One year after the Loudoun Museum faced the possibility of having to close because of the potential loss of county funding, museum officials say they have taken the necessary first steps to straighten out the organization’s finances.
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors directed the museum’s trustees to make fundraising a top priority, officials said. So in May, the trustees hired Leslie Mazeska, who has a professional background in fundraising and grant-writing for nonprofit organizations, as the museum’s executive director.
The little-known local-history museum, which is housed in buildings on Wirt and Loudoun streets in downtown Leesburg, has struggled financially since the county government began reducing its subsidies in 2009. The difficulties worsened to the point that museum officials in 2015 informed the Board of Supervisors they were considering dissolving the museum and dispersing its collections.
Last summer, the board gave the museum what some supervisors called “one last chance” to shore up its finances. The supervisors approved a one-year agreement with the museum that included $156,000 in county funding, to be disbursed only if the organization made specific changes and met quarterly benchmarks.
The agreement required that each of the museum’s trustees contribute or raise $3,000 annually. It also specified that the trustees hire an executive director to focus on raising funds.
The trustees filled that position with Mazeska, a native of Upstate New York who lives in Waterford. Her background includes fundraising experience with the Boy Scouts and, most recently, the Loudoun Literacy Council, of which she served as executive director for more than four years.
Mazeska said that she was surprised at the lack of fundraising the organization had been doing and that she thinks the opportunities are “wide open.”
“It’s a 50-year-old organization, but I’m looking at it more as a start-up . . . in terms of maintaining relationships with people in the community, because the community has changed dramatically from 50 years ago,” Mazeska said.
“There’s so many more people, so many more businesses, and so many more opportunities to partner with organizations and to foster heritage tourism and get people excited about, ‘This is what Loudoun was, this is what Loudoun is today,’ ” she said. “And people will support that and back it and . . . fund it.”
Mazeska’s strategies include holding a membership drive and establishing an annual giving campaign. She said she would like to add trustees, and she plans to expand the annual Leesburg Hauntings — the museum’s top moneymaker — from one to two weekends.
Last year, walking tours of Leesburg’s historic downtown that took place near Halloween attracted more than 800 people and raised about $13,000, almost half the museum’s income for the year, Mazeska said. So it made sense to add another weekend.
Mazeska said she also expects to hold a celebration of the museum’s 50th birthday in the spring. She hopes eventually to increase interactive exhibits, expand programs and lengthen the museum’s hours of operation — it is open only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. But raising money has to come first, she said.
Some of the museum’s trustees left after the supervisors directed that each contribute $3,000, she said, and several new trustees have been added.
Mazeska said that the Board of Supervisors has again budgeted $156,000 for the museum in the current fiscal year and that she expects the supervisors to consider a new one-year agreement with the museum in September. As in the agreement approved a year ago, the museum would be required to meet quarterly benchmarks to receive its funding, she said.
“I think they want to see that we’re working toward being able to keep our head above water on our own, and that we’re not just expecting them to give the money,” she said.
“We’re just laying the groundwork.”