For an organization that was founded 35 years ago — specifically to build one memorial — the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) certainly has become a master of reinvention.
Well, if not exactly reinvention, then at least refocus. And its fundraising strategies have morphed with it, quite successfully.
First, there was The Wall itself. That was completed in 1982, after a somewhat ramshackle grassroots campaign begun in 1979 grew to a national furor. The plan was to build The Wall, turn it over to the National Park Service and basically dismantle the organization after its 10th anniversary.
But The Wall wasn’t going to maintain itself. Nor would the grounds around it. And the founders of VVMF just couldn’t see leaving all that work to the park service.
“As it was a gift from Vietnam veterans and its supporters, raised with all private funds, we wanted our memorial to be the jewel of the National Mall,” says Adam Arbogast, senior director of communications and marketing for VVMF. “In the eyes of our organization and our supporters, it is the most important spot on the National Mall, and we are committed to ensuring that it has every resource it needs for the benefit of our visitors.
“This powerful place of remembrance and healing was a gift to the nation,” he adds. “We were responsible for its creation, and we intend to stay responsible for its aging. It isn’t something we wanted to simply wash our hands of when we were done.”
Then there was the issue of education about the war. The memorial was stunning and powerful, of course, but just visiting it didn’t provide any real history or insights. So, an education center was born, and events around history and healing were planned. And it became clear that fundraising, which had all but shut down once The Wall was built, would have to be reactivated and re-energized — this time with the focus on creating and supporting all of the new and ongoing initiatives.