In 1959, when KQED’s then general manager Jim Day vowed “to educate, inform, and entertain” the people of the Bay Area, he knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Just a few years earlier, the station had been relying on donated egg cartons to soundproof the studio, and they nearly ran out of money altogether. This spurred them to come up with the idea to create tiered memberships. Then, they could use the memberships as a way to encourage its audience to sustain the station without having to bring in advertisers or a money tree.
Today, more than five million people hear, watch, and stream KQED's radio, television, web, and educational content, which includes world-renowned NPR and PBS programs right alongside locally produced shows such as The California Report, This Week in Northern California, and Essential Pépin. And while the programming has expanded and diversified, more than half of the station’s annual budget still depends on contributions from listeners, viewers, and radio-transistor repairmen.