Last month it was announced that “The Friends of KPLU,” after only five months, raised the $7 million which enabled the 501(c)(3) to purchase the license of the Seattle station from Pacific Lutheran University. That prevented the station from being sold to the University of Washington. Joey Cohn is the General Manager of the station and one of the many hard-working “Friends” that made this happen. We reached out to Cohn to talk to him in more detail about the past five months.
When you first started this did you really think you’d be able to raise that amount of money?
Since we had never done anything like this before, it was almost a completely unknown situation. We were able to look at what happened at public radio KUNC in Greeley, Colorado, many years ago where they raised $2 million in two months, but raising $7 million in six months seemed to be a much taller order. (We did it in 4 ½ months.) I was hopeful from the start that we could do it, but felt a lot of anxiety too.
At any point along the way, did you ever think, “This is not going to happen”?
I never felt that it was not going to happen. This is because the community was behind us from the very start. It was the outcry from the community that gave us the opportunity to form a non-profit group and raise the funds necessary to purchase KPLU in the first place. It was also the community that organized 85 fundraising events all over the Puget Sound region to save KPLU. We also received extensive and very positive media coverage from all the major news organizations, and that exposure was an enormous benefit to our fundraising. People all over Western Washington were routing for us and that gave an amazing boost to our campaign and to our staff.
When did you really say to yourself, we’re going to make it? We’re going to do this? Did something big happen to push you over to that thought?
The turning point in the campaign was during the annual GiveBIG day on May 3rd. This is a one-day fundraising event for non-profits sponsored by the Seattle Foundation. Over the six-year history of this event the record amount of money raised for a single organization was $265,000. We raised $1.5 million. Once that happened we were on everyone’s radar in the Northwest non-profit and philanthropic community, and that was when we knew we were going to make it.
What would you like to say to your listeners and supporters?
Thank you! We are humbled and amazed by the outpouring of support. Our listeners made all of this happen. They had the power to save something that they felt a personal and emotional connection to, and told us that KPLU felt like their friends or family. We want to grow that connection and ingrain ourselves even more into the community. We want to be a resource that helps people by telling illuminating stories and playing wonderful music, so KPLU can continue to be, as listeners have said, “a soundtrack to our daily lives.”
What happens from here, moving forward?
The Friends of 88.5 has submitted a Letter of Intent to purchase KPLU. It’s our intention to negotiate an “Asset Purchase Agreement” with Pacific Lutheran University. Once the two groups come to an agreement, an application to transfer the license will be filed with the FCC. That process will take at least 90 days. Friends of 88.5 would assume ownership of the station as early as September, but it could be as late as October or November.