Wabash Valley Community Foundation Presents Matching Challenge Grants to Terre Haute Children’s Museum and Sheldon Swope Art Museum
The Wabash Valley Community Foundation recently presented matching challenge grants to the Terre Haute Children’s Museum and Sheldon Swope Art Museum to help alleviate the financial strains of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In November 2020, the Community Foundation issued a revenue loss survey to Vigo County nonprofit organizations to determine the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey responses showed staggering deficits, with organizations reporting a dramatic reduction in private funding due to cancelled fundraisers and programs, loss of earned income revenue and a decrease in individual donations resulting in layoffs, program delivery limitations and the risk of closure.
Fundraising efforts are vital to nonprofit operating budgets. The ongoing effects of the pandemic have placed the future of some local nonprofit organizations at a severe risk and harmed the trajectory of others. This prompted the Community Foundation to determine how it could create meaningful impact. The Community Foundation elected to target two local nonprofit organizations by issuing $1-for-$2 matching challenge grants which would provide an infusion of relief funding in order to maintain operations.
Though several nonprofit organizations identified a significant financial need, the Community Foundation targeted these grants to strengthen two organizations whose missions complement our community’s investment in downtown Terre Haute as seen in the newly renovated Hulman Center and the construction of the Convention Center. Additionally, as identified in the “See You In Terre Haute 2025 Community Plan,” tourism and visitor attraction are economic drivers key to our community’s success.
The Community Foundation selected the Terre Haute Children’s Museum and the Sheldon Swope Art Museum due to their presence as Terre Haute attractions, for each play an essential role in a thriving downtown and overall vibrant community.
“Over the past year, the Community Foundation’s goal has been to provide rapid response and relief grants to entities on the front lines,” explained Santhana Naidu, Wabash Valley Community Foundation Board Vice President. “Through our revenue loss survey, we have learned our nonprofit organizations have had a difficult time recovering from this crisis. If tourism is to become an economic driver in Terre Haute, the Children’s Museum and the Swope are considered two key tourist attractions for our community. It is essential they emerge from this pandemic as strong as possible. Therefore, matching recovery grants were issued.”
The grants, $70,000 to the Terre Haute Children’s Museum and $15,000 to the Sheldon Swope Art Museum, required each entity to raise $2 from the general public to receive $1 from the Community Foundation, up to the amount of its grant. Both entities were successful in their fundraising, exceeding their respective challenges thanks to individuals taking advantage of year-end giving to help the organizations meet their matches.
“The matching dollars helped us raise a significant number of year-end gifts that helped us reach our goal,” said Susan Turner, Executive Director of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum. “In addition, donors who have always supported us gave larger gifts and those we haven’t heard from in a while made new gifts. In just 10 weeks, we raised more in unrestricted gifts than we normally raise in an entire year!”
Fred Nation, Executive Director of the Sheldon Swope Art Museum, also credited the year-end timeline for the Swope’s success.
“The news of the [matching challenge] grant came in time for it to be incorporated with Sheldon’s Legacy, the end-of-year annual fund campaign of the Swope Art Museum,” said Nation. “The Swope changed its mailing piece to include the challenge and also used it as the theme of Giving Tuesday on Facebook. [We] heard from a significant number of past donors who had not contributed in recent years, and many indicated they were contributing in part because of the Wabash Valley Community Foundation’s match.”
Nation explained the amount raised, when added to the $15,000 challenge from the Community Foundation, replaced most of the Swope’s loss from canceled fundraising events due to COVID-19. This has allowed the Swope to remain open and continue to employ both its full-time and part-time staff.
“The challenge match has proven, once again, what a loving, giving community we live in,” added Turner. “We received over 200 donations, both large and small, to help us meet the match. Some of the gifts that have meant the most have been from other local, small businesses that have stepped up to help when we needed it most. The past year has been difficult, but we are clearly not alone.”
The $1-for-$2 challenge grants issued to the Terre Haute Children’s Museum and the Sheldon Swope Art Museums are the first grants from the Community Foundation’s Recovery Phase to address the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the Community Foundation implemented a Rapid Response grant process, in which nearly $90,000 was awarded to entities on the front lines in Clay, Sullivan and Vigo counties. The Community Foundation also partnered with the United Way of the Wabash Valley to coordinate a response to support immediate economic stability through the establishment of the UW/CF COVID-19 Relief Fund. The Fund, in its first tier, granted over $612,400 to community-based organizations best positioned to meet the needs resulting from the pandemic. The Fund received an additional $1.1 million grant from a partnership between Lilly Endowment, Inc. and Indiana United Ways. This allowed committee members to award an additional $503,500 in grants for large scale mid-term relief services.