In his letter to the editor dated Thursday, Kenneth E. Britten raised concerns about the Whiskey Rebellion Festival’s appeal for public support. Specifically, he asked “What have festival organizers been doing?” It’s a fair question, and as the scores of volunteers who are involved in the year-round process of fundraising, planning and executing this four-day, free festival know, the answer is, “Quite a lot!”
Before responding to Britten’s specific points, the Whiskey Rebellion Festival is proud to announce that because of the outstanding support of our corporate sponsors along with the outpouring of support from individuals and the business community since the announcement of our GoFundMe campaign, this year’s festival will be held as planned. Join us July 6-9 in historic Washington for another festival filled with heritage music, reenactments, handmade crafts, family and children’s programming and much more.
As a volunteer member of the board of directors of Bradford House Historical Association, the festival’s parent organization, and as one of the festival’s co-chairs since its inception eight years ago, I can assure Britten our fundraising and planning activities are a year-round endeavor. In fact, our first round of fundraising letters and appointments with potential sponsors starts in August, just weeks after the festival closes, and continues throughout the year.
Through the hard work of our volunteers, including grant writers, the festival finished “in the black” all seven years of its existence.
As Britten points out, as a nonprofit organization we could always do a better job securing grants. The Bradford House and Whiskey Rebellion Festival successfully pursued many grants over the years and we are very grateful for the grants we have received from the EQT Foundation, Washington County local share committee, Laurel Foundation, Washington County Community Foundation, Hauber Foundation, Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency, Washington Business District Authority and others. Our board members and volunteers attend numerous grant-writing workshops, such the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission workshop in Harrisburg and the numerous Washington County Community Foundation fundraising and grant workshops in Washington County to name but a few.
These are important resources we pursue each year, but grant funding is just one piece of a successful funding strategy. As Britten is no doubt aware through his board participation, most foundations will not provide open-ended, ongoing financial support and most grant funding is limited in both time and scope.
As for Britten’s suggestion that we solicit other nonprofit historical and heritage organizations to secure festival funding, we would certainly welcome their financial support. However having been a member of many nonprofit boards, I have a keen understanding of the limited financial resources that most nonprofits work under, particularly those in the history and heritage sector.
One of the guiding principles of the Whiskey Rebellion Festival is to provide a venue for county and regional historical and heritage organizations to engage with visitors. We do this by providing these historical organizations free booth space. In fact, the genealogical society Britten is listed as the president of has for many years taken advantage of this free booth during the festival.
While many organizations participate in the Whiskey Rebellion Festival, the event is run solely under the umbrella of the Bradford House Historical Association, with support from a large and diverse volunteer committee. Had Britten contacted the Bradford House or the festival directly by letter or any other means to secure a Whiskey Rebellion Festival speaker for his organization’s Christmas party, I can assure you he would not have been disappointed.
I agree with Britten that being involved on boards and committees is hard work, especially when it involves fundraising. It can also be very rewarding and a great way to meet interesting, creative people in our community. So, if you have a passion for history, theater, art, music, or our own hometown of Washington, I invite you to join us. I promise you will work very hard, have a lot of fun and positively impact our community.
Kline is co-chairman of the Whiskey Rebellion Festival.