Survey says: Move forward with library fundraising

Chad Frey
A project to build a new library is entering the fundraising stage, an effort expected to take about 30 months.

Things have been quiet at the library — while that is expected on a literal level, at this time it’s not really expected on the figurative.

The community is in the middle of a multi-phase plan to build a new facility. Already complete are site selection — the new facility will be in Military Park, to the east of the current library location — and a feasibility review by WDM architects.

The library project is now wrapping up Phase 3, public campaign.

And that’s what has been relatively quiet — that, however, is by design.

Swanson House, which is a consultant on the project, has spent the last few months compiling survey data as they prepare to launch a fundraising campaign.

Thus far, the group has seen response exceed average expectations.

Swanson House contacted 357 households in Newton and completed 57 interviews — with a goal completing 40 interviews.

“Because so many of the library volunteers were helping with the process, they were getting very good results,” said Suzanne Loomis, director of public works for the City of Newton.

There were 102 surveys returned — typically, the company gets about 45 returned.

What Swanson House found was 73% of respondents would consider giving to the fundraising campaign for a new library. About 10% said no, and 16% did not respond.

The average response rate, according to Swanson House, is about 59%. In addition, 53% responded yes, or maybe, to making a multi-year gift commitment.

“That dynamic is the biggie. It creates larger gifts,” Loomis said.

The goal for the private campaign is about $2.5 million. The library has committed to $65,000 in debt service, annually, for the life of a bond for construction. The city commission has set a spending limit of between $3 million and $4 million.

Swanson House has started fundraising, starting with a “quiet” campaign. That will be followed by a more public campaign to try and hit the goal of $2.5 million. The consultant group told the city the campaign would likely last about 30 months.

“Around November of 2021, we will have a much better idea of where that campaign is heading,” Loomis said.

The plan, according to Loomis, is for the commission to consider moving forward with Phase 4 — construction drawings/design and bidding. The original timeline, which is still in effect, showed Phase 4 happening December 2021 through October 2022 and costing $880,000, paid by the city.