The Trustees of the Jamestown Philomenian Library

As part of the on-going library building renovation project, the Library Board of Trustees hired ESC of New England to complete a feasibility study.  Below is a summary of that study as well as the questions asked of the participants.  If you have any questions, please email:

Jamestown Philomenian Library

Capital Campaign Feasibility Study Report

August 2017

 Prepared by Bonnie R. Clendenning, Lead Consultant, ESC


Purpose and Methodology


ESC of New England was engaged to study whether the organization is prepared to undertake and complete successfully over time a capital campaign for physical plant improvement.  The proposed campaign would be in addition to a modest annual  "Friends" giving program and funds raised would be held by a newly formed independent foundation.


The study included an assessment of the library's internal operations and ability to support the work of a campaign, although the actual execution of a campaign may be conducted by those affiliated with the new foundation.  The ESC consultant did not have the opportunity to interview either the board members of the Jamestown Philomenian Library or the board members of the new library foundation and cannot form an opinion about either board's readiness to undertake a campaign.  Observations are primarily recommendations drawn from best practices.


The consultant met frequently with a small planning committee headed by two members of the Library board and conducted interviews with selected community members.    Of the 21 individuals who were sent materials for the feasibility study, five did not respond to the invitation to participate and one declined to be interviewed.  The consultant conducted 15 telephone interviews over three weeks.   The lists of questions and participants are included in the appendix.


The findings reported come from a relatively small sample pool of permanent and occasional residents and cannot be said to represent the opinions of all islanders.   Nevertheless it is hoped that the feedback will prove helpful to the planning committee.


Summary of Findings


Participants, whether they used the library frequently or infrequently, expressed great respect and affection for the current library and its staff.   Because their needs for the most part are met by the current library, most interviewees were unaware of the need for improvements beyond related issues like parking and community meeting spaces.   Although individuals have been working on a library campaign for some years, and a city-wide survey was sent out in March 2016, challenges such as infrastructure repairs, inadequate professional working space, and oversubscribed children's activities were not foremost in the interviewees' minds.


Most interviewees worried about how to meet the costs of the project in its current iteration. Few were aware of how to access state funding.  They believed the prospects with the greatest ability to make transformative gifts are those for whom Jamestown is not their primary address; their connections to the library, if any, are tangential.   When asked about their potential personal contributions to the proposed campaign, the total amount from study participants was c. $100K, not including a campaign gift that has already been received. 


As a result of these findings the consultant recommends that the library foundation engage a development professional to create a significant outreach/ public relations program to improve greatly island-wide understanding about the benefits of a substantial new investment in the library.   The development professional will support the dedicated volunteers in creating the infrastructure that supports fundraising, including the identification and cultivation of campaign volunteers and donors and the stewardship of gifts received.   Major fundraising efforts should be put on hold until  

  • the constituents are better educated and therefore more enthusiastic about the need for library improvements and how they will improve the residents' lives
  • the project plan is reexamined with continued input from the community and from town administrators  - particularly the use of library space for non-library purposes- and a fuller explanation of the urgency of infrastructure repairs/replacement
  • the perceived controversy between the library board and the town administration is resolved


   Appendix A: Questionnaire for Feasibility Study


1. How would you describe The Jamestown Philomenian Library in terms of its profile in the community?


2. What are the library's strengths that will assist them in undertaking a capital campaign?


3. What factors might hinder a fundraising campaign at the present time?


4.  Does the Project Description for this proposed campaign describe the library's needs in a compelling manner?  Why or why not?


5. Can you suggest anyone who because of their community stature, leadership and organizational skills could help with this project?


6. Can you think of organizations or individuals who might be in a position to contribute a lead gift over a period of three to five years? 


7. Without making a commitment, is this a project for which you could see yourself as a volunteer? How?  For example, could you visit potential donors or provide introductions to them?


8. Is this a campaign you would be willing to support financially?

IF NO, Why not?

IF YES, to predict more accurately the amount that the library might be able to raise in this campaign I am asking you to take a moment to consider your level of support.  Without committing yourself, is there a campaign gift level that would reflect the amount of support you would consider over three to five years?


9. The project budget is around $5M but the campaign for private philanthropy will be around $2.5M.  Do you think it will be possible for the library to raise $2.5M in private philanthropy for its physical plant campaign? Why or why not?


10. What should the Library board and staff do to help ensure a successful campaign?


11.  Are there any points we did not cover that you feel it is important for the campaign study group to consider at this time?