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Gabriola Island volunteer-led museum not sustainable, society president says

(Gabriola Historical and Museum Society) (Gabriola Historical and Museum Society)

Running the Gabriola museum just isn't sustainable without a paid executive director. That's the message from the Gabriola Historical and Museum Society's board who has put in a request to the Regional District of Nanaimo to increase the funding it provides.

From 2020 to 2022, the RDN has provided the society $16,000 annually for operating costs. Prior to the current three-year agreement, the society received $12,000 annually. Now the society is requesting a three-year assistance agreement for $25,000 per year, which would pay the salary of a part-time executive director.

The society's president, Joan Merrifield, has also volunteered to carry the workload of an executive director for the past five years. But wearing that many hats has become burdensome and thus far no one has expressed interested in succeeding Merrifield in the volunteer role.

“The last year and half we've realized that we have to have an executive director, and a part-time executive director would be about $25,000,” Merrifield said.

“It's impossible to have a proper succession and move forward with new people because of the workload.”

Currently the society has one permanent employee, a manager whose duties include organizing events and running the gift shop.

The society collects about $55,000 in donations and membership fees annually. If the RDN provided funds for an executive director salary, the museum could devote those revenue sources to operating costs, Merrifield explained.

With costs as they are, the current funding support from the RDN doesn't go far, Merrifield said. Insurance alone costs the society $600 a month.

During a presentation to the RDN board of directors on Nov. 22, Merrifield said for the last couple years the society has had a $10,000 deficit at its fiscal year-end. The president clarified in an interview with the Sounder that the society is currently able to cover its expenses - the $10,000 deficit at year-end reflects a pre-payment on the McRae covenant land's mortgage - but “for operating, the museum is just getting by every month.”

If the society could hire an executive director, that person could devote time to seeking other grants as well as fundraising, managing the budget and focus on delivering the strategic plan priorities such as long-term sustainability of the museum and working with Snuneymuxw First Nation to ensure protocols are being followed.

The board and volunteer base is aging, Merrifield added, putting into question the long-term future of the society's activities.

“It's really challenging to run a museum with that little money, and we have a lot of volunteers, but we do need some people who work for the museum and have the longevity, have the long plan and aren't volunteers coming and going.” Top Stories

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