Conference Proceeding: Collecting to Fundraise; Fundraising to Collect – Tales from the Price Library of Judaica NEH Challenge Grant

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge Grant is a set amount of funding awarded to an institution to assist with its long-term planning and development and to grow its support base. The funding is split over several years and released only upon receipt of matching funds raised. In December 2014, the Price Library of Judaica at the University of Florida (UF) won the maximum NEH Challenge Grant award of $500,000 spread over four years to build a $2 million endowment. Once established, the endowment will fund in perpetuity the collection, preservation and provision of access to Jewish materials from Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean. But after receiving the award, the Price Library faced a second, unanticipated challenge: the distinctive, collaborative and cross-disciplinary idea that held great appeal for the NEH granting body proved to be less compelling to the library’s potential donor base whose major philanthropic giving was directed more towards projects concerned with Israel and Holocaust education. Thus, the library decided to turn the project on its head and collect to fundraise rather than fundraising to collect. In other words, the library would direct its energies towards proving the concept first by purchasing relevant and engaging materials, developing dynamic digital partnerships, establishing a new oral history series, and creating unique public outreach programs to generate wider interest and support. This TED talk will take you on a whirlwind tour of the first eighteen months of this unusual campaign, with its highs and lows and tales of the truly unexpected.