County supervisors have laid down the terms of their last offer to help save the struggling Loudoun Museum, and those terms came with a surprise.
The museum will have to go through a major restructuring, putting new requirements on donating and attendance for trustees, creating a Program Advisory Board for people who want to help but can’t give money, and hiring an executive director to help the museum set up a sustainable fundraising model. The Museum must meet quarterly milestones to receive $156,000 in total county funding.
But as supervisors debated the terms of the funding package from the dais, they made an on-the-fly change: A staff-recommended requirement for trustees to raise or donate $2,000 each year was raised to $3,000.
Loudoun Museum board president Elizabeth Whiting wonders whether the board can shoulder the burden. She has said the Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting this week to discuss the terms of the MOA before a final vote August 10.
“We had blessed the county staff draft, and this obviously is a material change in what the board had considered,” Whiting said.
The $3,000 commitment, she said, is three times what the museum currently asks of its board members. She said that may make the process of turning over the board and recruiting new members more difficult.
“I think there’s a problem between expecting turnover and prematurely emptying the board when there are still things to be done,” Whiting said. “You need a governing board while the new board members are recruited.”
The $3,000 requirement is a stumbling block for the museum’s board entering the agreement.
“They’re enthusiastic about the concept,” Whiting said. “Our concern going into this is nobody wants to sign an agreement that we don’t think we have a shot at performing in good faith.”
And without the county money, the museum has said it will have to start shutting down.
“I think I read somewhere recently that there are 30,000 new nonprofits formed every year,” Whiting said. “Inevitably, there are going to be failures. I think the fact that we have been in existence since 1967, with tremendous public support traditionally, didn’t set us up to understand that we might become one of them.”
Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin), who serves on both the Loudoun Museum Board of Trustees and the county Board of Supervisors, opposed the hike.
“It kind of boggles my mind that we’ve had as much difficulty in sort of working through these things, when every time there’s a delegation from outside the county, the first place we take them is to the Loudoun Museum so they can learn about Loudoun County.
“Our goal is securing the long term protection of the collection, and I that’s where, in some ways, I think the two bodies talked past each other,” Whiting said. “But again, that’s what we’re chartered to do, is to protect this collection for eternity.”