The Children’s Museum of the East End is in “cash crisis” according to board treasure Adeline Neubert.
“We have been doing quite well living hand to mouth, but now that the sales are down for the summer event,” said Neubert, “it’s definitely a serious cash crisis. We’re still paying off a $3.8 million mortgage.”
Neubert said CMEE’s goal is to raise $500,000 by the end of summer. If that goal is not met, at best CMEE could be looking at having to downsize and at worst, closing their doors altogether.
Neubert said the museum normally counts on the “CMEE Under the Stars” annual benefit to get them through the summer and well into the fall. The event usually raises $300,000 on average and last year, the benefit sold roughly 400 tickets. This year, only 170 tickets were sold prior to the event. The benefit was originally to be held Friday, July 11 under a tent at Ludlow Farm in Sagaponack. Instead, the decision was made to hold the event on the museum’s grounds on the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike.
“As we were planning the event it became evident to us that we needed to downsize it,” said CMEE’s new executive director Steve Long. “We are certainly struggling. We thought instead of spending all kinds of money to put on a huge party, we wanted to be fiscally responsible and maximize the number of dollars going to support the museum.”
Long said though the economic crunch is evident, he did not want to characterize this as a “make or break fundraiser.” He said it was not like the museum would be closing their doors on Saturday if they didn’t raise $500,000 on Friday.
Long said the museum was pulling out all of the stops to try and focus on fundraising and to keep the worst from happening. He said they are looking at new opportunities for earned income, additional grant writing and reaching out to new donors Neubert said the latter, reaching out to donors, is critical.
“There is a misperception that our donors are all wealthy New Yorkers,” she said. “In fact, we have a very dedicated but small group of supporters and donors and the base at large is quite small.”
She said the focus now is to reach out to new donors who hopefully see the importance of CMEE as a local, educational and cultural resource.
Long said, “There is a real need for a hub for children and we want to be that hub, that cultural crossroads where people of different kinds of backgrounds come and learn together,” said Long. “And if we’re not doing it, then who is going to?”
“We’re the only museum out here that puts the needs of children first. That’s what makes the institution so special,” he continued. “A lot of museums around the area and the country put their collections first and for us it’s not about the collection, it’s about the kids.”
Long said in his short tenure as director, only about two and half weeks, he feels one of the community’s concerns is that the museum does not provide enough educational opportunities for older children.
“We’re interested in hearing from the community how we can serve the needs of as many children as possible,” he said. “That’s our mission.”
Above: Dancers at CMME Under the Stars fundraiser on Friday July, 11. Photo by Mike Heller.