MPR's Goal: Raise $75M By 2020
Minnesota Public Radio's offices in St. Paul (Photo by Tony Webster/CC)

MPR's Goal: Raise $75M By 2020

The public radio network is investing in new programming, technology and talent.

The secret to a successful capital campaign? Don’t publicly announce it until most of the money has been raised. St. Paul-based Minnesota Public Radio lifted the curtain Wednesday on its “Inspired By You” campaign to raise $75 million by 2020 to fund what MPR president and CEO Jon McTaggart called “significant transformational investments.”
Working behind the scenes, MPR has already raised $63.4 million in gifts and pledges – roughly 85 percent of the total goal.
The money is slated to pay for new programming, technology and people in a rapidly changing and competitive media environment.
“We started on it back in 2015 and have been in a quiet phase since then,” said Ian Friendly, a member of the MPR Board of Trustees who is co-chairing the capital campaign. He previously chaired the MPR board from 2012 until 2014.
Friendly is co-chairing the campaign with two other trustees: former Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson and Rick King, an executive vice president with Thomson Reuters. Friendly retired from Golden Valley-based General Mills Inc. in 2014 after 31 years with the company; for his last seven years there, Friendly was executive vice president and chief operating office for General Mills’ U.S. retail business. Shortly afterward, Friendly became CEO of local gene editing company Recombinetics until his departure last September.
Members of MPR’s board of trustees have already pledged more than $24 million of the $63.4 million raised in the campaign.
In broad strokes, Friendly said that the board has earmarked the campaign’s total $75 million for three different categories of investments: $35 million for new programming and talent, $20 million for audience development and technology, and $20 million for innovation.
“It’s really things that we couldn’t fund in the annual operating budget,” said Friendly. “Audiences are demanding high-quality content, anytime, anywhere. It’s pretty hard without investment to get ahead of the game.” 
St. Paul-based American Public Media Group is the nonprofit parent of MPR and other affiliates, including Southern California Public Radio. For its fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, APM, MPR and SCPR brought in a combined total of $134.6 million in support and revenue.
More than $15 million from the campaign has already been deployed to expand staff at the APM-produced business news program Marketplace, boost digital programming and launch APM Reports, a new investigative journalism unit.
The capital campaign includes money slated for the Glen Nelson Center, which will operate like a venture capital firm making investments in startup media and technology companies that could bolster MPR’s future audience and revenue. The Glen Nelson Center opens this summer at the Osborn370 building in downtown St. Paul. The majority of its space will be dedicated to Lunar Startups, a shared workspace/incubator for entrepreneurs and early-stage companies. The incubator is supported in part by a $1 million grant from the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Like many other broadcasters, APM/MPR is increasingly looking to new programming channels such as podcasts to help draw a new generation of listeners.
Friendly said that the investments are important to keep Minnesota Public Radio competitive in the digital media age. “You’re going to have to innovate and try things,” he said.