Strike a Match
The Wayne County Foundation Challenge Match has been instrumental in strengthening the “life” of numerous non-profits in the county by providing an opportunity to raise precious unrestricted operational dollars that are so difficult to come by. I have witnessed non-profits that participated in the Challenge Match use monies raised for capital expenditures; improving upon existing space to enhance facilitation of programming; hiring additional staff to maximize impact on the population each serves; reinvesting dollars and building upon an existing endowment; and expanding existing program opportunities that would not be possible without this critical opportunity.
Such is the case with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra. Prior to the start of the 2014 season, the RSO often relied on its reserves to offer a full six-subscription concert series, four educational concerts, and two competitions for youth. When setting the preliminary budget for the 2014-2015 season, the RSO set a priority of living within a balanced budget. Left with only two critical options: 1) reducing youth programming, or 2) eliminating one subscription concert, the board made the difficult decision to reduce to a five-concert season.
Applying for and being selected to participate in the 2014 Challenge Match at the $10,000 level came at a critical time. The RSO was able to secure an additional $10,000 supporter, making the match a 2-for-1 opportunity. With the assistance of a very supportive community, the RSO was able to defer $20,000 of the Challenge Match monies to the 2015-2016 season to return to a full six-concert series. The Match has been instrumental in creating unsubstantiated momentum that has led to greater season ticket sales, higher attendance at concerts, and new season sponsors and donors, and clarity of mission. It has enhanced the RSO’s reach into the community and strengthened internal development practices and procedures.
I believe that the Wayne County Foundation has led the residents of this community to be more philanthropically minded and provided a means for non-profits to share more of their mission and the gift they bring to the residents of this community, e.g., arts and environmental education and opportunities, services for the impoverished or underserved of our community, or aid for homeless animals. I am also encouraged that the participating organizations each year have a sense of camaraderie, not competition as some would think.
While I have been skeptical at times that the period is too restrictive or that there may be too many competing organizations to be successful, I am amazed by the generosity of this community. I feel extremely fortunate to live in a county that has residents and a community foundation that values the work of its non-profits. By listening attentively to the needs of the non-profits and actively finding ways to support them in meeting those needs, the vitality of the entire county is enhanced and services strengthened. Thank you to the Wayne County Foundation for leading the way in engaging the community with a spirit of philanthropy. This is the gift the WCF has brought through the ongoing success of the Challenge Match!