Martha’s Vineyard nonprofits seek to raise more than $51 million

In addition to their traditional summer fundraising, numerous Island groups are engaged in multimillion-dollar capital campaigns.

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The giant tents cast a warm glow on the Marine Hospital as night fell. — Sam Moore

Traditionally, Martha’s Vineyard nonprofits engage in fundraising during the summer months, when seasonal residents and visitors are present to bolster their operating budget’s bottom lines. Taste of the Vineyard, a June fundraiser for the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, and the Possible Dreams auction in August, the venerable Martha’s Vineyard Community Services gala, have become annual staples of the Island social scene.

On top of the usual activity, this year a number of nonprofits have announced, or are in the early stages of planning, ambitious capital and programmatic campaigns. Taken as a total, the final goal may exceed a whopping $51 million in giving — and that is on top of the money many nonprofits, which includes Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, already hope to receive as part of their standard funding drives.

Organizations and groups that have announced capital campaigns include the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, Featherstone Center for the Arts, and the Vineyard Conservation Society. In addition, MV@Play, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena, and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival are in the project-planning stage.

The Island activity takes place against the backdrop of political fundraising. Politicians at every level find the Vineyard a convenient place to meet with major donors. On Saturday, Hillary Clinton attended a summer reception at the home of Frank and Carol Biondi of Edgartown, where tickets ranged from $1,000 to $27,000.

More competition

In a recent phone interview with The Times, the executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative, Peter Temple, spoke to the challenges nonprofits face in fundraising. According to the organization’s website, M.V. Donors Collaborative is an advocacy organization that seeks to sustain the Island through strengthening its nonprofit community.

Mr. Temple said that nonprofit fundraising on the Vineyard has been dominated by summer fundraising events. He said a major challenge is that over the years, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of Island nonprofits — currently 125 organizations on the Island — and often they are left fighting for the same donors over the two summer months. Aside from these challenges, Mr. Temple said that the high number of capital campaigns in one summer is a positive sign.

“This is actually a good sign that you have multiple capital campaigns at the same time,” Mr. Temple said. “This is encouraging to me to see that the donors are willing to step up and fund this many capital campaigns. It’s encouraging that philanthropy is coming back strong on the Vineyard.” Federally tax-exempt organizations must file a Form 990 with the IRS each year, which enables the IRS and the public to evaluate a nonprofit’s finances.

‘Transformation campaign’

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum is engaged in a two-phase capital campaign that could total $33.5 million. Phase one has a goal of $18.5 million, while phase two ranges from $10 million to $15 million.

The capital campaign is what the museum’s website calls a “transformation campaign.” The goal, ultimately, is to have an entirely new campus.

Phase one is to renovate the historic 1895 Marine Hospital in Vineyard Haven, while phase two deals with the construction of new buildings for exhibits and collections.

The museum’s website said the hope is to transform the museum into “a true cultural center,” aligning with the museum’s mission to strengthen people’s connection to the Island and its heritage.

“We’ve been ramping up. We’re doing a very big marketing campaign,” executive director Phil Wallis said in a recent phone conversation with The Times. “We’ve raised more than $13.5 million in our quiet phase, and now we’re going public to continue right on through to our second phase.”

Development director Dan Waters said that the museum is very “encouraged” by its fundraising, raising over half a million dollars at its June 25 gala alone. Mr. Waters called it “a great kick-start to the summer.”

Mr. Waters said they are looking forward to the beginning of construction this coming January.

“There’s a difference between where we were a year ago and where we are now. One is money. We are about $5 million ahead than where we were a year ago, but more important, it’s the energy and momentum the board, the staff, and the Island have,” Mr. Wallis said. “It’s not just the money, it’s about the energy behind the project.”

In 2014, according to the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s Form 990, their total expenses exceeded their revenue, leaving the museum with a deficit of roughly $137,000. Before their expenses, their revenue was about $1.7 million, with almost $1.5 million coming from contributions and grants. The museum paid about $776,000 in salaries that year.

According to the museum’s 2014 Form 990, which is their most recent, total revenue for 2014 was $1,653,729 and total expenses were $1,791,077. Total salaries, compensation and benefits were $775,756.

MV@Play campaign

MV@Play has proposed a privately funded $12 million project to create a centralized athletic facility for the high school, youth programs, summer camps, and adult leagues.

