Las Vegas Sun

September 18, 2014

Consultant considered to help raise money for Boulder Dam Hotel

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

The historic Boulder Dam Hotel in downtown Boulder City was built in 1933.

Boulder Dam Hotel

The Treasured Times Tearoom is one of the rooms refurbished in the Boulder Dam Hotel under the supervision of manager Roger Shoaff. The tearoom, one of the amenities and sources of revenue at the hotel, offers tea by reservation only. Launch slideshow »

Boulder Dam Hotel

Members of the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association are weighing whether to pay a professional fundraiser $60,000 to help it raise $1 million to $2 million to retire its debt on the Boulder Dam Hotel and establish an endowment for its upkeep.

Darrell Spencer of Wesley Martin Consulting described how he would work with the nonprofit group over a year to bring in the money to ensure the long-term future of the hotel and the Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum. The hotel was purchased and renovated in part to house the museum and its archives.

The association, which runs the hotel, museum and restaurant, recently set as a primary goal in its strategic plan raising $1 million to retire two mortgages worth $950,000. The Boulder Dam Hotel was closed for two weeks in July when the association fell behind on the mortgage payments and ran out of money. An anonymous gift of $240,000 allowed it to reopen.

Spencer told the board it should combine the debt retirement and a longer-term goal of establishing an endowment into a single capital campaign with a goal of $1.5 million to $2 million.

“When you do a large fundraising campaign like this, you have to do it right the first time,” he said. “You can’t come back and ask for more money.”

For the $60,000 fee, which would be paid in monthly installments of $5,000 over one year, Spencer said he would put together a team to help the board develop a marketing strategy, write a case for why the funds are needed, refine the five-year strategic plan, develop its mission, coach members on soliciting gifts and apply for grants.

A key component, he said, is a solid operating plan.

“Funders want to know, ‘If I give you money, what makes me think that you won’t be back next year?’” he said. “The operating plan shows that you won’t.”

He expected the campaign to take one year, with donors given the option of making payments on their pledges over three years. In addition, he recommended the museum association institute an annual campaign so that it has “constant community buy-in.”

Members voiced concern about being able to afford the fee, but they also said they don’t see a way around it.

“This is a marketing campaign,” Treasurer Mike Penuelas said. “It’s expensive, but it could be more expensive if we don’t do something.”

The first step will be for the board members to meet with Spencer to define their mission, devise the case they will make to potential donors for the money and develop the operating plan. After that meeting and the first $5,000 payment, the board would have the option to back out, Spencer said.

“We have to define our culture somehow,” Penuelas said. “That could be worth that $5,000.”

Board President Darryl Martin said the board members lack the time and experience to successfully raise the money themselves. He said in his experience with professional fundraisers on other boards, the goals were met and the fees easily paid.

“This is their job, and they do it,” he said. “This is not our job, and we don’t know how.”

Martin said he would give the board members a couple of days to think about the proposal, then he would poll them for a decision.

In the meantime, General Manager Roger Shoaff told the board he is seeing signs of recovery for the Boulder Dam Hotel. While August occupancy was only 44 percent, that was to be expected, he said, because the hotel did not take reservations during the two weeks it was closed.

So far in September, occupancy has been 54 percent and could rise to 60 percent before the end of the month, and bookings are strong for October, November and December, he said.

The hotel is being aggressively marketed on the Internet, where two-thirds of all travelers search for information about accommodations, Shoaff said.

When a Google search is run of “Boulder City Nevada hotels,” the Boulder Dam Hotel is first on a list of “local business results” by Google, and its Web site appears near the top of the search, he said. In addition, the hotel targets several travel Web sites for high ratings.

The hotel is also recommended by AAA Travel Service and American Express Travel Service, he said, and it receives strong repeat and word-of-mouth business.

The restaurant and museum still need to have effective marketing plans, he said.

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