institution from 2006-2010.
The PBS Foundation’s president and chief executive officer since 2006 has been Paula Kerger, who previously worked for more than a decade at Educational Broadcasting Corporation, the parent company of Thirteen/WNET and WLIW21 New York, where her positions included executive vice president and chief operating officer.