Nezavisly dvoutydenik *** *Summer * 1999
John Rocarek v New Yorku Ve dnech 1. a 2. července 1999 zavítal do New Yorku na pozvání České dobročinné a vzdělávací společnosti profesionální fund-raiser John Rocarek, který mj. pomohl vybrat peníze na vybudování tzv. National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library v Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Ve čtvrtek si prohlédl v doprovodu předsedy Společnosti, pana architekta Jana Pokorného, Národní Budovu na Manhattanu, v pátek pak měl pracovní schůzku s představiteli výboru Společnosti, na které vysvětlil hlavní zásady svého postupu při získávání fondů. Kromě předsedy Společnosti na ní byli dále přítomni generál Miloš Knorr, Petr Kutil (místopředseda), Vít Hořejš a -- krátce -- František Kubernát. Telefonicky s panem Rocarkem konzultoval také Rudy Minář, který se na schůzku nemohl dostavit. Mezi tim jiz poslal John Rocarek Spolecnosti oficialni nabidku ke spolupraci (Proposal), ve ktere, mimo rozpoctu za svoje sluzby a administrativni vylohy, take podrobneji popisuje pristup, ktery by zvolil k vybrani fondu na opravu Budovy.
Po těchto schůzkách a před odletem z letiště La Guardia jsme s Johnem Rocarkem pořídili následující rozhovor. CSN
Pro Ceskoslovenske noviny: Jan Krondl:
"It is not enough just to save the building --"
For it is not the building that is being saved in a project like this, it is the memories of the times..."
CSN: The first question that strikes everybody when he sees your business card, is your last name. Is it of Czech origin?
J. R.: Yes, I am a full-blooded Czech. My family has been in this country for over a 100 years. You can go back 4, 5 generations, depending on which side of the family you look, and you can find people with different Czech surnames. Some of the family lived briefly in New York, some in Chicago -- on their way to Cedar Rapids, Iowa -- but ultimately, they settled in Cedar Rapids.
How did it happen that you got involved in fund-raising?
In the beginning, I was actually one of the 8 individuals, ten years ago, that started the National Czech & Slovak Library & Museum new building project [in Cedar Rapids]. Because I was the person on the committee that had the banking and financial experience, I was selected as the chairperson for the capital campaign, in charge of raising the funds. The first thing that I did was that I sought the advice of people from other museums across the Midwest and asked them how did they raise the money for their new building projects? They said it was important to hire a professional to come in and assist you with the process. So, that's what we did -- we formed a committee and brought together individuals that we talked to. Ultimately, we ended up hiring a gentleman from Minneapolis, MN, who held our hand through the project and assisted us in raising $3 million to build a new facility. Subsequently, this gentleman became my mentor, I learned how to raise funds and decided to change careers. I found that I had a knack for being able to help non-profit organizations in raising money through capital campaigns, so I have been doing it now for some time. I enjoy helping these organizations meet their goals, I think it is important to make a difference in projects like this.
Can you explain, briefly, what are the major steps in professional fund-raising?
One of the first things that you have to remember is that you don't immediately begin to raise money. It is more important to raise an interest and awareness in the project. So, what you do is that you begin with the Feasibility Study where you measure the level of support in the community.The community can be anything from state-wide community, to national community, international community, or, it could be the community of a small town. Whatever venue you are talking about, it is important to get the people involved -- early on -- that are going to have the ability to make the project happen. You have to invite these people to become involved in the project and make them feel welcomed to participate in the planning. Those individuals -- be it the foundation program officers, corporate executives, people that run manufacturing or service organizations, whether they are active businessmen or retirees, it could be anybody who would have an interest in the project -- they have to have an opportunity to become involved in the project from the very start.
You bring those people [a group of about 20] together to develop the plan. Once the plan is in place, you take it to a broader community by inviting even more interested people [200 to 300] to awareness meetings. We share the project's potential with these individuals and ask them for advice, not money. We ask them what it is that they believe are the important components of the project. It could be anything from economic development issues to the importance of historic preservation, education -- maybe you want to get more youth involved, building volunteer experience. There could be several reasons why people would want to become involved. Whatever it is, you want to get those people involved as soon as possible and have them develop some ownership.
