story by Michael Tilley
With around $9.8 million in cash and pledges, Jim Dunn says the U.S. Marshals Museum fundraising effort is “starting to meet with some success,” and is optimistic a soon-to-be launched 18-month national campaign will bring the effort closer to a construction date.
Dunn, president and CEO of the U.S. Marshals Museum, said the $9.8 million does not include about $800,000 of “pledge gifts in process,” and excludes potential revenue from the U.S. Marshals Commemorative Coin.
In January 2007, the U.S. Marshals Service selected Fort Smith as the site for the national museum. The cost to build the 50,000-square-foot museum — including exhibit work — is estimated as high as $50 million. Although the announcement was made in 2007, formal fundraising activities did not begin until the latter part of 2009.
Dunn has said museum construction – planned near the riverfront in downtown Fort Smith – could begin when $30 million is raised.
With a local and state campaign ongoing, Dunn said the museum is “contemplating” the first quarter of 2013 to roll out a national campaign targeting a larger list of companies, foundations and individuals around the U.S.
Museum officials have built awareness of the museum after the campaign began in 2009, and Dunn believes “some of that should begin to pay off.” With a small staff – about four people with two outside solicitors – it will be a huge task.
“I am mindful that this is a very aggressive schedule,” Dunn said. “But we need to go national with this.”
Dunn qualified his remarks during a recent interview by saying the Museum Board has the ultimate say in all decisions related to fundraising and timelines.
Part of the awareness included a December 2009 “friendraiser” hosted by Gov. Mike Beebe and featuring former U.S. President and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. About 180 attended the event held at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock
Will Clinton be part of a national campaign?
“We would like very much to involve him at the appropriate time in the national campaign,” Dunn said, adding that Clinton’s endorsement of the project “has already helped in many intangible ways.”
Former New York City Governor Rudy Giuliani is part of the overall campaign. He participated in the creation of the “Your Marshal” video used in the museum’s capital campaigns – local, state, and national.
With the video, Giuliani endorsement, whatever Clinton might do and other materials, Dunn said the national campaign will include “spending a lot of time” reaching out to wealthy individuals and people who “control wealth.”
There is no set financial goal for the national campaign, Dunn said
Dunn stressed that local and state fundraising will continue. He said “promising local” requests remain and the outstanding pledges include $250,000 from a person in central Arkansas.
Dunn also said uncertainty related to the federal budget and the “fiscal cliff” have hampered the fundraising effort, especially at the national level. For example, vendors who sell to the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies are unsure about what the next federal budget may – or may not – contain.
“So they aren’t sure what will happen with that (federal budget), and how much money they will have (to donate to the museum),” Dunn explained.
POSSIBLE PROJECT TIMELINE
The roughly $30 million needed to consider building the museum is within reach, according to Dunn. The math goes like this:
• There is about $10 million in cash and pledges.
• The museum building has a “naming opportunity” priced at $10 million.
“And we have prospects for that,” Dunn said.
• The museum could qualify for up to $10 million in new market tax credits.
New Markets Tax Credits were created by Congress in December 2000 for the purpose of funding commercial, retail and residential projects in low-income regions. They are administered by the U.S. Treasury Department.
While complex in the doing, the concept is relatively simple. The federal program gives qualified applicants (CDEs) tax credits equal to 39% of a project cost, and those credits are then sold to investors or an investor group to raise money for the project. Typically the cost to administer the grants results in between 20%-25% of the project cost supported by the investment funds.
Those three pots equal $30 million, and that doesn’t include revenue possible in 2015 from the sale of U.S. Marshals Commemorative coins.
The coin is scheduled to be minted in 2014 to coincide with the 225th anniversary of the establishment of the Marshals Service. Up to $5 million from coin sales is to fund “the preservation, maintenance, and display of artifacts and documents” at the Marshals Museum, with Dunn projecting a conservative $3.5 million to reach the museum. Revenue from coin sales will also go to the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Law Enforcement Museum, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
TRAILS OF TEARS CONNECTION
In addition to being optimistic about the fundraising plan, Dunn is confident having support from the Five Civilized Tribes will be a positive promotion tool.
According to Dunn, the Chiefs of the Five Civilized Tribes have agreed to build a world-class monument that marks the significance of the Trail of Tears.
Between 1831 and 1839, the U.S. Government forcibly removed more than 15,000 Cherokee and other tribes from their homeland in the southeastern United States. The tribes were forced to march across Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas to Oklahoma. Many died during the forced relocation.
“That will be impressive, to have that (monument) on the museum campus,” Dunn said.
Dunn has estimated the museum could draw 165,000 visitors during its first full year of operation.