When the BGES completed The Civil War, A Traveler’s Guide with the National Geographic Society in 2016, it marked the fourth successful full-length book project to go along with 19 scholarly monographs as part of the body of BGES’s published intellectual works. We immediately opened discussions with Nat Geo for a fifth book, on the Revolutionary War. Issues intruded that prevented us from completing that initiative, but the idea was never far from the surface. Bert Dunkerly had completed a manuscript for a potential partnership and then reacquired his rights to it when the manuscript failed to be published for lack of sponsored funding. Enter the 250th Commemorative period of the American Revolution from roughly 2020 to 2033.
Changes at National Geographic from a not-for-profit independent company to subsidiary for-profit businesses owned by Rupert Murdock and then sold to Disney Corporation changed the partnership opportunities and the price of partnership was too rich for our purposes, so we decided to go it alone. This was not a casual or arrogant decision—indeed, it has been a full year in active consideration with substantial research done before a proposal was brought to the BGES Board of Directors in October. Thanksgiving week the Board approved the project.
A book is a long and drawn-out process with many checks and balances. Our preparations have put us on a fast track for publication in September 2022. Indeed, the staff for the book has been assembled, the manuscript completed, and a layout editor has finished a sample style chapter that is stunning and breathtaking in its beauty and utility. We have a project director, an editor, an assistant/copy editor, a photo editor, a cartographer, a photographic rights’ agent, and a marketing/fulfillment director. They are a combination of former National Geographic professionals who left in the reorganizations of the company and went freelance or formed their own companies. Lead among this group is Barbara Noe Kennedy, who many of you realize is our newsletter and Dispatches editor, Mike Kennedy is our Editor—he writes articles and conducts interviews for our newsletter. Kay Hankins is our Layout Designer and Photo Editor—she is a BGES member who worked for Nat Geo. Sarah Ferguson of BGES owns her own publications firm, and she will be Assistant Editor and Copy Editor. Hal Jespersen of BGES is an accomplished and widely published cartographer doing more than 50 maps for the book. Karen Needles will be doing rights research for the use of the stunning photographic images that will be within the book. And Bill O’Donnell, who was the marketing director and special sales director for Nat Geo Books, will handle the same for this book and the marketing of our other four full-length books and monographs as well. Volunteers from BGES will be fact-checkers and proofreaders.
Such an effort has huge ramifications for a small organization like ours, and so financing of the project cannot be by chance. Two underwriters stepped up to guarantee the $177,500 project would be paid for when all the bills arrived. Recognizing that the total amount was daunting, they looked at our fundraising history and concluded that $77,500 was within our membership’s capability. To get there, they created an innovative and progressive challenge grant scheme in which they would match every dollar raised with one of their own—thus, if I raised $10,000, they would put in $20,000, giving us $30,000 total. They have extended that for the length of the project, up to $50,000 each. Thus, if we raise $50,000, they will put in $100,000, taking us to $150,000. This amount was in round figures and somewhat short of the $177,500 budget in recognition of the possibility that we may bring the project in at a lower figure than the budgeted amount. Regardless, they are with us until we bring the first 5,000 copies into the distribution warehouse and conduct a presale prior to our on-sale date of October 2022.
The book will be a thing of beauty similar to the Civil War Guidebook: 480 pages in full and spectacular color on high-quality paper and softback. Author Bert Dunkerly is a widely recognized and respected historian who works for the National Park Service. Bert was a member of the BGES Board of Directors and is very well known and popular, with a strong résumé of Revolutionary War work.
Fundraising started on Giving Tuesday, with a third underwriter placing $4,000 in the kitty, to give us a three-for-one match for the first $4,000 raised. At press time, we have several sources of funding working and cash given through GoFundMe and Facebook, and word-of-mouth has produced with matches just at $18,000—mostly from Facebook friends, most of whom are not in or friends of BGES. We still have just over $1,000 that can be redeemed at $3 for $1 (total of $4,000), which would take us to $22,000. Our goal is a total of directed donations from members and friends of $20,000 by December 31 (deductible in the 2021 tax year), which will be just over $15,000 more by the end of the month—and that would be matched $2 for $1, giving us a working fund of about $67,000 going into 2022, with the remainder ($110,000) to be raised in 2022 by July—the vast majority of it matched $2 for $1. I feel pretty good about our funding position and plans. More to follow as we are further into the project.
An exciting twist to this effort is a partnership with the nonprofit group, “A Taste of History.” The Emmy Award-winning PBS and streaming video cooking show is hosted by Chef Walter Staib, who for more than 25 years has been the proprietor and chief chef for City Tavern in Philadelphia. City Tavern was the identically reconstructed tavern used by the Founding Fathers during the late 18th century, in which American independence and the forms of governance were discussed over tankards of ale and wonderful food. The chef will be including articles and features into the guidebook, making it a real functional keepsake. In exchange, BGES will be one of the sponsors of the 12th season of “A Taste of History” that will go to the airwaves from middle July 2022 and will conclude at the time the book is released. The visibility of sponsorship will help with initial sales, and as the series syndicates, it will constantly remind people of the BGES and our works. Interactive cross-promotional opportunities will emerge from the agreement, and discussions are underway with some exciting proposals from both organizations on the table.
This will be the BGES’s major project of 2022. It is our most ambitious and expensive by more than 50% over the Civil War guidebook. You can follow the progress in these dispatches and at our website commencing in January 2022. Everyone can make this project work, and with the matching money, acorns can become mighty oaks before your very eyes. I hope you are as excited as we are.
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