What's Behind the Kauffman Foundation's Matching Grant to the Kansas City Repertory Theatre?

The last time we checked in  on the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, it was kicking off its 50th Anniversary Celebration with a fundraising goal of $5 million to renovate its Spencer Theatre and lobby, among other things.

The theatre was sitting pretty, having just scored $3 million from the Hall Family Foundation, putting it 60 percent toward its goal. And while we had no doubt that the theatre would do just fine, its goal was relatively modest. The theater's annual benefit raised a record-breaking $724,000 and we were curious as to how it would avoid the dreaded "last mile" syndrome.

You know the "last mile" syndrome, right? It's when a fundraising drive comes this close to its goal… and then stalls.

Well, we were happy to discover that while the theatre may not be all the way there, it's getting very close, thanks to a $200,000 matching grant from the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation. The theatre has until December 31, 2014 — just around the corner! — to match the foundation's challenge grant.


So I guess we shouldn't break out the champagne just yet.

Nonetheless, the grant is telling because, unlike the Hall gift, Kauffman's cash is funding "expanded programming and activities." Does this mean the theater now has enough money to fully renovate its Spencer Theater? We're not sure, but we're guessing it probably does. After all, the $5 million goal must be reached by the end of 2014 to allow construction to begin on the new theater, just in time for the premiere of A Christmas Carol during the 2015 holiday season.

(We can only imagine the conversation that ensued, especially if the Rep still needs the funds for theater renovation. Kauffman: "Hey, here's a matching grant." The Rep: "Great! We're this close to reaching our goal for theatre renovation." Kauffman: "Yeah, actually...about that..." Kind of makes one long for good, ol' fashioned general support, doesn't it?)

The gift is just another day at the office for Muriel McBrien Kauffman, a devoted supporter of the arts in the Midwest who, as we noted while analyzing its $375,000 gift to the Friends of Alvin Ailey, likes big ideas. Just like the gift to the Kansas City Rep, the foundation's gift to Alvin Ailey, was also a matching grant.

Now the theatre turns its attention toward engaging donors before December 31st. We're not too concerned. They've got this.