An update from Montreat Conference Center’s president Richard DuBose
Greetings! With summer around the corner in Montreat and the 2016-2017 fiscal year beginning, I want to provide you a progress report on the Montreat Conference Center and express gratitude to all who have made the successes of this past year possible. In addition, I want to update you on the status of the Building on the Tradition campaign, whose goal is now in sight.
Vital Signs Grow Stronger: While way too early to report audited figures, the Montreat Conference Center closed a solid 2015-2016 fiscal year on April 30, thanks to better-than-budget performances in program and hospitality as well as overall cost control. Expanded programming and marketing efforts led to a significant increase in the Assembly Inn’s occupancy rate, continuing a trend that began with the renovation of Assembly Inn. Conference registrations and bookings for the coming year promise continued growth. Most importantly, surveys of conferees and guests report strong satisfaction in our programs and hospitality, and we are consequently experiencing increases in repeat visits and retention. We will provide more numbers and details in our Annual Report this summer.
The MRA board approved a $7.2 million budget for 2016-17 (a four percent increase over 2015-16) at its March meeting. This figure represents both opportunities and realities that loom ahead, including projections for increased attendance, staffing additions to accommodate continued growth, and budgeting for more maintenance of our buildings and grounds.
Building on the Tradition Campaign Nears Goal: Thanks to the support of so many, the Building on the Tradition campaign has fueled the conference center’s recent growth and financial stability. In the fiscal year just ended, the campaign received new gifts and commitments totaling $1.9 million for capital, endowment, and operating needs. This brings total gifts and commitments to the campaign from our generous donors to $16.2 million, and we are now in sight of our $17 million goal.
The final year of the campaign will focus on three priorities: 1) completing the renovation of Anderson Auditorium, 2) meeting our endowment goals, and 3) growing the Montreat Fund.
1) Anderson’s Main Auditorium is the worship and program hub of the Montreat Conference Center and critical to our mission and ministry. Since its reconstruction from fire in 1940, Anderson has received many enhancements but has never undergone a major renovation – a testament to the quality of its original construction.
Thanks to gifts from the Building on the Tradition campaign, over $1 million in improvements have been made to this key facility in the last few years. Upper Anderson has been renovated, a new roof was put in place in 2013, and in the main auditorium, fans were added and other upgrades made. The final step is to complete the renovation of Anderson’s main auditorium and lobby. To fund the most essential remaining priorities, an additional $1.5 million is needed.
Windows must be replaced to enclose the building for winter heating efficiency and enhance the surrounding views. Additional upgrades to audio visual equipment will improve lighting and acoustics. Painting, polishing, and refinishing of surfaces, floors, and the chestnut pews; modernizing the lobby; and installing a new permanent organ for year-round use are all priorities, as are improvements to the bathrooms and parking areas.
Once completed, the renovation will equip Anderson Auditorium for year-round service – perhaps beyond even the vision of Dr. Anderson himself. The building is a monument to Dr. and Mrs. Anderson’s love and dedication to Christ’s church. In recognition, the Robert C. and Sadie G. Anderson Foundation just committed a lead gift of $305,000 to ensure that this legacy continues well into the very promising decades ahead.
2) Endowment: The Building on the Tradition campaign has received current commitments totaling almost $3 million, and deferred commitments totaling $495,000. With the generous gifts made over the past year, the Building on the Tradition campaign has reached its endowment goal of $3,466,000. These gifts have helped the MRA endowment reach $13.5 million as of April 30, 2016.
Clearly, that’s a lot of money (thanks be to God!), and yet, just as clearly, we know from experience that the continued growth of our endowment will remain essential to our ability to support our ministry going forward. Our Development Foundation remains committed to building on this success for the long term. Even though the campaign’s endowment goals have been met, gifts to the endowment remain a vitally important source of support for our work.
3) The Montreat Fund: Annual giving remains the most direct and immediate way to support the conference center. Many individuals, churches, businesses, and foundations have given to the Montreat Fund since the campaign’s beginnings, and many new friends have added their names to the donor roll of contributors. This year, as in every year, our board, our President’s Council (which leads our volunteer efforts in this area), and our staff will continue to encourage your patronage of the Montreat Fund. The Fund finished this year at just over $830,000.
Through the success of the Building on the Tradition campaign and your ongoing support, the Montreat Conference Center will continue to provide a ministry of vitality and relevance to our community, the church, and to people of all ages. Our staff and leadership join me in thanking you for all of the ways you continue to support the conference center and lift up its work through volunteering, giving, prayers, and counsel.
Richard DuBose, President