The importance of early donations

September 14, 2009

In a capital campaign, the early stage of fundraising is extremely important.   That’s when you ask potential donors to commit to your project.  If you are successful securing initial gifts and pledges, you can move forward with your project.  If you are not, you obviously need to stop and reassess.

We were very fortunate to receive important commitments over the last year, especially given the tumultuous economic climate.  Having that support allowed us to move into the public phase  of our capital campaign this summer.    I’d like to take a moment to thank the people, companies, and organizations who said “yes” early on.  Those who shared our vision and agreed to help may not know just how important they were.  But they were; they were key to our ability to progress with our plans.

I think the remarks from our city manager, John Wilmet, at our library’s kickoff event were excellent and should be shared to give proper credit to those who believed in our project.  We have been blessed with additional important donations since then.  We’ll list those in future blog posts.  But today I’ll share with you the listing of the first donations we received by way of John Wilmet’s remarks at the Foster Growth capital campaign kickoff:

I have the honor of announcing and presenting the major gifts that have been secured for the capital campaign.  This project is certainly an example of public/private partnership of which we can all be proud.  The city of Fort Atkinson values its library.   We understand that everyone plays a role in its ability to be the best possible library for our community.  After all, it is not up to someone else.  It is our responsibility.  When shared, the dream can become a reality.  We would like to sincerely thank those who responded to our request for donations in the early phase of this capital campaign.  Because you committed to our project early on, we were able to move forward with confidence during a time when the economic climate indicated it might be best not to.  There were many reasons to continue on in our planning not the least of which is that the library facility absolutely needs upgrading and expansion. Additionally, the building climate is competitive and library use is soaring.  We’ve planned the timing on our debt carefully and staying the course with our city’s capital improvement plan provides stability over the course of time which is always important to taxpayers and vital to our financial health.

The lead gift from the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation in the amount of $1.5 million dollars amounts to half of our fundraising goal of $3.0 million.  I think, on behalf of the citizens of Fort Atkinson, it is safe to say that your investment in our library will pay dividends well into the future.   As the city manager, I believe that the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation’s unwavering support of this (and many projects) does make all the difference in the world and really allows this community to thrive.  Thank you.

A gift of $350,000 has also been secured with the donor wishing to remain anonymous.  This gift, an incredible example of generosity, speaks to us all because it makes a difference for our citizens, one by year, year by year.  We are honored and appreciative to be the recipient of such philanthropy.  Deepest thanks for that.

Philip Jones, of Jones Dairy Farm, was unable to be with us today.  He asked that we read the following:

“Both the Jones Dairy Farm and the Jones family have a long tradition of supporting important community projects.  The library expansion and renovation project is probably the best example I can think of in terms of impact. All of our citizens benefit from a library that is healthy and vibrant.  The businesses benefit too because we see the improvement in the lives of our employees as a result of access to the world of information.  Local tourism benefits because it is yet another place for travelers to explore.  Our community benefits because there is a demonstrated return on investment as a result of a library in a community.  The facility, while not the only factor in providing excellent library services, is a key component.

It’s always been important to Jones Dairy Farm to be an active participant in helping our community, fostering growth at opportune times.  Libraries are more important now than ever.  We are proud to be an early donor to the library’s capital campaign.”

We thank Philip Jones, the entire Jones family, and Jones Dairy Farm for their generosity and consistent commitment to Fort Atkinson.  They have secured the naming rights to the adult collections.

A gift of $150,000 from the Fort Community Credit Union allowed the Credit Union to secure naming rights for the community meeting room.  We couldn’t be more grateful to the Credit Union for agreeing to fund the much needed expanded space for our citizens to gather and meet.  With after-hours accessibility, we know this will be enormously beneficial to our citizens.  This generous gift was especially appreciated because it was given in the early stages of our campaign and allowed us to continue planning our design with confidence that we were able to meet our early financial obligations.  The Fort Community Credit Union has demonstrated the spirit behind the word “community” in their name.  Thank you.

I’m delighted to report a gift of $150,000 from PremierBank.  PremierBank has secured the naming rights to what we are calling our premier entrance.  As we’ve just finished another round of design work, I can tell you that we are putting significant thought and effort into the design of our entry and checkout area.  At the moment, the plan calls for the staircase to be placed adjacent to the existing historic bow window in the 1931 section of the building.  Allowing people to walk next to it, see it, and touch it is one way that we are attempting to rediscover the parts of the library that have been covered in over time.  It is one of the reasons this library will be considered even more of an architectural gem at the end of the project.  Thank you to PremierBank for demonstrating that you are interested in helping us be a premier library.  Your commitment to our project is applauded and appreciated.

The Highsmith Family secured the naming rights to the Young Adult Library.  The library has never before had an area dedicated to the young adults in our community.  A space for them is considered very important in a modern-day library and we are proud to be able to allocate space specifically for this age group.  As teens move into adulthood, it is important to respond to their unique needs in an effort to reach them and teach them.  The Highsmith family understands libraries and their responsibilities to their communities.   We are grateful that they have committed to provide such generous financial support which allows us to deliver on this responsibility for the first time in our history.

Finally, we have received the following major donations that I’d like to announce:

The Spacesaver Corporation has committed to making a substantial in-kind donation for shelving.  As the home of the Spacesaver Corporation we are so appreciative that they continue to support our community.  The gift of past mobile shelving as well as fixed shelving units, the generosity of the company has allowed our library to be enormously efficient.  Since efficiencies are important to this project, we couldn’t be more appreciative.  Your corporate citizenship is to be applauded.

Naming rights to two study rooms have been secured.  The Negus family is generously sponsoring one and the Rotary Club of Fort Atkinson the other.  Because one of the areas of need in our community is for small group study rooms we have considered these a high priority in our design.  Allowing tutoring and small group studying to take place in a room that is sized for the group is not only an efficient use of space, it is much more desirable for the people.  Thank you to the Negus family and the Rotary Club for your gifts to help the education of our citizens, helping them to help each other.

We do have a few more naming opportunities available.  I use the word “opportunity” because this is, indeed, an opportunity.  The chance to make a gift to our community through our improved library will not come along again…at least probably not in my lifetime.  Please contact either Connie Meyer or me if you’d like to discuss securing a naming opportunity.

Those mentioned today are surely deserving of thanks from us all.  It is through their willingness to give to others that we are able to move forward in creating a library that will serve our community in the best possible way for many years to come.

I was informed yesterday that we’ve surpassed the $1 million dollars pledged of our $1.5 million campaign. While it might seem that we are home free and don’t need you, I can assure you that we do.  Five hundred thousand dollars is a great deal of money.  We have a lot of work to do to fundraise that many dollars.  Thank you for your help and support.


  1. Don’t know if you’re interested in a blog written from the other side of the fence, as it were. http://www.bookorbit.blogspot.com/. By a publisher writing about how we need to develop ebooks better. Might be of interest to your readership

    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks for sending your link. Your blog is full of thought-provoking ideas and I’ll be sure to read more there. Interestingly enough, just shortly after reading your comment earlier today I was told that our library’s Kindle is ready for me to take home and try. (We received a donation from a local nursing home not too long ago which allowed us to purchase the e-book and load it with some books.) It’ll be interesting for me to see how it feels to read a book on it! Once staff feels comfortable with its use, we’ll let it circulate…

      Best regards,
      Connie Meyer

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