August 18, 2013

Camp seeks funds, to tune of $12 million

The New England Music Camp is planning to bring performing arts education to more central Maine kids.


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Jeanette Wiggin, director emeritus, grandson Matthew, right, son John and daughter-in-law Kim, left, stand at the entrance to the New England Music Camp in Sidney. The family hopes wealthy donors will fund the camp’s expansion.

Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

This year, he said, the camp gave more than $300,000 in scholarships to those who otherwise could not afford to attend camp, an amount that does not fully meet the need.

One of the priorities of the fundraising goal is to add $1.2 million to the scholarship fund, enough to make it self-sustaining and ensure continued diversity within the student population.

Wiggin has no money in hand yet, but he said it's difficult to measure the progress because the campaign that he put together is not founded on bake sales and car washes that inch forward, one $5 donation at a time.

When seeking funds for a large capital campaign, camps often turn to parents and alumni because those are the people who can appreciate the value best, according to Lucy Norvell, director of public information at the camp association.

"They get what a tremendous, tremendous benefit it is to be a part of a camp experience, and they try to be as generous as they can," Norvell said.

The New England Music Camp seems to be better-positioned than most for a major fundraising campaign, thanks to its specialization in the arts.

The income levels of families that send their children to camp is highly varied, according to Mary Ellen Deschenes, a consultant for Maine Summer Camps, an industry association that represents nearly 200 camps in the state.

"Some are for affluent families, but many are middle-of-the-road and low-income families, and there is a lot of variety within each camp," she said.

The breakdown for the fundraising goal for the New England Music Camp shows it hopes to capitalize on the advantage by seeking $2.6 million from alumni and parents, $3.2 million from national corporations and foundations and $1.6 million from individual out-of-state philanthropists.

"The plan is very diverse and well-thought-out, and we have specific people and foundations in mind," Wiggin said.

When describing his fundraising efforts, Wiggin returned to the same idea a few times, that a single wealthy donor can comfortably part with a million dollars or more -- if that person sees the value of the cause.

For example, he is soliciting help from one former executive living on an island off Maine's coast who, Wiggin said, "could easily write a check for a quarter of a million, five hundred thousand, and he wouldn't miss it out of his checkbook."

Wiggin said the fundraising campaign is not as far along as he thought it would be when he started actively planning the campaign in early 2012, with a planned end date in 2015.

After early rounds of phone calls and letters, he said he's just getting to the point where he is sitting down for serious conversations with the pool of people he's targeted.

"We're actually engaged in the meetings," Wiggin said. "Now it's time."


The family is trying to raise $4.6 million, less than half of the total, from within the state. Wiggin said he is working with local business leaders to target Maine foundations, businesses and philanthropists, and he plans to host benefit concerts and other fundraising events.

One limiting factor is that, despite their best efforts, the camp remains unknown to many Mainers, Kim Wiggin said.

"Nobody in Maine knows we're here," she said. "It's hysterical. We joke that there are more people in Westport, Conn., who know about the New England Music Camp than in Augusta."

Wiggin said he is so confident in the fundraising campaign that the camp has been moving forward with physical improvements to support the expansion.

Over the past two years, they have added weeklong camping experiences for college students and adults, necessitating facility upgrades.

"A bunk room is great for 14-year-olds where there's 14 kids in one room on seven bunks," Wiggin said. "Not so good for adults."

In the past year, Wiggin has built a $500,000 boys' dormitory and a $215,000 theater arts building. A $445,000 renovation of the recital hall is nearly done.

Work is also under way on a new education center and renovations to the girls' dormitory and the dining lodge, projects that come with a total cost of about $3.6 million.

Wiggin said the improvements will bring in new revenue streams and will pay for themselves fairly quickly.

While the donation dollars have remained elusive, Wiggin said he is heartened by the validation he has heard while touting the expansion plan and its value to Maine.

"We've got this kind of universal yes, to keep going," he said.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:


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