There’s real value in endowing even small nonprofit efforts right from their start. It can be a powerful signal that what you’re building is intended to be a permanent part of the landscape, so to speak.
When we created the Centre Foundation’s Nittany Valley Renaissance Fund and the Novak Fellowship Fund, we did so with as much intentionality as possible. We believe there will always be a role for these funds to play for Penn Staters and Central Pennsylvanians in conserving the culture of the place.
When we came together as friends and volunteers when starting projects in Central Pennsylvania to advance a spirit of place, 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 establish funds that could produce perpetual revenue in support future work.
I think our operational principles have been validated, when looking at what we’ve accomplished so far. But we had a slow year last year, and our collective time available to invest in these projects is diminishing. But because we created these endowed funds at Centre Foundation, there’s a small endowment which will continue regardless of our year-to-year availability.
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 is a sound one, although obviously our Central Pennsylvania projects are in an entirely different financial universe than Lenfest. Philadelphia’s 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 our work through Centre Foundation, and an approach I recommend to anyone whose work will always be in season.