On Second Thought: The New New Normal

On Second Thought . . . 

I first met Gayle in May 2009. She has been on the board of a public library in Pennsylvania for a long time. After a considerable amount of energy researching the community’s usage and strategic planning, the board decided the current library was far too small to effectively serve their community.

As part of this planning, the board identified a possible new location. By the time that Gayle contacted our firm, the only missing ingredient was private philanthropic support for their vision of the future.

During our first meeting, we spent a lot of time talking about the economy and the current state of funding for public libraries in Pennsylvania. At that time, the governor was in a standoff with legislators over a large budget deficit. One of the budget balancing strategies was to significantly cut funding for public libraries. Similar debates continue raging in many other states across our nation, perhaps in your state as well.

To make a long story short, the library board decided in 2009 to shelve their plans for a new facility. They did not question the work required to raise the funds for a new library, but instead feared their ability to secure operating funds to manage the higher costs of a new and larger facility.

Fast forward to a call this week from Gayle. She told me the board just voted to proceed with the project, and to authorize working with our firm on a campaign planning study. While I am pleased to learn of this new development, I had to ask Gayle an obvious question. Why now, when Pennsylvania is considering a proposed 52% reduction in funding for higher education, including public libraries?

Gayle said that the board came to a unanimous decision to move forward with their project and a campaign; concluding, they can no longer count on the state for support and the sooner they get into the fund-raising business and stay in the fund-raising business, the better the library can serve their community.

I gather that the library board decided to view the word “public” in a new way. Yes, they are a public library, and continuing its mission to serve all members of the public, but public no longer refers to public sector funding.

Economic analysts are calling the slow recovery of our national economy the “new normal” as it may remain “slow” for some time. Like Gayle’s board, we hope you, too, will embrace the “new new normal” as it pertains to your development operations. We cannot return to yesterday’s business as usual. The times call for rethinking and reassessing your entire development approach. If you are enjoying support from the public sector today, then we encourage you to develop ancillary strategies and recast your efforts to embrace the expanding role of philanthropy going forward.

click here for pdf version: FRM55

For more on The Campaign Planning Study, Foundation of a Successful Campaign, access Goettler Series Volume 2