Offsetting federal cuts – Marketing, fundraising pay off

Ironically, the fortunes of National Trust for Historic Preservation may have improved as a result of losing all Congressional funding, the Washington Post reports.

In the early 1990s, the trust received $7 million of its $35 million annual budget from the federal government.

More importantly, those federal funds were more than 50 percent of the trust’s unrestricted gifts.  Gifts that are not restricted to a specific purpose are critical in paying general expenses, but are often the most difficult kind of money to raise.

After the Republicans won control of Congress in 1996, they took away the trust’s federal funding, the Post says.  The trust was unable to save its funding but was able to negotiate a gradual phase-out of tax dollars.

“This is the best thing, long term, that could have happened,” trust president Richard Moe told the Post.

The congressional cut forced the organization to rethink its principles and priorities, Moe said.

The trust has raised money through corporate licensing and study tours, and the trust’s regional offices have nearly tripled their income.

Private foundations have also stepped into the breach, increasing their giving more than fivefold in five years to a total of $3.2 million in 1999, the Post reports.

While the tax funds were being phased out, the trust raised money for an endowment, which now exceeds $100 million. The trust draws on those funds for its $40 million annual budget. 

Only $11.5 million of that money is for unrestricted causes, however, short of the board’s $20 million goal.

The trust is trying to educate its donors about the need for unrestricted gifts, Moe said.

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