Fundraising for new museum to begin in January

With Gov. Bill Haslam leading the way, officials say an effort to raise $42 million for construction of a new $160 million Tennessee State Museum will begin in January — somewhat later than originally suggested.

Haslam will act as chairman of the fundraising drive and is striving to recruit “co-chairs” to assist in the endeavor, according to Mark Cate, who serves as project director for building a state museum, and Jennifer Donnals, the governor’s press secretary.

The governor, perhaps in conjunction with other members of Haslam family, is widely expected to make a significant contribution to the fundraising effort himself. The fundraising campaign launch will be outlined at a Jan. 11 Tennessee State Museum Commission meeting, officials indicated.

A separate non-profit organization, the Tennessee State Museum Foundation, is in charge of the actual fundraising operation. It has contracted with Cate, who previously served as Haslam’s chief of staff and now is a partner in a consulting firm known as Stones River Group, to serve as project coordinator. The lead fundraisers are Emily Reynolds, who has previously worked for the U.S. Senate and TVA, and Kim Kaegi, who has raised millions in political donations to Tennessee Republican politicians, including Haslam.

At Haslam’s urging, the Legislature in April approved $120 million in state funding for a museum with the expectation of $40 million being raised from private sources to cover the projected cost of $160 million.

In a July meeting, officials said about $1.75 million will be needed to cover fundraising costs and administrative expenses for a total of almost $42 million in private donations required. At that meeting, Cate and others suggested fundraising could begin in November or December, but the launch has been pushed back as arrangements were completed — including an architect’s model of the new building.

“Most of the time so far has been spent working with the architect/exhibit design firms on the concept so that we can produce appropriate collateral material for fundraising” Cate said in an email. “We’ve also spent time researching fundraising efforts across the state to gain insight into potential prospects — individuals, corporations and foundations. And of course we’ve been putting the data processing infrastructure in place as well.”

At the Jan. 11 commission meeting — held a day before the Legislature begins its 2016 session — officials are also expected to outline a plan for selecting a new executive director of the museum to succeed Lois Riggins-Ezell, who has held the position since 1981.