fundraising or lowering the bar?

The only thing that the Aurora Historical Society has demonstrated they do worse than spend money they don’t have is try to raise that money.

Trying to decipher a long term fundraising strategy comprised little more than pouting, begging and playing the “we’re a poor non-profit” card is made difficult when the same organization touts themselves as professionals.

At their 2013 Annual General meeting it was decried that the first Hillary House ball event “raised the bar in what we what we could do”. That seemed to be a significant strech from the truth and I commented on it here:

Before the supposed “must-attend” ball was conceived the society engaged a grandiose 3 year fundraising campaign in 2012:–society-seeks-775k-to-restore-landmark

A 15 page glossy printed booklet the society distributed to accompany this $750,000 campaign outlines Fundraising Objectives on pages 5 through 10 as such:

  • $200,000 to House Restoration
  • $75,000 to Landscape Restoration
  • $200,00 to an additional parking lot
  • $300,000 to Sustained Operational funding

The plans were to raise 3/4 of a Million dollars over a 3 year period (so $250,000 a year) so how has that worked out for them?

Last year it cost the AHS $12,685 to raise a total of $40,490.
Which is $209,510 short of their target.

In 2012 it cost them $13,067 to raise a total of $42,471.
That was $297,529 short of their target.

What’s even more ridiculous is that both of these totals are short of the 2011 amount of $49,847.

In 2 years they have raised $82,961, costing $25,752 which have net them $57,209.

Leaving 1 year left to raise the remaining $717,791.

Fully acknowledging that it has taken the society 30 years to raise $980.000 this whole campaign to date serves to emphasize the difference between laudable goals and plain laughable ones.

Especially when the means of fundraising are as antiquated as Hillary House itself.

Page 12 outlines “several levels of support” ranging from $1,000 to $100,000 donations where a donor would receive “prominent recognition on a Donor Wall”, or a “recognition plaque”.

Don’t like those options, how about recognition in promotional materials or a generic “naming opportunity” or maybe you would prefer to have complimentary event tickets or a heritage gift set for your $1,000+ donation.

Don’t have $25,000 to have your name emblazoned on a “Memorial Gazebo”, no problem you can always adopt an artifact at a cost of $150 – $200.


Ken Burnett said recently that “There are two ‘i’s’ in Fundraising – they should stand for inspiration and innovation, not imitation and irritation.”

The Aurora Historical Society has shown a complete failure to innovate in their fundraising initiatives. One of the 5 deadly sins outlined over on the Fundraising Authority site here:

So what are they doing differently in 2014?

Their 2014 Operating budget shows a Fundraising total of $40,000, and this year they project it will cost them $15,000.

But this year they are, get this, hiring a Fundraising (& Communications) Coordinator.

Check out the job post here:

Responsibilities outlined show a hybrid of two very different roles.

Yet for everything that is asked the role is only part time @ 21 hrs week.

If the Historical Society even remotely understood either of these roles they would not attempt to squish them together reducing effective output by 50% and then reduce that again by 50% by making it part time.

On top of that the compensation outlined is insultingly lower than market rates.

From medium salary for a Communications Coordinator is $42,014:

The Medium salary for a Fundraising Coordinator is $43,371

What the Aurora Historical Society has done is post a job that pays $17/hr to a maximum of $357/week amounting to $18,000/yr.

Citing the poor economy to justify short-changing someone for their services is downright insulting.  In my opinion expecting a University graduate to accept such a job is nothing more than exploitation of someone who is likely paying off sizable student loans.

I find it also curious that this job post was made on February 26th, only 2 days after the town’s final budget meeting, and before final budget approval by the town.

No mention of any immediate hiring was made at the Annual General Meeting.

Nor was it reflected in their January 27th request for support to the Town of Aurora.

Kind of irresponsible of the society to neglect mentioning this particular expenditure given that this amounts to 30% of the $60,000 the town is proving in grant money, don’t you think?

In the 2012 Error Banner article the Society’s then vice-president and fundraising chairperson claimed a “sustainable future is very important”.

Hiring a fundraising coordinator at a cost of $18,000 to raise a total of $40,000 which there are already $15,000 in projected costs against seems both ill-conceived and counter productive.

And here I thought they couldn’t possibly set the bar any lower.


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