Capital campaign misses mark, fails to produce
In 1998, the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame’s governing board started proceedings for launching a capital campaign, meant to raise at least $5 million. A consulting firm, Ketchum Inc., out of Dallas, was hired to help run the campaign, remembers Tim Nimz, director at the time. But though the board had some problems with Ketchum — Nimz said the company changed the project consultant four times in one year, affecting the continuity of the campaign — there was at least one problem affecting the success of the campaign that sat with the board members themselves, he said.
“I think it became increasingly apparent that our board was going to have a hard time raising funds, period,” Nimz, who is currently the director of the Littleton Historical Museum in Littleton, Colo., said. “They weren’t turning into the kind of fundraisers that could go out and bring in the kind of high-dollar gifts in order to meet the target.”
Cathi Hahner, a current board member who was the Ag Hall’s assistant director at the time, said that to even launch the campaign at least 50 percent of the target goal needed to have been raised. By 2002, Hahner said, the campaign had only managed to raise about $100,000. Audit reports show that expenses during the four years of working on the campaign had reached close to $180,000.
Hahner said the campaign was given up and turned into a major gifts initiative, which is a fund-drive for smaller donations. She said this situation speaks directly to why the center has had such financial problems throughout the years: overspending.
“I think that they have not necessarily been as frugal with the funds as they could be,” Hahner said of the governing board.
Joel Ebbertt, formerly on the Ag Hall board of directors, said there were a number of factors to blame for the failed campaign, including the economic downturn after 9/11 and that the board hadn’t been able to come up with a clear and united purpose for the campaign to offer potential contributors.
“We learned that we did not have a well-defined, compelling “ask” for giving,” Ebbertt said. “Our purpose and mission was hard to understand and even contradictory in many regards, and we did not have clearly identified capital needs.”