Drive for civil-rights museum raises $800,000

Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — An effort launched in September to raise $350,000 to help support operations at the new International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro has raised $803,000, with additional funds expected.

Those funds will form the base of an ongoing annual campaign of patron support for the museum, says Neil Belenky, retired president of United Way of Greater Greensboro who co-chaired the campaign.

Richard “Skip” Moore, vice chair of the management committee that oversees operations for the for-profit subsidiaries of the nonprofit Civil Rights Center & Museum, says a series of capital campaigns for the complex that, along with tax credits, have raised over $20 million for paying off the mortgage and pay for construction, up-fitting and operations, did not reach out to the community for small donations.

“This was an attempt to reach as many people as possible,” he says of the annual-fund campaign.

Co-chaired by Henry Frye, of counsel at Brooks Pierce and a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, the annual-fund campaign offered donors the opportunity to pay their pledges over two to three years.

The effort, designed to “start when excitement was high,” was aimed to create an ongoing program to build donor loyalty, says Moore, who also is president of the Weaver Foundation.

Belenky says the campaign attracted 424 donors, including 34 who each gave $10,000 or more to name a stool at the former Woolworth’s store that was the site of one of the first civil-rights sit-ins and houses the center and museum.

Donors who give over $1,000 will have their names listed on a wall at the museum, and all donors will have their names listed on its website.

Given the long period of time it took before the museum opened, plus the controversy over its escalating costs, Belenky says, it was important for the operating-fund campaign to meet its goal “to make a public statement that the museum was broadly supported.”

The campaign was successful because it “was an opportunity for people to become part of history,” he says.

The museum is a “historic monument that should be preserved because it will teach future generations the important lessons we should learn from the past,” he says.

“To have a successful campaign was important to us, not only for the money, but to demonstrate to the broad community that this was broadly supported and had the capacity to generate the funds it required.”

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