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Non-profits struggle in tough financial climate
Messenger photos by Linda Dillman
Mark Myers, long-time president of the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society, makes an adjustment to a doll house in the organization’s Jackson Street museum. The museum, along with a series of displays in a neighboring structure, features artifacts from the city’s past and is open to the public.
Weathering rocky financial times is not easy for anyone and especially hard for organizations relying on donations, benefactors and public assistance.
In Reynoldsburg and Pickerington, where expenses are rising and revenue is on the downturn, three local historical societies are facing the challenge with all-volunteer staffs, fundraisers and changes in programming.
“We just became a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization to increase interest in bequests, gifts and donations,” said Livingston House Society President Arthur Jacob. “Also, we are taking a harder look at costs, attempting to increase publicity about our organization, trying to involve more students in programs to lower the overall age of our organization and taking part in more community activities.”
To trim costs, the Reynoldsburg-Truro Historical Society (RTHS) is closely monitoring spending and cutting down on expenses. President Mark Myers said the organization’s biggest expenditure is on electricity for its Jackson Street complex.
Pickerington Historical Society (PHS) President Gary Taylor said his group is fortunate because the city provides a home for the society in the former Carnegie Library in downtown Pickerington, which was donated to the city under the stipulation it would continue operation as a museum.
However, Taylor said the organization’s biggest challenge is covering the cost of insurance and the maintenance and care of artifacts housed in the building. Unlike RTHS’s annual flea market/yard sale event and quilt raffles, Taylor said the society does not have a single large fundraising event. It covers expenses by selling collectibles, coverlets, and pottery in a gift shop and by coffee and donut sales during an annual Labor Day celebration.
The Livingston House Society raises funds through membership fees, donations, gifts and facility rental.
“Revenue has decreased due to fewer rentals and reduced number of memberships,” said Jacob.
He said expenses have increased due to increased programming and higher costs of everything.
“We’ve limited the extent of program content for Pioneer Day,” said Jacob. “We also limited the amount of scholarship award money given and required donations for some programming.”
While changes in revenue have made little impact on the Pickerington and Reynoldsburg historical societies, Myers said increases in expenses forced his group to take action.
“We’ve had to increase dues, but we waited two years to do that, hoping the economy would turn around,” said Myers.
He said the historical society’s annual budget of $8,000 to $10,000 covers operating expenses, but not projects such as a new roof or additional space for displays and storage, which is under consideration.
The Pickerington organization is in the process of studying a $38,000 building rehabilitation endeavor.
“We and the city had a rehabilitation company come out and look at the building,” said Taylor. “They worked up a rehabilitation project to address exterior issues.”
According to Taylor, one third of the cost of the nearly $40,000 project would be shared by the society, city and Violet Township. Organizers are also looking at potential grants, but since the museum is open limited hours and there is no paid staff, Taylor said it is difficult to qualify for a grant.
“But we’re going to pursue some vigorously to see if there is somewhere we qualify,” said Taylor.
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