Letter: Museum's wise plan prepares for future
prepares for future
To the editor:
As a nationally known professional in the nonprofit sector with more than 40 years of experience and a Berkshire Museum member for 10 years, I have followed the continuing stories about the museum with great interest.
Over my career, I have worked with several local cultural clients facing some of the same challenges the museum is facing. For those of you who are wondering why the museum didn't tell you sooner about their financial state, I implore you to reach out to any other small, cultural institution in the area and ask them how you can help secure their future. Chances are they are also struggling, and this shouldn't come as a surprise.
A recent article referencing Stephen Sheppard's review of the museum's financials and plans suggests that the museum might need only a modest increase in their endowment to "adequately sustain the organization." While a modest increase might keep the museum treading water, it would do nothing to pull it out of its current situation. The museum has important goals and well-thought-out plans to bring its programs up to a 21st century standard and to attract and engage people from all over the region.
Additionally, it is critical to have funds available for capital maintenance, repair and innovation. Many have stated that the museum's decision to deaccession to fund their endowment is unethical and perhaps even illegal; I can attest, based on my deep experience, that it is neither. It appears to me that the trustees have considered all aspects of this tough decision from every viewpoint.
The museum's new vision speaks to the needs of families and children in today's world. It is important to have a focus on education and provide for the children and youth of our region, as only the Berkshire Museum offers that perspective. We have incredible resources for art here, but few in science and history, and none with the integration STEM can provide.
Regarding the anonymous offer of funds made through The Eagle: It would be completely inappropriate to take action on this offer, and I agree with the decision to decline. The museum had no way of verifying that this offer was genuine and that the people making the offer had the actual capacity to make that level of gift or have any relationship with the museum currently.
The museum has worked diligently to expand its fundraising over the past seven years; contributed revenues have grown every year since 2010. This is something to celebrate as many nonprofit organizations do not consistently have that level of success. The single-patron model of fundraising, one which sustained the museum for many years, is a model that no longer exists, and the Berkshire Museum has done all the hard work possible to move away from dependence on that source of income.
Other nonprofits in the Berkshires have, and are living with, the same issues; the museum has been successful in this transition. I am in full support of the decisions of the board of the Berkshire Museum.
Abbie J. von Schlegell,
The writer is principal of A. von Schlegell & Co. of which Berkshire Museum has been a client.