New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Capital Campaign Tops $6 Million

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Over $6 million has been pledged to the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s capital campaign since 2011, the Trustees report. Leading the campaign are two $1 million donations and two $500,000 matching challenge grants.

“Trustees are elated by the generosity of the many donors supporting this campaign - especially during such difficult economic times,” said John N. Garfield, Jr. Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “Because of their outstanding generosity, we are free of debt, we have grown the endowment to $7.6 million (up from a low of $3.5 million in 2008) and have invested significantly in educational programs. This philanthropy comes on top of donations to operations which account for an additional $2 million annually.”

The Whaling Museum embarked upon the capital campaign in 2011 with a goal of raising $10M for the purposes of eliminating $2 million of debt, building the endowment, and constructing a new Educational Center and Research Library on its Johnny Cake Hill campus.  Co-Chairs of the capital campaign are George B. Mock III, President of Nye Lubricants and resident of Mattapoisett, and Donald S. Rice of New York City and Mattapoisett.

“The immediate objective to erase all debt is complete and we will celebrate this accomplishment with a symbolic “Burn the Bond” ceremony at the Annual Members’ Meeting in May.  The endowment enjoyed an unexpected yet marvelous boost with an anonymous $1 million gift followed by a $500,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2011,” states Mock.  “Now we are well positioned, programmatically, organizationally and fiscally, to take on the long sought-after goal of centralizing all museum operations on one campus through the construction of an educational wing.

For over a decade, Trustees recognized the need for constructing a facility dedicated to education and scholarship on its Johnny Cake Hill campus. Programs have long since grown beyond available capacity and there is an urgent need for dedicated classroom space.  Moreover, collections, staff and volunteers are divided between two campuses (the latter located in a converted bank 4 blocks away on Purchase Street).  Bolstering the case is an 8% increase in attendance in 2012 over 2011, to 93,000 visitors.  School visitation accounted for 12,000 visits in 2012.  Additionally with the new space, the Museum estimates that it can increase the quantity and quality of current free and discounted education programs and services offered to the community (estimated at over $250,000 annually).

Boosted by a $1 million leadership gift from the New York Community Trust – Wattles Family Charitable Trust Fund, the project is off to a strong start.  Other major gifts followed shortly thereafter, including a $500,000 matching challenge from The Manton Foundation. The Whaling Museum is half way or $2.5 million into a $5 million construction goal. “We hope to secure the rest of the funds over the next year and break ground in 2014,” said Rice.

This good news for the Whaling Museum comes when philanthropy nationally has been making a slow comeback. Between 2010 and 2011, charitable giving to arts and cultural organizations grew by 4.1%, although charitable giving as a whole has not yet returned to its pre-recession rate in 2007 (sources: Giving USA and Reuters). Philanthropy to the Whaling Museum has grown by an astounding 24% since before the recession.

“Major donors are expressing a sense of confidence in the Whaling Museum and its educational mission,” said Garfield. “The Trustees have focused attention on educational initiatives and how we can best serve our community. A central component to fulfilling this mission is building an efficient and well equipped 21st century classroom and research facility on our Johnny Cake Hill campus.  “We are very optimistic about the future” continues Garfield, “for over its 110 year history, dedicated and far-sighted members have consistently stepped forward to help advance the Museum’s mission and as a consequence, the entire region has benefited from their generosity.”

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of whales, whaling and the cultural history of the region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Hours of operation, October through April: Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; open 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on holiday Mondays. May through September: open daily 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For a complete calendar of events:

For more information, contact:
Alison M. Smart
Senior Director of Development
(508) 997-0046, ext. 115