The Austin Chronicle

Long Center: Grand gift takes campaign over the top

By Robert Faires, May 11, 2007, Arts

The conventional wisdom in capital campaign circles is that the last chunk of money is the hardest to raise. No matter if it's a thousand bucks or a million that you need to hit your fundraising goal, you've tapped out your big givers and so have to rely on a bunch of small donations to reach the finish line, and it almost always turns out to be a long, slow slog. That certainly seemed the case with the Long Center, which has spent the better part of two years trying to secure the final $11 million in its $77 million goal for the performing-arts showplace. But this week, the center defied convention by receiving a rare big boost in the last mile, and it was substantial enough to put the organization over the top for its funding goal. The Sybil B. Harrington Trust, named for the generous Amarillo patron of the arts who died in 1998, donated $5 million to the Long Center's endowment. It was one of the largest gifts that the center has received since Joe and Teresa Lozano Long made their spectacular $20 million donation eight years ago. "It's hard to overstate the significance of this gift at this time," said Long Center Executive Director Cliff Redd. "It not only takes us to our pledge goal of $77 million, which is thrilling in itself, but it places a stamp of approval that carries statewide and national impact for our project."

But while the Harrington Trust gift puts the campaign over the top, it won't stop the fundraising for the Long Center. Redd notes that within the $78 million raised to date are numerous pledges, some of which are timed to be paid over several years. The center's grand opening, however, is less than a year away, and Redd would love to throw the doors wide with the full $67 million in construction costs paid in full. In addition to the cash-flow issues, Redd says, other costs need to be met in the short term: "providing film projection equipment, outfitting offices, and other items that weren't included in our initial budget."

So don't put away the checkbook yet. Your contribution is still needed before the Dell Foundation Hall and Rollins Studio Theatre open next March 28. In fact, Joe Long himself says, "Several exceptional naming opportunities remain available for patrons who want to help us meet the community's needs with a truly first-class facility."

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