Blue and Gray Education Society Seeks 200 New Members
The Chatham, Virginia based Blue and Gray Education Society has announced plans to increase its membership base by 200 people before the end of 2016 to broaden its base of support for new projects that it will be undertaking over the next three years. The 22 year old nonprofit has a substantial record of successfully completed programs dating back to 1996 which have been funded and supported by about 400 active members.
These hardcore and fiercely loyal supporters send membership dues and separate cash contributions to complete projects such as the Cannon line at Raymond, Mississippi, Interpretative signage at Bermuda Hundred, flag restoration at Ford’s Theater and the publication of books in partnership with the National Geographic.
“Members have a robust interest and a generous heart when it comes to the work of the BGES” notes Executive Director, Len Riedel. “Many campaigns are completed in a matter of weeks rather than months,” adds Riedel—as an organization the average member donates a bit over $300 annually—all tax deductible.
The organization operates on a high level of trust with substantial personal interaction. Members know the small staff of two and an IT person and have high confidence that “Promises made will be promises kept—a record that we have never failed to achieve” Riedel states firmly. A key component of BGES’ success is that the member knows they will receive credit when it is due—indeed one rarely sees Riedel’s name on any project the BGES completes—a notable exception being the recently released National Geographic book The Civil War, A Travelers Guide edited by Riedel. “In this instance the book which received about 25% of its funding from BGES members needed a face and being the editor, I accepted that my name should go on the book as the leader of the 150 or so people whose generosity sustained the effort and paid the bills,” admits Riedel.
BGES is a very diverse and committed educational group. Unlike many tour groups, BGES does not seek large registration for its educational programs preferring to operate from vans with from 5 to 15 people. “We haven’t had a bus tour more than once or twice in the past 5 years. We like folks to get close and personal with the historians—it has proven to make for a much better exchange between participants—it also helps bond the organization” Riedel states.
BGES is a working organization focused on results as they “Reveal Our Past for Our Future.” New members can expect to be participants in the BGES’ programming. There is something for everyone and a majority of members not only reenlist in an organization segmented into Regiments and companies, but in donor categories such as Veteran Volunteers, Cadets, Companies, Regiments, Brigades, Divisions and Corps. Higher affiliations recognize the highest donors—annual donations range from $25 to $5000 and special project donations have brought contributions as high as $50,000. All directed and managed by Riedel who founded the organization, assisted from time to time by part time help. The schedule is quite impressive and the reality of manning is rarely a negative factor in getting the projects completed on time and budget.
Membership in the BGES starts with a recommended donation of $75 per year. Over the maturity of the relationship renewals take place annually and with donors moving steadily towards their most comfortable level of support. Projects of course generate new solicitations and commitments which members gladly and generously support. Absent a large overhead—total pay for three people at this time does not exceed $80,000 annually members know the emphasis is on the educational product.