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Who Picks the Freedom Center's Cotton?

By Stephanie Dunlap · August 18th, 2004 · Burning Questions
It started innocently enough, as a list of questions I couldn't find or get answers to by press time. Then the questions just kept coming....

How many people will return to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center after seeing it once? How does the center plan to lure back repeat business? How much repeat business is it banking on?

"The Freedom Center will operate within a balanced budget," its literature says. "Income sources will include admissions, gift shop sales, facility rentals, membership, annual fund, grants and endowment income."

How much of its annual fund includes yearly donations? How much is its endowment? What is the Freedom Center's projected annual operating budget?

The city of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, the state of Ohio and the federal government all contributed to the initial fund-raising campaign. Which government institution will the Freedom Center approach again, when, for how much and under what circumstances?

The 2002 Powerpoint presentation to the board of directors' annual meeting brags about the value of free publicity generated by its opening (more of which can be found in this week's cover story package on page 22). How much additional free publicity will the facility get, and how much paid advertising will have to pick up the slack?

Why is Carl Lindner being called a Freedom Hero, other than for donating large amounts of money? How long will Oprah Winfrey remain a viable brand to introduce Freedom Center products such as the films that comprise a large part of its programming?

Why didn't the Freedom Center prepare a 2002 annual report? When will it release the 2003 annual report?

When major arts non-profits are paying their top dogs from about $100,000 (Cincinnati Ballet's Victoria Morgan) to more than $400,000 (Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's Paavo Jarvi), is $300,000 the right amount to be paying Freedom Center CEO Spencer Crew?

Why does President Edwin Rigaud get paid half that? How well are rank-and-file employees compensated?

Why aren't those employees thanked in invitations to the opening gala? How many are preparing to abandon ship? How long until dysfunctional bureaucracy comes to light?

Why does every nonprofit seem to operate in a similar way? Does it have anything to do with answering to a board of directors with a lot of money?

Is every bureaucracy inherently dysfunctional? Is there no other system but a pyramid-shaped, patriarchal hierarchy for pulling off large ventures?

Why have so few large Cincinnati institutions taken advantage of nationally renowned consultant Peter Block's offer for free consultation? Why are they frightened to upset the status quo? What will it take?

How functional are the relationships among the Freedom Center board members themselves and between the board and the staff?

Distinguished founders, who donated more than $1 million each, include the Boeing Co., General Electric, U.S.

Bank, Cinergy, Fifth Third Bank, Coca-Cola, Toyota, Ford, Cincinnati Bell, Convergys, Federated and P&G. What are these companies' internal commitments to inclusion?

Why did it take the threat of a boycott for Fifth Third to implement a policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation?

Are "noteworthy supporters" such as Muhammad Ali, Jack Kemp, Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Desmond Tutu, Rosa Parks, Vanessa Williams and Bono necessary in order to lend legitimacy to the Freedom Center's fund-raising campaign?

Where did Maya Angelou, an honorary chair of the capital campaign, disappear to, and why?

Lastly, does a candle sold in the Freedom Center's gift shop really smell, as it's rumored to, like "fresh cotton?"

BURNING QUESTIONS is our weekly attempt to afflict the comfortable.


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