The process continues then by going ahead and doing a series of confidential surveys where I (by myself) visit with several select awareness meeting attendees. Now that they have had a chance to see the plans which were put together by the Board of Directors and other people who have been invited to air their opinion, I ask them confidentially -- what do you think that the plan should be like? Is the organization on the right track? What sort of things need to be done? Will you volunteer time and donate money to the effort? I then put together a detailed Strategy Report based on these confidential interviews. The report outlines in detail the necessary steps to be taken for the Capital Campaign to follow. The capital campaign is launched immediately after the Strategy Report is presented to the Board of Directors, based on concrete evidence of how much support is out there.
You have been kind enough to come to New York, you spoke to the representatives of the Board of Directors and --you also saw the Hall. What were your impressions of the building?
It was excellent. It is such a wonderful facility, what a wonderful opportunity -- not only for the Czech community in New York, but for the historic preservation community, economic development community -- anybody that has an interest in seeing this building turn into something magnificent! It is a jewel that really needs to be preserved. It is a large undertaking that will need a lot of people to get involved, of course. But anything like that, worth having and preserving, is worth the effort. It is the first time I have had the opportunity to see it and -- it is wonderful.
Since you saw the Hall, do you have any personal ideas how parts of the Hall could be used?
Yes, I did. As a matter fact, one of the thoughts that I had concerned the Dvořák Museum that, as I understand, is proposed to be located in the Hall.When I saw the plaque and other items which were saved from the [now destroyed - ČSN] Dvořák's House on East 17th Street and are currently, thanks to BBLA, stored in the Hall, I realized that these are part of a larger story -- the story of not only just Czech, but European immigration to the New World -- and should be shared with a larger public. So, I thought that the original facade of the Dvořák House could be recreated and serve as an entrance to the museum area -- it could be a whole floor. The Museum would include not only specifically Dvořák's exhibits, but also other items -- as kroje -- that relate to the immigrant experience. Also, I was not aware of the fact that the Manhattan Theater Company had utilized the building as their home for several years. Several actors and actresses had actually gotten their start there. Even these individuals may be interested in the project. Liza Minneli was mentioned among those names. One of the floors could be an art gallery. There are some wonderful Czech artists that are well-known all over the world who could be displayed there. I think there are several possibilities that are open to the Board. It is not enough just to save the building. For it is not the building that is actually being saved in a project like this, it is the memories of the times that Czechs spent in this area. It is more than just a building renovation project. It is actually a restoration of the heritage of the Czechs in this area.
How would you get the young people interested?
It is a tremendous source of pride now in Cedar Rapids to be Czech. What played a big part in it was the fact that when we dedicated the new facility in October '95, we brought together the three presidents -- president Clinton, presidents Havel and Kováč. They came to Cedar Rapids to dedicate the new facility. We had over 5,000 come to the dedication. It was wonderful. Out of those 5,000 people, I'm guessing 3,000 were under 40 years old. They were very excited about what they were doing and what was happening. It made a big difference in the people's reactions to the Czechs in our community. The Czechs themselves have a greater sense of pride in their heritage. The way the meeting of the three presidents came about was that I had several opportunities not only to visit with the Czech leadership -- the ambassadors (such as M. Žantovský) and U.N. ambassadors, and others but, more importantly, also ask for their support. Having them provide endorsements for the project was critical. They gave us a lot of ideas along the way, about the exhibits and different aspects of the history, and provided some very important contacts with museums and libraries in the Czech and Slovak Republics.In 1994, I received an invitation by Nadace Bohemia to attend a conference that they had in Prague. I sat alongside with Mr. Pokorný and several others from the Czech community in the USA. That was actually one of the first opportunities I had on a personal level to share what we had done in Cedar Rapids. We just reached a milestone, I believe, it was $2.3 million, and we knew we had enough money in the bank and in pledges to build the building. So I was able to invite Mr. Havel to come to the dedication at some future time. We asked him what would be an ideal time that his schedule would permit him to attend. He specified that he would be coming to the USA to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations on October 21, 1995. I was able to visit president Kováč in Bratislava and he said the same thing. So we were able to make that happen. The importance of having the leadership of the Czech Republic involved in the National Hall project would be paramount. This is a very important project. I don't think that people understand sometimes, living in New York, that a lot of people look up to New York for leadership. This is a great city.
