Last week a conversation with a supporter reminded me of the fact that many people would rather donate money or time to a special project as opposed to operational expenses like taxes, salaries, utilities, advertising, and office supplies. I do understand the excitement that comes with a project such as a new building, the restoration of a significant artifact, a new program or piece of equipment. I don’t think I understand the reluctance often expressed to the funding of general operations.

Museums typically collect, preserve, exhibit, and sometimes restore artifacts for the purpose of telling stories that will enlighten present and future generations so that they can learn from our history. These functions require considerable skilled labour, secure storage facilities, interpretive media, and other overhead items. The result is a quality product with significant value to society and to a local community. Fortunately many people recognize that this quality product is worth supporting with donations of time and undesignated dollars.

In an effort to make donating more appealing, we do offer a variety of projects, in addition to our basic operations, to fund. For many years we have had an education fund which is used to support our education program, which sees thousands of students visiting MHV to learn and experience our stories. Many of these students later return for another visit and bring their families. This past summer a local business person initiated a facilities restoration fund which grew to $105,000 and provided the Windmill, the General Store, the Livery Barn Restaurant and the Village Centre with much-needed facelifts. We are currently soliciting funds for several new projects: an air-conditioning system for the Auditorium in the Village Centre, a new mower to keep the yard in park-like condition, an interactive world map for the Permanent Gallery, an improved ventilation system for the Short-Order Booth, a new coat of paint on the floor of the Livery Barn Restaurant, among others.

We also work hard to generate income to cover our museum expenses. Approximately 60% of our budgeted income is generated through business activities at MHV. There are four key areas of business income: admission fees, restaurant revenue, facility rental income, and gift shop sales. The Livery Barn Restaurant is primarily here to provide an element of the cultural experience of our museum, but we have also been able to attract additional lunch and catering business to supplement restaurant income. The Auditorium and a few other meeting rooms, and even some of our heritage buildings, lend themselves to rentals, which also generate income apart from museum-run activities.

Fall is traditionally a time of fundraising. During this season, we invite our supporters to do two things. First, please consider the importance of the work that MHV does and recognize that funds are required to buy fuel for the lawn mower, repair the heating and air-conditioning equipment, maintain our buildings and feed the animals. Secondly, please be bold and ask what projects are available for funding this year (I’ve listed a few in this article) to determine if one or more may be of particular interest to you. We welcome all support.

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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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