New goals discussed at Chautauqua Fund kick-off event

RUBY WALLAU | Staff Photographer
Chautauqua Fund volunteers and team captains gather Saturday at the Athenaeum Hotel for a Volunteer Kickoff event to prepare for fundraising throughout the season.

Last Saturday morning, Cathy Nowosielski, co-chair of the Chautauqua Fund, urged a crowd of Chautauqua Fund volunteers at the Athenaeum Hotel parlor to “capture the Chautauqua moment.”

“Whether you’re singly walking the brick path, or with a family member or with a friend, there are going to be moments that stand out over the course of a long lifetime,” Nowosielski said. “You just remember those moments that are just so special to you that you’ll never forget.”

Nowosielski said it’s that “Chautauqua moment” that makes people want to come back to Chautauqua every year, and ultimately want to give back to the place that gave such an enriching experience.

The Chautauqua Fund held a kick-off event to welcome all team captains and volunteers for the Chautauqua Fund — including 18 new volunteers this year — along with volunteers for the Promise Campaign and Planned Giving committee.

Nowosielski and her husband and co-chair of the fund, Jeff Lutz, welcomed the crowd before inviting Robert Franklin, director of the Department of Religion, to lead the invocation.

Nowosielski and Lutz then returned to the podium to thank returning volunteers for their efforts in achieving the 2014 Chautauqua Fund goal, having raised over $3.76 million. They also recognized Jack and Yvonne McCredie for their leadership as co-chairs of the Chautauqua Fund over the past three years.

“It is rare for such a successful organization, for annual fundraising, to actually generate more than the interest off the endowment,” Lutz said, underscoring the critical importance of the annual fund in underwriting programming and scholarship each year.

Lutz then announced the new goal for 2015 of $3.85 million.

Tina Downey, director of the Chautauqua Fund, provided informational highlights and reviewed volunteer materials. Downey underscored the importance of the volunteers’ work, noting that even in difficult economic times, “we have had just great success and I definitely attribute that success to our volunteers.”

Sebby Baggiano, Institution vice president and chief operating officer, updated the audience on the financial health of Chautauqua. Baggiano emphasized the role of the administration in achieving financial sustainability is to spend money wisely, control its expenses and make value-based decisions in investments.

Following Baggiano, Betsy Burgeson, supervisor of gardens and landscapes, and Marty Merkley, vice president and director of programming, provided updates on environmental projects and season highlights, respectively.

Geof Follansbee, CEO of the Chautauqua Foundation, brought volunteers up to speed with an update of the Promise Campaign, with an overall goal of $98.2 million, of which the Chautauqua Fund makes up more than 22 percent.

Follansbee also spoke later about the Amphitheater  project and public sessions, joined by Jordan Steves, director of communications. Follansbee reviewed the process and current status of funding for the Amp project, and Steves outlined the weekly sessions taking place this summer including tours, informational sessions and community dialogue.

Chautauqua Institution President Tom Becker closed with remarks on the active, human engagement of what Chautauqua provides, thanking volunteers for the critical role they place in making possible that experience.