Friends of South Dakota Public Broadcasting Fund

Published 2021

South Dakota Public Broadcasting stands strong though it was here long before the dawn of cable channels and streaming shows “to infinity and beyond.” The reason may be because its goal has remained steadfast.

“SDPB’s goal is to be the best source of news, education, and entertainment to South Dakotans no matter where they live,” said Ryan Howlett, executive director of Friends of SDPB. “We think of ourselves as publicly owned and our stockholders are really the citizens of South Dakota.”

In an effort to assure the organization’s future, and increase innovation and local programming, SDPB is asking those “stockholders” to support them in a mission to build an endowment to fuel that goal for generations to come. With that in mind, the Friends of South Dakota Public Broadcasting Fund has been established at the Watertown Area Community Foundation.

WACF is among five foundations across the state that will administer these funds. “State funding is about half of our dollars and the rest is from private sources,” explained Howlett. Of the 200,000 households that tune into SDPB TV and radio, many are already “friends.” “We want to give donors as many avenues to give as possible,” he said. “Our goal is to get these endowments up to six figures wherever they are. Larger numbers will ensure that the programming you enjoy today will be there and even better for generations to follow.”

“The Sound Vision Campaign private segment has already led to better programming,” Howlett explained. “Dakota Life was the first to improve. In January we relaunched South Dakota Focus. This month we have a new format for In the Moment (lead radio show). The dollars are infused into programming. We’ve tried to be more scripted and intentional which leads to a more meaningful and impactful show.”

The public is encouraged to support SDPB through gifts to the fund. If they wish, donors can direct their gifts to the fund to support whatever programming fits their passion. Gifts can be designated to news, the arts, education, sports, or all of the above.

“I support SDPB because I love the arts,” said Watertown viewer Chuck Olson. He and his late wife Ruth were charter members of Friends of SDPB. “My favorite program is Midsummer Murders on Sunday afternoon. I’ve been watching that for a long time. You can get operas, the symphony… Masterpiece Theater,” he said. “This is as close as you can get to classic entertainment from your living room.”

Howlett, himself, has his own story regarding his evolving journey with SDPB. “As a kid, I was fortunate before the internet and before 9,000 channels,” he said. “I watched Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street… all of those hallmark shows helped raise me,” said the Watertown native.

Working at Friends of SDPB has brought Howlett’s appreciation for the organization and its service full circle. “Honestly, that’s the coolest thing about working here. There’s so much diversity in content,” he said. “One day it may be basketball, the next day it may be the arts, then later, education. We even get to deliver curriculum to 4-year-olds.”

In addition to WACF, Friends of SDPB has established endowment funds at the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, the South Dakota Community Foundation, the Black Hills Area Community Foundation, and SDPB’s private foundation.

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