Promoting the support of public television and volunteerism, the National Friends of Public Broadcasting is an autonomous and independent national organization for volunteers in public broadcasting. It was born out of a series of meetings held in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The first of these occurred in May 1969, at WNDT (Channel 13) in New York; it was attended by representatives of seven major public television stations, and chaired by Frances Schuman, who at that time was the Chairman of the Friends of 13, the volunteer group at WNDT. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the potential establishment of a national organization for volunteers in public television; the consequence was the creation of the Committee for the Formation of the National Friends of Public Television. Subsequently, additional formal meetings of the organizing committee took place in 1969 and 1970, resulting in the formation of the National Friends of Public Broadcasting in May 1970, with Frances Schuman as chair. During these developmental stages, an ad hoc committee helped to solve initial problems by writing a statement of purpose and draft by-laws; the basic organizational structure, such as the Board of Trustees, officers, and various committees, were also established during this period. Frances Schuman resigned as the group's chair in 1975.
On July 27, 1970, after initial support from Channel 13, NFPB was officially incorporated, therefore receiving non-profit and tax-exempt status. Also, during this period, the organization obtained in-kind support, including working facilities, such as secretarial support and office space, from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In October 1970, a grant was received from the Carnegie Corporation of New York for the amount of $281,000, which was distributed over a three year period. In its fourth year, the group received grants from the Markle and Rockefeller Foundations, in addition to continuing support from the Carnegie Corporation. Circa 1974/1975, stations were asked to contribute financially for the first time. Later, after the loss of external funding, NFPB depended solely upon money raised from membership dues (both group and individual) and annual conferences, and occasional in-kind support from stations. Currently, all officers are non-paid.
The purposes of NFPB are several. It helps local volunteer groups organize and existing groups to solve difficulties. It encourages community involvement and support for public television, and it creates an informed national constituency of lay people to represent concerned citizens, as well as the needs and problems of public television. Furthermore, it emphasizes the role and importance of the volunteer by aiding the establishment and development of local volunteer groups and by promoting volunteer activities at the station level. NFPB also promotes cooperation between station management and volunteers, the exchange of ideas among local volunteer groups, volunteer efforts to raise funds and increase membership, and the effective use of volunteers. To fulfill these objectives, the organization holds annual and regional conferences; publishes a newsletter; maintains a communications network among station volunteer representatives, station managers, the media, national organizations dedicated to public broadcasting, and the public; and has founded a speakers bureau. NFPB's goals and purpose have essentially remained the same over time.
NFPB holds a conference each year in conjunction with the annual meeting of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)/Association of America's Public Television Stations (APTS). The first of these occurred in May 1971, in New York City. During these conferences, a series of awards is presented to deserving individuals or groups with multiple winners in each of three major categories, including awards for outstanding public broadcasting volunteers and for community development and fund raising efforts. Finally, the uniqueness of this group lies in its support of both public radio and television, its purpose, and its officers, particularly the fact that the group was established and led by women which continues today.