OETA Foundation: Sustaining the Future through Endowment

The OETA Foundation is featured in our series on endowment building.  OETA was an early adopter of the endowment model in public television. The organization’s endowment is making an impact that can help sustain public television in Oklahoma for many generations to come.

In 1997, OETA received a mandate from Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to establish a statewide digital television network by the year 2009.

Faced with securing the resources needed to fund this mandate, OETA and the OETA Foundation passed a joint resolution to sell one of its statewide channels.  The channel was sold through a sealed bid in 1998.  The proceeds from the sale were used to establish a pool of endowment funds called the Legacy for Excellence Trust Funds.  The proceeds were split to establish the following funds:

  • Programming Endowment
  • Digital Facilities Endowment with future earnings to be used to support a new statewide digital network
  • Facilities Endowment Grant Account for matching state, federal and private funds to assist in the establishment and operations of the new digital network.

The endowment has grown to $28M and has had a tremendous impact on OETA, a state licensee.  The 5% spend rate currently accounts for about 17% of the annual operating budget. This steady stream of support now helps serve as a lifeline for local productions during unprecedented cuts in state support for OETA. OETA’s state budget allocations have been slashed by 45% since 2009 to $28M. More cuts are expected.

To continue to help bridge the state budget gap, the OETA Foundation has set a goal of reaching $50 million for the Legacy for Excellence Trust Funds. Like other visionary organizations, the OETA Foundation has decided to use planned gifts as a model for building endowment.

“We believe planned giving offers donors of various giving capacities the opportunity to make a profound gift as part of their estate plan,” said Daphne Dowdy, President, OETA Foundation. “A gift they might not be able to make in life.”

The Foundation’s policy specifically provides that all unrestricted planned gifts will be used as contributions to the “Legacy for Excellence Trust Fund.”

OETA Potts 5“OETA has been a reliable friend to Oklahoma families for 60 years,” Dowdy said. “A planned gift to OETA allows our viewers to build upon their own legacies by positively affecting future generations of Oklahomans through educational public media.”

To learn more about endowment building, contact Tia J. Graham at tjgraham@pbs.org.

Stories in the endowment building series:

Endowment Building:  Strengthening Financial Health


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