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May 28, 2014

Military museum tries crowdfunding to recover from winter expenses

By Kevin Bunch
C & G Staff Writer

EASTPOINTE — The unusually harsh winter hit the Michigan Military and Technical Society Museum’s financial safety net hard, and the society is hoping that help from the general public can rebuild its coffers.

Society President Chris Causley said attendance was down in the winter and that the museum was hit with larger-than-expected snowplowing and heating bills, as well as some issues with its boiler. And as the state has made changes to charity poker laws that make it harder for the museum to raise money that way, he said that recovering was going to be tricky.

“I wouldn’t say we’re on the verge of bankruptcy, but it definitely wiped out most of the financial safety net we had built, so we’re kind of operating on a month-to-month basis at this point,” Causley said.

The museum already was considering doing crowdfunding — seeking donations from a large number of people, particularly online — to fund specific summer programs, but Causley said that they decided they would do a general funding drive for the museum’s savings account to try and rebuild it.

The amount the society is seeking is $7,200 — roughly the museum’s operating costs for the summer months last year — and Causley said the idea is that the money would be used to fund its bills, while the incoming money from admission fees and events would go directly into the bank account to rebuild it.

The crowdfunding drive is being done through the website Go fundme, and the direct link to it is www.gofundme.com/98ixwo.

The idea came from Councilwoman Wendy Richardson’s day job with the Small Business Administration, where she said some of her clients had found success with crowdfunding online. Richardson helps with the museum’s accounting.

“We’re just kind of playing with the technology and what sort of things we can do with it,” she said.

Richardson said the value of crowdfunding is how even small amounts of money can add up.

“Sometimes, people feel like they have to give a big amount to make a difference,” Richardson said. “With sites like these, you can donate as little as $5, and when all those donations are put together, they make a difference.”

She said the museum is not limiting its fundraising to the crowdfunding site and added that the society has other fundraisers in the works, as well. This particular drive is not a make-or-break effort for them, but it could help a lot.

Causley said that if the museum fails to reach its goal, the museum likely would need to find places to cut expenses, which could include museum programs and delay the building out of exhibit space inside the museum.

There is no particular timetable for when the crowdfunding drive ends, though Causley said he figured this one would run through the summer before being shut down.

“With crowdfunding, the more people that know, the more successful it can be,” he said. “Even if people can’t contribute or don’t want to, if they tell others about it, we can hopefully bring money into the museum and keep things going.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kevin Bunch at kbunch@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.