Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Colonial Williamsburg Saw Record Donations in 2021

Colonial Williamsburg received record donations in 2021. (WYDaily/Nancy Sheppard)

WILLIAMSBURG — The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation announced that Colonial Williamsburg (CW) received a record $102 million from donors in 2021.

The amount is an increase of 42 percent over the previous record of $72 million set in 2019.

Last year’s total includes $21.2 million raised through the Colonial Williamsburg Fund, surpassing 2020’s previous record of $19.7 million.

“Our remarkable donors are increasing their investments in Colonial Williamsburg because they believe in the importance of our educational mission and they understand the impact of our work for current and future generations,” Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, said. “Their loyal and extraordinary generosity is greatly advancing our efforts to engage audiences in our Historic Area, Art Museums and through online programming as we prepare to commemorate the country’s 250th anniversary in 2026.”

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation was able to reopen many of its sites and hosted events in 2021, including for the first time, three Grand Illuminations.

The foundation also pursued various projects throughout the year to further its education, preservation and civic engagement goals.

“Our plans for 2026 require us to strive for excellence in our fundraising and our programming,” Earl T. Granger, III, chief development officer and vice president of Development for CW, said. “Our donors who are making this journey possible are among our most powerful partners in bringing new discoveries and groundbreaking opportunities to fruition for the nation and the world.”

Some of these new discoveries include last year’s archaeological identification of the original foundation of First Baptist Church, the nation’s first church founded by and for Black people in 1776.

The ongoing project is a partnership with the church’s congregation, the Let Freedom Ring Foundation and William & Mary (W&M). The foundation plans to reconstruct the original structure and open the site for interpretation in 2026, the 25th anniversary of the church’s founding.

Additionally, the discovery of the Williamsburg Bray School was announced jointly by CW and W&M in 2021. The Bray School, which operated from 1760-1774, is believed to be the only remaining colonial era building in the country that was dedicated to educating enslaved and free Black children.

CW and W&M are working together to preserve, relocate and renovate the Bray School and are developing and implementing public programming to educate visitors about the school’s history.

The foundation said that the Bray School structure will be relocated from W&M’s campus to CW’s Historic Area, where it will become the foundation’s 89th original building.

“We are pursuing many visionary projects on aggressive timelines,” Granger said. “Increased donor support is making this rapid progress possible. Collaborative partnerships also are playing key roles in our success.”

CW also renewed its partnership and its commitment to independent scholarly research in 2021 by joining W&M to financially support the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, the nation’s leading academic center of historical research on all aspects of early America. 

It also expanded its educational impact through the Bob and Marion Wilson Teacher Institute, which benefitted nearly 100,000 students across the country and increased the number of teachers working at schools where more than 70 percent of students receive free or reduced cost lunches.

In January 2021, the foundation, backed by donor support, launched US: Past, Present, Future, a series that included topics like religious freedom, the power of education, Juneteenth and the meaning of American citizenship, reaching as many as 20,000 viewers monthly.

“During 2021, our donor community responded to many opportunities to expand our impact,” Granger said. “They fully understand the transforming effect their generosity has on turning ideas into engaging and thought-provoking experiences.”

Fleet said that the foundation’s work will build on 2021’s successes into 2022.

“Much of the work we made meaningful progress on in 2021 continues this year,” Fleet said. “And 2022 brings new opportunities as we raise funds to break ground on the new Colin G. and Nancy N. Campbell Archaeology Center, pursue transformational support for a digital Colonial Williamsburg and enhance our strategic partnerships. Donor involvement and support will be critical to each of these opportunities and many others.”

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