Don't get me wrong. I think the Chatham 300 folks did a great job orchestrating the town's tercentennial celebration last year. Granted, it wasn't all as exciting as it looked on paper, but coming up with enough things to fill 300 days worth of celebrating ain't easy, especially in a sleepy seaside resort town.
A few weeks ago the group held one final reception and announced several "legacy" gifts. Turns out there's quite a bit of money left over, so the steering committee decided to give $35,000 to the recently formed Chatham Foundation for an annual $3,500 grant for a deserving Chatham project. Another $40,000 will go to help jump start the Chatham Foundation's endowment. Unspecified financial gifts will also be given to Monomoy Community Services and the Chatham Historical Society, to assist in preserving and archiving all of the documents generated by the 300th celebration. The amounts will be determined once Chatham 300 closes its books.
Now, it's a little startling that this non-profit organization was able to solicit enough money for the nearly year-long celebration that in the end, there was close to $80,000 left over. That's a boat load of cash. And the final figure will be higher, as they've already indicated by the unspecified gifts to MCS and the historical society.
With that in mind, a different approach would have ensured a more enduring legacy for Chatham 300.
First, a refund of the initial $10,000 in seed money provided by the town would be a great gesture, showing the type of responsibility that wins non-profit organizations accolades.
Small gifts to MCS and the historical society would provide the direct community benefit the Chatham 300 folks seemed to be aiming for, but the majority of the remaining funds, say $50,000 to $70,000, could have been better invested to be used in 2062 as seed money for the 350th anniversary celebration. That would have been a legacy, one that future residents and officials of Chatham would have appreciated. At modest interest of 3 percent, over 50 years that sort of money would generate between $290,000 and $300,000. Not a great deal of money in 2062 dollars, probably, but surely enough so that a Chatham 350 committee would not need seed money from taxpayers.
I don't mean this as a criticism of the Chatham 300 folks; they are all good people who volunteered a mess of time for the town they love. The Chatham Foundation may be a great organization with a wonderful mission and lofty goals. But it's an unknown entity with a vague mission that duplicates other nonprofits in town. Time, of course, will tell, but I'm willing to bet that most of the corporate sponsors and individual donors to Chatham 300 would rather have seen their money benefit the next generation celebration.