The entire project would also include a new regulation baseball field, three new soccer fields, two new regulation softball fields, a varsity-game football field, a new volleyball court, a sports medicine trainers’ facility, locker rooms, public bathrooms, a storage and maintenance building, and parking and infrastructure redesign.
The three-phased project’s first phase is to remove the existing track and install a new track and field facility with a turf infield. The estimated cost is $3.5 million.
A vote by the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) committee to approve the use of synthetic turf with an organic infill for a new track infield stoked debate over the use of synthetic turf versus natural. MV@Play was organized by three community members and parents, David Wallis, Terry Donahue, and Robert “Spike” Smith, who identified the need for the updated and expanded athletic facility. They have been working with MV@Play’s president, David Wallis, who said opposition to the proposed synthetic turf has largely derailed the fundraising campaign. MV@Play cannot officially be called a nonprofit because it’s still in the process of waiting for its certification, according to Mr. Wallis.
“Because of the quagmire of hurdles we’ve had to go through and because of the opposition, we’ve had to basically put all our energy and focus on trying to enlighten the facts to those parties that are concerned,” Mr. Wallis said. “We’ve really not had a chance to go out for this capital campaign.”
Mr. Wallis said the campaign is on hold. He said they haven’t pulled a building permit yet. Their current goal, Mr. Wallis said, is going to town meetings and “trying to educate selectmen and the general public.
“We’re at a point where we could go out and raise money with lots of local businesses and private individuals supporting us, but that doesn’t get us to putting a shovel in the ground,” Mr. Wallis said.

Featherstone Center for the Arts campaign

Featherstone Center for the Arts wants to raise $3.5 million for the first two phases of its capital campaign. According to a press release, the campaign seeks “to address their long-term goals and master plan for the center’s renovation and renewal.”

The project is broken down into three phases. Phase one focuses on improving the pottery studio, according to Featherstone’s press release. Phase two deals with the construction of a new art barn. Phase three will focus on renovating existing buildings, like the Farmhouse.

Executive director Ann Smith declined to comment specifically on the capital campaign in a phone conversation with The Times. Ms. Smith directed The Times to director of development Posie Haeger, who was unable to be reached.

According to a press release, the art center has raised $750,000 so far. The nonprofit also recently received a gift from an anonymous donor of $2,870,000. It’s unclear if that money is factored into the $3.5 million fundraising goal or not.

According to Featherstone’s 2014 Form 990, total revenue was $590,704 and total expenses were $505,073. Total salaries, compensation and benefits were $121,600.

Capacity campaign

The Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS), which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, launched a $2 million capital campaign last month. Executive director Brendan O’Neill told The Times in a phone conversation that “it’s a relatively modest goal” over the next three years.

“It’s designed to increase our ability to do what we do here at VCS by expanding our staff,” Mr. O’Neill said. “The idea is to add capacity to do more good works.”

The campaign also hopes to enable the organization to better deal with crises; expand its legal, technical, and land stewardship services; and foster the next generation of Island environmentalists, according to the VCS website. The fundraising will allow them to advocate on a broader range of issues, from climate change and water quality to recycling and tick-borne illness, according to their site.

“We’re looking to the next half-century of public work and see the threats being greater than ever, and there’s a need for an organization like us to respond,” Mr. O’Neill said. “The Island has relied on VCS to be that voice for land conservation and protection.”

According to VCS’s 2015 Form 990, total revenue for 2015 was $1,305,286 and total expenses were $389,573. Total salaries, compensation, and benefits were $220,128.

In the wings

In June, the leadership of the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena agreed to a shared-services agreement with the Martha’s Vineyard YMCA. At the same time, the Ice Arena board of directors voted to embark on a top-down $3.5 million restoration of the ailing facility, which will replace virtually everything but the new roof.

At the same time, the YMCA announced its plans to expand, adding indoor space that will house a basketball court, an indoor track, exercise equipment, and classroom space.

According to the YMCA’s 2014 Form 990, total revenue for 2014 was $5,255,135 and total expenses were $3,516,442. Total salaries, compensation, and benefits were $2,101,377.

Also in June, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) leaders outlined a proposal to school leaders under which the Island’s umbrella social services agency would move from the land it now leases from the high school to an adjacent 6.7-acre piece of school property and build a new campus. MVCS proposed developing 25 to 30 affordable year-round housing units on the current lot. Additionally, the organization is looking to add and expand its services to include more child care.

According to the MVCS’ 2015 Form 990, total revenue for 2015 was $7,710,416 and total expenses were $5,893,830. Total salaries, compensation, and benefits were $4,427,219.

This spring, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival announced an ambitious plan to construct a campus on the 12.5-acre Cynthia Walsh property on Old County Road in the center of West Tisbury’s historic district. In the face of unrelenting political and community opposition in West Tisbury, and a social media howl that was only likely to increase through the permitting phase, the MVFF board of directors gave up its plans for that property.

The MVFF, a nonprofit group that hosts a variety of art events and film screenings around the Island, had set out to raise $2 million to purchase the farmland and renovate the 1830s house on the property. Instead, MVFF purchased the property for $1.4 million with the announced intention of reselling it and looking for another location.

According to MVFF’s 2014 Form 990, total revenue was $583,927, of which $366,760, was contributions and grants, while salaries and compensation totaled $309,719.