Client Profile | The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library
Constellation was retained for a comprehensive scope of work with the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation. We were privileged to inaugurate and build out their fundraising function at a moment when the plans for the project took flight. Our work involved fundraising staff hire, practical onboarding, development of the original case for support, governance work to recruit new members, enlargement of board committees, professionalizing charters, board recruitment packages, as well as principal gifts fundraising.
Practically speaking, the TR Library is animated by the spirit of North Dakota and by the visionary leadership of Governor Doug Burgum. In a larger sense, the Library project is energized by the legacy of one of the most intriguing figures in our nation’s history, as well as the location in one of our nation’s most iconic settings. Medora, North Dakota. Theodore Roosevelt first arrived in the Dakota Badlands in 1883 seeking sport and adventure. He then returned to Medora the following year to heal his broken spirit after the deaths of his mother and wife both on Valentine’s Day, 1884.
Scheduled for groundbreaking in mid-2023, this will be the first presidential library attached to a national park. The Library’s proximity to Theodore Roosevelt National Park pairs two key Roosevelt philosophies: love for the outdoor life and love of learning. The location is truly the cradle of conservation in America, one of Roosevelt’s primary concerns in office. As president, he created the United States Forest Service and established 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments. The Theodore Roosevelt National Park was named in his honor and is the only national park in the US bearing the name of a president.
The TR Library will be the first fully digital and interactive presidential library concept in the country. It will preserve the stature and archival richness of a US presidential library and combine them with other inviting features. With a recreated San Juan Hill adventure and canoe excursions up the River of Doubt, this is a destination where children will drag their parents. It explores the energy, achievement, and possibilities of our 26th American president. The example of TR’s colorful life presses the question to our visitors: What would you do if you knew you would not fail?
Geographically and economically, the TR Presidential Library project creates a natural triangle of visitor interest with Mount Rushmore to the south (2.3 million visitors per year) and Yellowstone National Park to the southwest (4.1 million visitors per year). The TR Library adds a new point of interest to this triad of national sites. The Theodore Roosevelt National Park offers 600,000 visitors per year with many of those visitors attending the Medora Musical each summer.
In April 2019, the funding imperative for the project took shape when the visionary North Dakota Legislature approved the creation of a $50 million Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Endowment Fund to be used for operations and maintenance of the facility in Medora. This commitment by the Legislature was contingent on the Library Foundation separately raising $100 million in private donations during 2020. This commitment galvanized the board and leadership team, inspiring the Trustees to hire senior-level staff capable of raising funds at a significant level. Ed O’Keefe was hired to lead the project in mid-2019 and by late in the year he had retained Constellation to build out a nascent institutional advancement program.
Raising $100 million to satisfy the match requirement was more than challenging after COVID-19 lockdown struck the world in March 2020. To meet the challenge Constellation organized a virtual briefing program that enabled outreach and high-level solicitations over videoconference. Constellation led a board recruitment drive and an interview-based campaign study to gauge interest and map opportunities. It also spearheaded staff recruitment for the development office (using videoconference to interview candidates).
On TR’s birthday, October 27 of 2020, the North Dakota Legislative match challenge was officially captured and announced to the public. Norway-based Snøhetta was selected as the design architect for the project. Snøhetta has designed some of the world’s most notable public and cultural projects including the Alexandria Library in Egypt, the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in California, and the National September 11 Memorial. The Presidential Library design will be inspired by the natural grandeur of the Badlands, drawing from vernacular, climate-responsive building precedents in the region, and functioning in harmony with the unique ecology surrounding it. Its construction will use natural and renewable materials, and its sophisticated energy systems will set a new standard. It will diminish the impact of wind and other climatic factors, making it accessible in all seasons.
The T.R. Library will not be a traditional presidential library. The audience will be the hero and Theodore Roosevelt will be the guide. Participants will learn about Roosevelt, but, more important, they will learn from him. They follow him on a journey of knowledge and adventure that stimulates all ages. They emerge, transformed into leaders and citizens inspired to Dare Greatly, Think Boldly, Care Deeply, and Live Passionately. The Library offers the tools, the inspiration, and the courage to get into the arena. By putting the participant in the center of the action, we will help them succeed in their own hero’s journey, leaving them transformed and inspired to make the world a better place for future generations.
A visit to the TR Library will start with the architecture (the built spaces) and lead to the interpretive design (experiences inside the building) but must also extend to the full array of activities and public touchpoints radiating out of Medora and into the region. Through our marketing reach and digital presence, we will project across the country, and around the globe. Activities and touchpoints include our distributed story plan, onsite and global programming, digital archive, content and media strategy, marketing and PR, and our campaign designed by Constellation to raise the funds for the project.