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Levine Museum Exceeds Fund Goal, Receives 10-Year Challenge Grant


April 26, 2011 — Less than halfway into its 20th anniversary year, Levine Museum of the New South announced today it has exceeded its anniversary fundraising goal and received a 10-year challenge grant from The Leon Levine Foundation to help build the sustainable financial support needed to survive and thrive in any economic environment.

In addition, to commemorate the anniversary, the museum is hosting a free community celebration on Sunday, May 1, when visitors will be invited to tour the newly updated and expanded Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers exhibit.

"Creating innovative exhibits with the community and sparking dialogue on our region's most important issues have been inspiring and rewarding. As we celebrate, we're also looking to the future and want to make certain we're ready for the next two decades with a solid financial foundation," said Emily Zimmern, president of Levine Museum of the New South.

Since fall 2010, the museum has raised more than $635,000, including a $150,000 matching grant from The Leon Levine Foundation. The money raised, nearly double the $350,000 goal established for the museum's 20th anniversary year, will fund programming next fiscal year and begin to build reserves for the future.

To help assure ongoing financial support regardless of economic conditions, The Leon Levine Foundation went a step further with an innovative challenge grant, which begins June 30, 2012 and could total $3 million over a 10-year period, provided the museum raises a baseline level of funding from other sources in the community each year.

  • The challenge grant will help the museum meet the capital and operating costs associated with owning its own facility and bolster an endowment to cover future building costs, which frees other support to underwrite the museum's award-winning programming.
  • Under the two-tier annual grant, the museum would receive $100,000 a year if it reaches its current level of operational funding.
  • In addition, unrestricted funding raised above the current baseline would be matched dollar for dollar, up to $200,000 per year.
  • If the museum meets both challenges in a year, $200,000 would be allocated to grow its endowment to withstand future economic downturns, with remaining foundation and community funds allocated to museum operations and reserves.

"All told, the $300,000 per year in challenge gifts - with the potential for up to $3 million over the next 10 years - will help assure a financially healthy museum poised for even greater future success," said Jamie McLawhorn, chairman of the museum's board of directors. "It's no secret that nonprofit organizations have faced financial stress during the difficult economy of the last three years. We are extremely grateful that our generous founding supporters, Leon and Sandra Levine, have stepped up again to challenge us in a very responsible way to build a sustainable organization. Now it's up to us, with the support of the entire community, to meet the challenge."

Sandra Levine, a founding museum board member, added, "Leon and I are delighted to give this very special museum a foundation that will allow it to both continue to help us look back and learn from the past, and look forward to serve and engage our community for many future anniversaries."

Like all nonprofits, Levine Museum of the New South has had to adapt to the financial stresses of the past three years. The museum reduced its staff by a third and cut all but essential expenses. Despite these financial and staffing constraints, the museum has continued to present cutting-edge programs and garner national attention. In 2010 its Changing Places exhibit received the museum's second Excellence in Exhibition Award from the American Association of Museums. The current exhibit on display, COURAGE: The Carolina Story That Changed America, received the same top prize in 2006.

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