Media Center Hits Its Mark

October 1, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Community Media Center expects to collect a $300,000 challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation after surpassing its fund-raising goal by Oct. 1, Executive Director Laurie Cirivello announced.

Cirivello credited a “last minute” influx of gifts, including one from the Peter M. Wege Foundation, for putting the center over the top. More than 400 gifts have been received in less than three years. With the Kresge grant, Cirivello said she expects $2.4 million, but the total was still being calculated Monday.

“We could not be more pleased at the investment and support from the community,” Cirivello said.

One of the results of the campaign, she added, is a more organized approach to fund development for the grassroots nonprofit organization.

The Community Media Center runs Grand Rapids’ public access cable television station GRTV, LiveWire, provides information technology and media production services for nonprofits, offers media education programs and runs community radio station WYCE.

In 2005, CMC acquired Wealthy Theatre, a key property in revitalizing a once-thriving entertainment district. Some of the money raised already has gone for paying off the mortgage, other debts and technological improvements at the theater, 1130 Wealthy Ave. SE.

Cirivello said fund-raising sputtered with the sudden death of CMC founder and director Dirk Koning in 2005 and the subsequent search for his replacement.

“This was not an organization with a strong development structure and capacity for fund-raising,” Cirivello said. “It was certainly a learning opportunity and, combined with the loss of our leader, quite a challenge.”

She said when she walked into the job, unfamiliar with Grand Rapids, she found a partially completed application to the Kresge Foundation. The foundation’s requirements for the challenge grant, in particular for a development staff member, helped to establish CMC’s approach to fund-raising, she said.

“One of the things the Kresge process does, even if you don’t make it, is it teaches you how to build capacity for on-going fund-raising,” Cirivello said. Development Coordinator Janet Zahn was hired part-time, then moved into a full-time position.

“We have a much stronger, formalized system we can utilize now for annual giving,” Cirivello said. “I really feel we have a capacity we didn’t have and probably wouldn’t have had if not challenged by Kresge.”

Part of the money raised is supporting two projects in honor of Koning: a Peace Garden and the Dirk Koning Memorial Micro Cinema, a 60-seat venue inside Wealthy Theatre.

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