Cover Story: A Historic Challenge
That abrupt cutoff of funds was akin to pulling the proverbial rug out from under its feet, especially with a $6.5 million annual operating budget looming. But scary as the transition might seem, there were circumstances that mitigated the fear. The first came thanks to what Seiter calls “brilliant” foresight on the part of her predecessor and the other people who were involved in the project from its start. (Seiter took over as vice president of development in April 2002.)
The original $185 million development goal included $40 million for the NCC’s endowment, as well $6 million to cover the first year’s operating budget. (Building costs ate up the other $139 million.)
For FY 2005, about half of the $13 million annual budget will be raised through admission and parking fees, the museum store, and facility rentals; the rest will come from the endowment and donated revenue.
Seiter explains that that 50 percent breaks down as follows: In FY05, which begins Oct. 1, NCC expects to raise 36 percent from individual giving; 31 percent from foundations; 18 percent from corporate giving; 11 percent from membership (gifts between $25 and $1,000); 2 percent from board annual gifts; and 2 percent from its We the People Award dinner.
The other thing that keeps Seiter from worrying too much about losing all that government funding is the autonomy that comes with being “cut off.”
The NCC is located on land belonging to the National Park Service but is a private nonprofit organization. As part of the original charter, it built the building and then turned it over to the Park Service. Now the two operate under a unique public/private partnership.
“As part of the original agreement, the feds put $66 million toward the $108 million of public money,” Seiter says. “[Losing that support] gives us interpretive independence, and we don’t have to be at the vagueries of budget and decision making in Washington.