Seattle public radio station KEXP has received its largest-ever philanthropic gift. It was of a bequest of just under $10 million. It’s believed to be one of the largest bequests to a single public radio station in history. The donor requested to remain anonymous and the station has identified her only by her first name, Suzanne.
The station says the money will be used to implement a range of music and media education programs, accelerate KEXP’s digital content strategy, and allow for more room for experimentation with radio and online music programming. The bequest has also inspired the creation of a newly planned giving initiative at KEXP, the Reverb Society.
The bulk of the funds received by KEXP through this bequest will be placed in a long-term reserve and a board-directed strategic initiatives endowment, intended to provide seed money for emerging priorities. Initial investments include education programs aimed at inspiring younger audiences to engage their curiosity around music, services, and programming for emerging artists, media creation experiences for aspiring DJs and music journalists, and outreach activities aimed at deepening KEXP’s connections to local communities. Additional investments will be made in accelerating KEXP’s digital content strategy, and in improvements to radio programming. The organization will share more about those plans in the coming months.
“The efforts we’re launching as a result of Suzanne’s generosity will impact thousands of lives,” said Mara. “We’ll be reaching into new communities that have historically been under-served by KEXP programs, working more with schools and youth-focused nonprofits, and providing more opportunity for hands-on experience with music and media skills for artists and young people. It’s our fundamental belief at KEXP that music makes our lives better. And this gift means we’ll be getting more music into more people’s lives than ever before, and in profoundly impactful ways.”
“Suzanne was the rare and wonderful person that any of us would feel lucky to have in our lives, even if only briefly,” said Betsy Troutman, KEXP’s Director of Development. “Suzanne was a lover of music who understood her blessings, and a generous supporter of everything she found beautiful in life. I’ll never forget what she told me about her decision to make a significant gift to the KEXP New Home campaign — ‘I’m not sure the wattage can bring the sound up to Heaven so we may as well do what we can to enjoy the music today!’”
Inspired by this bequest, as well as several others from generous KEXP donors, the organization has created a new giving club for donors interested in considering support for KEXP in their estate plans. The Reverb Society, as the planning giving club will be called, will allow KEXP donors to leave a legacy powering KEXP for many years into the future.
“This gift inspired a good dose of introspection and an even greater dose of planning,” said Jill Singh, Co-Chair of the KEXP Board of Directors Development Committee. “We’ve been working with staff, strategic planners, and community members to develop a fiscally sound strategy. We are committed to being responsible stewards of this generous gift, and dedicated to a plan that allows the impacts of this gift to be felt by KEXP and the music lovers and artists we serve for decades to come.”
As part of the planning work carried out after the organization was notified of this gift, the KEXP board has chosen to place most of the bequest in a reserve fund, or “quasi-endowment.” This fund will act as a “rainy day” reserve in case of unforeseen expenses, such as major facility repairs or emergent technology upgrades. In addition, the endowment may be used strategically to invest in major initiatives, as directed by the board.
“KEXP’s commitment to our donors is to responsibly invest their generous contributions into our work and to carefully manage the organization for long-term financial sustainability,” said KEXP Board Development Committee Co-Chair Scott Redman. “We have historically set aside a portion of donations to our annual fund into a reserve or rainy day fund. Suzanne’s amazing gift has ensured that our reserves are now sufficient, which means that the generous gifts from all of our other 18,000 annual donors will be invested directly into our mission.”