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PHLF and Benchmarking Historic Preservation

Dear friends,

Over the past few months, I have conducted a multi-part conversation with you about the journey Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) has made in its effort to create livable environments for the residents of our communities.  In this edition, I would like to share with you the results of a survey research project we conducted in partnership with a local university, and that was funded by a locally-headquartered financial institution.

Last year, we launched the Landmarks Fellowship Program, a partnership of Landmarks Community Capital Corporation and Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Public Policy and Management––with generous funding from the PNC Foundation––that resulted in five Heinz College students joining us for the academic year.

As part of the program, we requested the student team to perform a benchmark study comparing PHLF with leading preservation organizations from around the United States. This project was not a scientific study, but it included quantitative and qualitative analyses that PHLF utilizes in its own self-assessment regarding its work and effectiveness.  We began our project by collecting data from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual Partners Survey for 2011.  Based on our review of that data, we developed a survey that was sent to 151 preservation organizations throughout the United States and Canada.  We analyzed additional data from annual reports and web sites of 35 more preservation organizations.

We learned many things about how our efforts measure up to work performed by comparable organizations.  Here are the highlights:

  •  PHLF’s capabilities in real estate development and in planned giving are almost unequalled. In addition, PHLF remains a leader in community development, advocacy, education, and lending, to name just a few.
  •  50 percent of organizations responding to the survey reported that advocacy, education, and tours were their best-funded programs, and that “bricks and mortar projects” and real estate development fell to the lower end of their activity list.  PHLF differs in that our prioritization allows us to do all of these and still maintain a high emphasis on preservation-related real estate development projects that matter.
  • Our survey reveals that many of our peer organizations wish to expand their operational capacity to include many of the capabilities we possess.  For instance, when asked about the key areas where they most wanted to improve their organizational reach, 28 percent of our peers said they were interested in creating a grants and technical assistance program; 24 percent would like to start doing real estate development, and 21 percent said planned giving would be a crucial program they would like to launch—all areas in which we not only excel, but have achieved meaningful and consistent results for many years.
  • We stand out in the membership arena as well.  We learned that PHLF has twice the number of dues-paying members compared to our peers in 2011.  Interestingly, we also learned membership contributions make up markedly less of our budget as compared to our peers.  Our ability to fund activities from grants, loans and judicious use of investment funds sets us apart.
  • Meanwhile, almost 75 percent of responding organizations said they had an approximate annual budget of between $50,000 and $750,000 in 2010.  Again, we stand out with an annual budget of approximately $3.3 million.
  • On fundraising, events and annual campaigns were listed as the two most important ways of generating revenue by almost half the respondents. At PHLF, however, we depend on funding the projects themselves and using collected reserves for general operations.
  • Although most of the organizations surveyed desire to be in real estate development, few have done so.  As many of you know, it is through that effort that we have been able to build reserves that pay for many of our general operations so that we do not have to use trustee and staff time for annual general operational fundraising.  We raise money for projects because people prefer to give to something specific. We have one of the most creative educational programs, serving more than 10,000 people each year.

We are heartened by the findings of the survey conducted by our Heinz College project team. In almost every category, PHLF ranked as one of the leading preservation organizations in the United States.

Every day I feel our need for greater resources, greater knowledge and more significant influence to meet the preservation challenges our organization faces.  But when I look at the results of surveys like that performed by the Heinz College Team, I feel heartened that Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is doing so very well.

Let me know of your thoughts and opinions about these survey results.  Thanks again to the many members and friends who have shared their comments with me.  In particular, thanks for your continuing support of PHLF; without your support, we cannot do all that we do.

Arthur Ziegler
Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633