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Slavery museum spending outpaces contributions
Slavery museum spent more than it raised last year

 An architectural model of the planned slavery museum along the Rappahannock River and I-95.
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 7/10/2005


The U.S. National Slavery Museum received nearly $98,000 in contributions last year and spent nearly five times that amount, according to the organization's latest tax return.

Total revenue for calendar year 2004 was $116,265--$97,674 coming from "direct public support" and $18,591 from interest on savings and investments, the return shows.

Total expenses were $473,254, including $85,000 compensation paid to Executive Director Vonita W. Foster. Of the $85,000, 15 percent, or $12,750, was listed as being for fundraising, according to the return. The remainder was split between "program services," $17,000; and "management and general," $55,250.

Complete information about how the remainder of the money was spent was not provided by museum officials, although it may have been listed in attachments to the return.

The slavery museum's tax returns are subject to public disclosure under federal regulations because the museum is a tax-exempt organization. The Free Lance-Star requested a copy of the return and received it after initial denials.

The museum listed net assets at year's end of $17,373,616. The majority of that--$15,762,145--is the value of its land, which was donated by The Silver Cos. in 2002.

At the beginning of 2004, the museum had cash assets of $1,962,270. At year's end, those assets had dropped to $1,596,816.

In 2002, when museum officials were applying for a state grant of $1 million, they laid out a fundraising plan that appears in state records.

That document shows that the museum sought to have pledges of $20 million by the end of 2002 and another $75 million in pledges by the end of 2003--for a cumulative total of $95 million.

If achieved, that would have put the museum within $5 million of what one museum board member said is its estimated cost--about $100 million.

In 2003, the plan was to obtain donation pledges of $20 million from corporations, $20 million from foundations, and $35 million from individuals, according to a draft budget submitted as part of the grant application.

The document mentions the expectation that some major donors will contribute the cost of part of the facility, such as the library or auditorium.

"These successes will happen, but they should not turn our focus away from the steady accumulation of one $1 million gift after another from America's corporations, foundations, wealthy Afro-American individuals and families, and from a representative cross-section of all Americans," according to the document.

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