News & Announcements

Chautauqua Foundation Announces Conclusion of Successful $103.5 Million Promise Campaign

The Chautauqua Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Chautauqua Institution, proudly announces having received gifts and commitments of $103.5 million during the course of its six-year Promise Campaign, exceeding the original goal by more than $5 million.

Concluded Dec. 31, 2016, the Promise Campaign commenced in 2011 with a series of objectives intended to implement Chautauqua Institution’s 2010–18 strategic plan. That strategic plan calls for an increase in the number of patrons to Chautauqua’s programs and improvements to the Chautauqua experience, especially in ways that would maintain affordability, provide access to new visitors, preserve its intergenerational culture, include new and divergent voices, and protect its historic and natural environments.

Built on the values of civility, inclusivity, sustainability, innovation and engagement, the Promise Campaign focused on four key areas: the endowing of leadership positions ($2 million raised); investments in the grounds and facilities ($7.9 million raised); enhancements to the Chautauqua experience ($59.8 million raised), including the reconstruction of the Amphitheater, the primary venue for the Institution’s educational and artistic programs, entertainment and worship; and growth of unspecified endowment and the annual fund ($33.8 million raised).

This single-largest campaign in the Foundation’s 80-year history garnered the support of nearly 7,000 donors during a six-year span. Individual gifts ranged from $1 to $15 million.

“I am deeply grateful to everyone who contributed to the Promise Campaign and generously made gifts to these initiatives that will position the Institution for a bright future. Our improved facilities and programs will enhance the experience of over 100,000 patrons visiting the grounds this summer alone,” said Cathy Bonner of Austin, Texas, Chautauqua Foundation Board Chair. “With the unprecedented support of the community and Chautauqua’s partners, we have much to be thankful for. I would also like to thank the co-chairs of the Promise Campaign, Steve Percy and George Snyder, as well as the dozens of volunteers who advocated on behalf of the Promise Campaign and its values.”

“The Institution is stronger than ever before in its ability to produce high-quality programming in a welcoming environment,” said Chautauqua Institution Board Chairman James Pardo, of Atlanta. “In addition to expressing our profound gratitude to Chautauqua’s generous donors who make this work possible, the conclusion of the Promise Campaign also marked the end of Tom Becker’s tenure as president. I wish to personally thank Tom, along with his wife, Jane Cleaver Becker, for their 32 years of service to Chautauqua.”

While celebrating the successful conclusion of the Promise Campaign and the remarkable generosity of those who made these accomplishments possible, much work remains ahead for the Institution and its partners.

“We look forward to the opening of a new Amphitheater as we welcome Michael E. Hill as the 18th president of this institution,” Pardo said. “Michael is an experienced leader of arts, cultural and social service organizations with extensive experience in fundraising, programming, marketing and communications. The Promise Campaign and Tom Becker’s legacy have positioned this organization well to deliver on its mission, with the groundwork having been laid for future innovations while we remain ever devoted to the pursuit of lifelong learning, interfaith dialogue, recreation and the advancement of the arts.”

“There are people who come from all corners of the world, with different backgrounds, to create the lively and respectful atmosphere for discovery found at Chautauqua,” Bonner said. “Sharing a reverence for place and practicing civility as we engage in respectful dialogue, I’m proud of what this community and Chautauqua’s patrons have been able to achieve as part of Chautauqua’s Promise.”



Statements of Campaign Impact

Endowing Staff and Faculty Chairs

Three pivotal positions have been endowed, ensuring the continuity of excellence and innovation among Chautauqua’s leadership, and thus alleviating the burden on the annual operating budget to fund the future sustainability of these programs. In the Promise Campaign, the following positions were endowed with contributions totaling $2 million: the Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education held by Sherra Babcock; the Susan and Jack Turben Director of the VACI Galleries held by Judy Barie; and the McCredie Family Director of Boys’ and Girls’ Club held by Greg Prechtl.


Environmental Investments and Improvements to Public Spaces

The support of individual donors combined with funding from the State of New York have enabled key environmental investments in the health of Chautauqua Lake. The Institution has followed best practices to develop both stormwater management and tree canopy maintenance plans. From installing rain gardens to removing invasive species and inoculating trees against disease, the initiatives funded in the Promise Campaign are part of a long-range effort to safeguard the health of this beautiful space and the lake.

