Mathews Land Conservancy looks to get back on track

Sherry Hamilton - Posted on May 08, 2019 - 02:25 PM

With work stalled at Williams Wharf Landing, including completion of the 16,000-square-foot unfinished structure at the site intended to be a community event center and crew training facility, directors of the Mathews Land Conservancy plan to set short-term goals to ensure financial stability. They are also asking for the community’s suggestions and support for the long haul.

With fundraising sluggish and work on the building on hold, the conservancy hired an outside consultant in January to examine the organization’s documentation and to interview board members, staff, key donors, and community stakeholders to determine what went wrong.

The consultant, Mary Ellen Stumpf, completed her report within a couple of months, and she didn’t pull any punches. 

In a two-page executive summary, Stumpf outlines the achievements of the Mathews Land Conservancy, pointing out how a small group of motivated individuals formed the nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation in order to keep Williams Wharf from being purchased, demolished, and turned into an industrial site. They had early success in fundraising and were able to purchase several parcels.

“With early momentum in play, the board decided to design and begin construction on the major facility—the William and Catherine Owens Center,” said Stumpf. “It was thought that with construction underway, funding would continue to come in.”

That didn’t prove to be the case. Stumpf said that, in addition to construction being stalled, facilities and programs need attention, and there’s “no fundraising readiness nor qualified, engaged prospects prepared to fully support” the effort to raise the $4.5 million still needed. She said the “modest organizational operation” isn’t sustainable “and there is little mission-related programming underway to build a supportive constituency.”