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Slavery museum donations drop
Slavery museum's fundraising dips by more than half despite Warner Theatre gala and appeal from Cosby

 Despite support from entertainer Ben Vereen and others, the Slavery Museum's fundraising fell drastically last year.
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Date published: 12/1/2007

By PAMELA GOULD

Despite a formal gala at the Warner Theatre and an online appeal from entertainer Bill Cosby, fundraising for the U.S. National Slavery Museum fell nearly 60 percent last year, the nonprofit's most recent tax return shows.

In addition, the museum posted a deficit for 2006, according to the report obtained this week by The Free Lance-Star.

The 2006 tax return shows the museum received $383,582 in direct contributions from the public last year. In 2005, the museum reported donations of $938,186.

The 2006 figure would have included any money raised from the June 2006 gala in Washington that featured entertainers Ben Vereen and Cosby.

Cosby serves on the museum's board. Last fall, he also asked Americans each to contribute $8, a figure chosen to symbolize the shackles that bound slaves.

Museum spokesman Matt Langan cited multiple factors for the drop in fundraising, including a looming recession and competition from larger nonprofit organizations.

"We are confident of our efforts and everyone at the museum is working very hard to continue the fundraising efforts," he said.

The tax return, which is a public document because of the proposed museum's nonprofit status, shows expenses in 2006 exceeded revenue by $158,978.

The biggest expense--$368,549--was for "program services," a broad-ranging category that includes everything from a news-clipping service to Web site development, marketing, consulting fees and the cost of programs.

Net assets are listed as nearly $17.6 million. That figure primarily reflects the value of the land on which the museum is to be built.

The Silver Cos. donated 38 acres within its Celebrate Virginia complex in Fredericksburg for the museum. The structure is designed as a 290,000-square-foot facility with a full-size replica slave ship as its centerpiece.

Last month, Kalahari Resorts announced plans to build a $200 million Africa-themed water park and hotel near the museum site. Kalahari President Todd Nelson said the park would "fit in perfectly" with the Slavery Museum.

Langan said the Kalahari Resorts project is good news for the museum.

"We are actually really excited to be next to them and affiliated with them," he said. "We certainly think we can share the [visitors] that come by."


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