Also funded during the course of the Promise Campaign was the acquisition of the 1875 Lewis Miller Cottage — home of Chautauqua Institution’s co-founder and the only structure specifically designated as a National Historic Landmark on the grounds. With an endowment now established for its preservation, the Institution will work diligently to ensure the Miller Cottage continues to stand as a tangible connection to Chautauqua’s founding and as a tribute to the many prominent Americans who passed through its doors and gardens, including Thomas Edison (son-in-law of Lewis Miller) and President Ulysses Grant.

Caring for the lake, shoreline and other natural areas on Chautauqua’s grounds while maintaining 100 public buildings is critical. In the Promise Campaign, over $2.2 million was raised for endowment for public spaces; $4.6 million for environmental initiatives and $876,000 for facility improvements.


The Amphitheater

One of the most significant projects in the Institution’s 143-year history — and a momentous commitment to its future — is the Amphitheater project. Funding for the Amphitheater makes up 38 percent of the overall funds raised in the Promise Campaign, with $39.8 million committed as part of the overall $41.5 million in total philanthropy raised for the project. The facility will open in June 2017, serving the robust and nationally important mission of this community for the next 100 years. In addition to generous capital gifts to this project, the Foundation continues to raise endowment for the Amphitheater’s future care and maintenance, ensuring this will be a safe, functional and welcoming home for speakers and performers, audiences and generations of Chautauquans to come.


Program Enhancement and Innovation

Innovative program initiatives receiving investments in excess of $14.6 million include inter-arts collaborations across Chautauqua’s many artistic disciplines, the funding of a leadership clergy program and endowed chaplaincies through Chautauqua’s Department of Religion, the establishment of a literary prize, and the commissioning of new musical and literary works. The morning lecture series benefits from the extraordinary quality of our guest speakers who challenge our understanding of a variety of topics, with the afternoon Interfaith Lecture Series stretching one’s thinking across the nine-week season to include ethics and our place in community with one another.

A welcoming guest house for Chautauqua’s program presenters, Hagen-Wensley House, was funded and completed during the course of the Promise Campaign, with a $2.9 million investment made. This further advanced the Institution’s ability to attract and retain world-class lecturers and thought leaders.

Additionally, over $2.3 million has been contributed to the endowment for scholarships. Chautauqua Institution’s Schools of Fine & Performing Arts annually welcome 300 students from more than 40 states and several foreign countries who contribute tremendously to Chautauqua’s artistic offerings and diversity. Approximately 80 percent of these talented young artists receive scholarships to attend Chautauqua’s intensive summer programs across the areas of dance, visual arts, voice, theater, orchestra and piano.


Underpinning Annual Operations

The annual Chautauqua Fund plays a critical role in the operation of the Institution, year in and year out. The Chautauqua Fund annually makes up a critical difference between gate revenues and the total cost of the Chautauqua’s annual programs and operations. Over the life of the Promise Campaign, the Chautauqua Fund received $22 million in contributions, accounting for more than 20 percent of the overall funds raised in this six-year time period. This supported over 18,000 events as well as scholarships for over 1,500 students in the same time period.

Unspecified endowment resources can be applied to any area of Chautauqua’s diverse offerings. Approximately $11.8 million was raised by the community throughout the Promise Campaign to help underwrite these programs in perpetuity.


Focusing Locally

The Institution has been actively expanding its programming outside of its nine-week season and beyond its gates. The first focus of this expanded outreach has been to serve as an arts education resource for area schools, working in partnership with the schools to provide an arts-integrated professional development program for local teachers as a Kennedy Center Partners in Education team. A series of projects have been offered in recent years including a drumming residency, field trips for area youth to visit the Institution’s visual arts galleries, and the Young Playwrights Project. In a continuing partnership with teaching artists from Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, the Young Playwrights Project now serves every third- and fourth-grade student in Chautauqua Lake, Ripley, Fletcher (Jamestown) and Panama Elementary Schools, working both in the classroom as well as inviting students to hear their original plays read at the Institution.

“Battle of the Books” is a new pilot program being offered by the Institution to fifth-graders in Chautauqua County. Celebrating a love of reading, it is a lively academic competition that improves reading comprehension, builds vocabulary and teaches both teamwork and sportsmanship.

As a member of the Chautauqua County community, the Institution deeply values its partners in this region and a shared commitment to improving the quality of life for all residents. As such, and thanks to philanthropic support, the grounds and programs remain free to the public on Sundays. Every day is free for children ages 12 and under. Weekly, there are free or discounted Family Entertainment Series performances, as well as discounted Community Appreciation Nights. And, for the third year, every Wednesday is “Education Day at Chautauqua,” offering free gate passes to current K–12 students, teachers and staff from Chautauqua County schools.

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