It’s sink or swim time for the Museum of the Marine.
“If we don’t get a large influx of cash in the next year, the museum project will probably not get built,” museum board member Bob Songer said during a presentation to the Jacksonville Tourism Development Authority on Thursday.
Songer, a retired Marine colonel, asked for and received $60,000 from the tourism authority to hire a professional fundraising company to target wealthy individuals.
The museum board, which received nonprofit status in 1999, has been recently courting corporate sponsors, but members say they now realize most significant donations to nonprofit organizations come from people not corporations. The museum board also recognized that small donations were never going to get the project built.
“This is a $28-million museum. We’ve raised $8 million, which leaves us $20 million short,” Songer said. “It’s not going to get built off of $10, $20 or even $10,000 donations. That’s just a bridge too far.”
He said the museum board appreciates every penny, but what is needed are donations of $1 million and $10 million.
The museum board will take the $60,000 from city tourism — $30,000 now and $30,000 in next year’s fiscal budget, which starts in July — combine it with funds it will be seeking from Onslow County Tourism next week and hire a fundraising company. That company, Atlanta-based Alexander-Haas, which has raised more than $1 billion for more than 1,000 organizations, will target potential large donors for the museum.
Dave Brown, the museum board’s executive director, said that Phase I of the museum, a park and memorial symbols, will be built soon. Brown, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, said the $8 million already raised is tied up in that portion of the project.
The museum board also has overhead that includes salaries and office space, according to tax returns.
If more money isn’t raised, the museum “will be dead in the water after Phase I is built,” Songer told the members of the city tourism authority.
The Museum of the Marine is a planned 40,000 square-foot building to be located in the Lejeune Memorial Gardens outside Camp Johnson in downtown Jacksonville. The museum will allow visitors to experience training, foreign cultures and battlefield conditions as Marines would in a simulated setting or through virtual reality programs.
The museum board decided to build the museum in phases with each new phase entirely dependent on fundraising.
The first phase, for which planning is 100 percent complete, is the creation of a symbolic park on the large open area in front of the future building. The park’s focal point will be an 11-foot bronze sculpture of an eagle, globe and anchor crafted by wildlife artist David Turner.
Parking lots and permanent walkways — bordered by more than 4,000 special donor bricks — will be constructed in phase one, according to information from the museum board.
Songer said the museum is too important to the future of Jacksonville to let go. He said 500,000 people each year visit a similar museum for the Army in Fayetteville and more than a 1 million people annually visit the Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium.
The Museum of the Marine would mean those kinds of numbers to Jacksonville tourism once it is built, he said.
He told the tourism authority that if they didn’t raise significant funds within a year, the project was hopeless.
Jacksonville Mayor Pro Tem Mike Lazzara said the importance of a fully functional museum couldn’t be overstated.
He said the museum board had good momentum when it began its funding journey, but several adverse things have happened, including the national economic downturn, a string of deployments and attention shifting to the national Marine museum in Quantico, Va.