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For roughly four years, the Antelope Butte Foundation has been working to revitalize and reopen the Antelope Butte Ski and Recreation Area.
The nonprofit needs somewhere between $2.9 and $4.33 million to complete the task. As of last week, ABF had raised a little more than $210,000.
So we have to ask: Why is the nonprofit struggling so much to rally support around the project and move forward?
The task is an exciting one. The idea of reopening a ski area so close to Sheridan brings back a lot of memories for area residents. Excitement has been expressed and fundraisers have been held that have brought in hundreds of people and thousands of dollars. But it isn’t nearly enough.
While The Sheridan Press supports the project — for reasons including social, recreational and financial benefits to the community — we have to ask: What’s not working?
Maybe the community doesn’t support the project as much as we’d hoped. After all, there are ski areas within a couple hours of Sheridan that offer a weekend getaway for families. Meadowlark Ski Lodge isn’t far away and boasts many of the same amenities that Antelope Butte plans.
But support for the ski resort started out strong, so what happened?
Perhaps the issue is, instead, the nonprofit’s funding model.
The group has held various events to generate funds, but it also hired two employees to help move things along. This week, one of those employees resigned and ABF named a new executive director. But, according to the group’s 2014 tax filing, it only brought in a total of $107,492 in support between 2011-2013. That’s a tough sum on which to support an annual salary (or two) and have any money leftover for the cause.
Volunteers have also been seeking grants and community donations, with limited success. ABF even has a sort of crowdfunding website set up. The goal listed on the site is $2,500, but as of Friday morning only $68 had been contributed.
Perhaps this is a communication issue. That’s unlikely. Local media outlets — The Sheridan Press included — have repeatedly reported on the movements of the nonprofit. Anybody paying attention is aware of the local efforts to get the ski area back on its feet.
So maybe the issue is leadership. You can’t put this one on the executive director and development director — the two employees have only been involved for a few short months and one is on his way out. But the outgoing employee is not the only one to ditch the effort.
Within the last year, four individuals have left the nonprofit’s board. If leadership is the problem, that falls to the board’s leaders. So, we have to ask: Are the right people leading the charge to make this extremely difficult project happen?
This isn’t to say the board members haven’t worked hard to help achieve the dream of reopening the ski area. But as the community support for the reopening of the project is there, and the forward momentum is not, perhaps it’s time for the ABF to take a look at its internal structure, fundraising strategies and board leadership to determine if they are best suited to the project.