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Every weekday morning WCAI brings you coverage of local issues, news, and stories that matter. Join us for Morning Edition from 6 a.m. to 9a.m., with Kathryn Eident and Brian Morris.

$6M Gift to Help Cape Cod Arts and Cultural Organizations in Pandemic

A person who wished to remain anonymous has bequeathed a more than $6 million dollar gift to help the local arts scene on Cape Cod.

The Cape Cod Foundation is managing the gift. CAI's Kathryn Eident talked with Foundation President and CEO Kristin O'Malley about how her organization will award the money, and other funds the nonprofit manages, as well.

Eident I know this was anonymous, but it sounds like this person was a big arts patron. What can you tell us about the person who left this money, and their vision for what the Cape Cod Foundation could do to help the local arts and cultural community?

O'Malley This donor is a woman who had a strong connection to Cape Cod and obviously did feel very strongly about supporting the arts here and really had a long term view that this gift would exist in perpetuity to support specifically visual arts on Cape Cod, but also broader community life on Cape Cod. So, we're trying to be a thoughtful and strategic as we can with how the dollars will be deployed, but being able to have these flexible resources to support the community as the needs here change.

Eident Talk a little bit more about how you are strategizing. There are so many arts and cultural organizations on the Cape, and I'm sure every single one of them has a really critical need right now.

O'Malley Part of our strategy, as you know, is to do a lot of listening, to asking questions, and to listening to what the needs are. And again, we know that those are literally changing by the hour. And, depending on the type of organization, the size of the organization, all of the challenges and opportunities are different, particularly right now.

And, so we're going to be rolling out a needs assessment, hopefully this week, not just focused on the arts and culture piece, we have a number of other new programing and grant opportunities that we have, just trying to make sure that we're keeping up to date and what the needs of the community are.

We know, for example, that there is a strong need around general operating support because so many organizations not being able to hold their major fundraising events over the past seven months, or not being able to do programing that generating revenue. But, there's a lot of other capacity building and organizational needs as well.

Eident This anonymous bequest had some stipulations. Are there are other parameters you need to consider as you do this, listening with the community and figure out how to help?

The total bequest is almost six point four million. And so, of that, it was broken into four parts, two endowment funds: One set up to support a Cape Cod Museum of Art; and then one to support the Cape Cod Center for the Arts. The largest portion is to support the visual arts. And, other than it being visual arts and endowment, there were no other restrictions on it. And then, the fourth piece is also an endowment to support general community life on Cape Cod.

Eident Can you talk a little bit about the work the foundation does?

O'Malley So, we're what's known as a community foundation. So, there are probably 850 of us around the country. So, our primary service area is Barnstable County, Cape Cod. And, we work with all different types of donors to establish funds with us for all different purposes. And, then grant those funds back into the community in the form of grants and scholarships. We've also been stewarding an emergency fund since March. We've raised about $1.5 million for that and distributed about $1.2 million in grants.

Eident We're going to be in this pandemic for a while. Has there been a shift in what you were hearing at the beginning of the pandemic to now?

O'Malley You know, what we're still hearing, and we were hearing for a couple months is organizations feeling okay about sort of what 2020 looks like. I think obviously, as this is going on longer, and sort of looking at what's coming down the pike, it's becoming more challenging to sort of understand or try to even plan for what 2021 is going to look like. And so, I think there is definitely some fear and trepidation, particularly for arts organizations and performing arts organizations that are still restricted on what they're allowed to do.

So, are there opportunities to encourage more partnership and collaboration or, you know, can we bring in consultants to help organizations think about a different financial model or, you know, just different ways to look at the work and how it's being done and to try to support that in ways that we've probably never had to think about before.

Eident How is the landscape of giving changed since this pandemic started, or has it changed?

O'Malley You know, we've been hearing a lot of our nonprofit partners say that their donors have been extremely supportive of their organizations throughout the pandemic. And, you know, for a lot of organizations that had to pull back, still have sponsor supporting, still had donors investing, just knowing that those resources are so integral to keeping those organizations afloat.

Eident Well, Kristin O’Malley of the Cape Cod Foundation, thanks so much for talking with us.

O'Malley Thank you so much, Kathryn.

This transcript was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.