When we created The Nittany Valley Society, we did so with as much intentionality as possible. We believe there will always be a role for the organization to play for Penn Staters and Central Pennsylvanians in conserving the culture of the place.
Any mission needs continual funding to succeed, though. Since we came together as friends and volunteers in founding it, we started with two operational principles. First, we would intentionally keep our operating budget as slim as possible for as long as we could get away with, building in the early years from the resources of our young board and volunteerism. Second, we would work with Centre Foundation to create the Nittany Valley Renaissance Fund, an operational endowment that would generate perpetual revenue in support of the mission.
Since 2012 when we founded The Nittany Valley Society, I’ve been pleased with our growth and impact. I think our operational principles have been validated too, when looking at what we’ve been able to accomplish. But we had a slow year last year, and the time our volunteer board is able to invest is diminishing. We’re likely going to have to change the model for our annual budget and grow that substantially in the years ahead to continue making an impact. But because we also created the Nittany Valley Renassiance Fund early on, there’s a small endowment which we will continue to build upon. It’s something that every board member and former board member is expected to contribute to.
In reading recently about the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, I learned the one of the things Gerry Lenfest has emphasized is that before the museum even opens next year, they reach their goal of establishing a $150 million dollar endowment.
This is more proof for me that our approach with The Nittany Valley Society is a sound one, although obviously we’re in an entirely different financial universe than Lenfest. The Philadelphia arts and cultural scene has been dogged especially since the Great Recession as too many institutions over extended themselves and in some cases have had to shut down or shed themselves of vital assets.
Lenfest is making sure that the Museum of the American Revolution will be strong from that start, and that’s the same thing we’re doing with The Nittany Valley Society, and an approach I recommend to anyone whose mission is evergreen.