If communities across the country are able to band together to do exceptional things, this community in New York is not any different. And I don't mean just Czech communities, different ethnic communities do the very same thing. It is a lot of work, lot of effort and they find that by a revitalization project such as this, they will get the young people involved. The future generations will appreciate that they have a place that they can go to learn about what it was like to be Czech in the 1920's New York.
Based on your experience, what do you see as the ideal kind of involvement of the Czech government in the fund-raising, if any?
I think it is critical that they endorse the project and get involved in that manner. Case in point is the National Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids. Ambassador Žantovský and at that time charge d'affairs Peter Burian offered their endorsements and letters of support that we were able to use when we went out into the community, so that the people could see that it was important to the country. It is one of the early steps that you take. Of course, before you approach people to provide an endorsement you want to have a clear conception of what the facility is going to be like when it is finished -- but no reason why it cannot be done.I think the participation of the Czech government is critical to the success of the project. The involvement of people like Václav Havel and the ambassadors, the consuls, all of those individuals that are affluent in the Czech community in the USA, is very important. Interest, not only financial but also spiritual, can come from many different sources. The size of the facility is so grand -- the first thing I was awestruck by is the size of 70,000 square feet, out of which maybe 40,000 feet will be usable in the final outcome. Whether or not the Czech-American community will be able to utilize the entire area is doubtful. For example the Grand Ballroom upon a complete restoration to its original beauty, could be rented out for wedding receptions, anniversary parties, family reunions, to Czechs and non-Czechs alike. I do feel, though, that the Czech community in New York should try and make every effort it can to fill the building with as much Czech history and current activity as possible. If the government, has some space in the facility, I think that's great. It doesn't make sense to preserve the building and not have it alive and vibrant with people.
In case you get hired for the job, how long do you think it would take to raise the necessary funds?
The Feasibility Study takes about 6 months, in order to determine exactly what you will be able to raise in the community. The capital campaign on the average takes 12 months. If it takes longer than that, there are problems and it gets expensive. If a campaign is put together properly, it is really unnecessary for it to take more than 12 months. Unless there are some problems with zoning, land rights, etc. that I am not aware of, typically, it should not take more than 12 months.
The last question. The estimated cost of the repair is something between $8 to $10 million. How realistic, do you think, it is to reach that goal?
That's a good question. Part of the reason why we do the Feasibility Study is to answer that question. Until you go through the procedure to learn what the amount of interest is in the project after a plan has been put together, it is hard to tell. However, I would be hard-pressed to say that it would be impossible to raise $10 million for a project such as this. I would like to think that it is possible. My pay in any project is not based on how much money I raise, but on a flat fee. I might come back after the Feasibility Study and say that instead of $10 million you should raise $12 million. That would not be based on my fee but on how much interest is out there in the community. Or -- I may say $8 million. You never know, until you test it.It is a viable project, it has a great potential and I would love to be able to come back 3 years from now and say that I had a part to play in restoring this facility into its original luster. I would like to say that I was able to assist the local Czech organizations put some interest back in the Czech heritage in this area. Because that is what happens -- in Cedar Rapids, when we built the Czech Museum, we had the young generation who was not interested in their heritage, suddenly become aware of it, and people who were once not proud of their Czech ancestry and did not recognize it, are now proud to say that they are Czech and they want to be affiliated with an ethnic community that really cares about its history. The renovation of the Bohemian National Hall is an exceptional project and I hope to have an opportunity to be a part of it.
prepared by J. K.
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