Library’s fund-raising effort gets a new leader

Judy Feldman faces the challenge of wrapping up an $18 million capital campaign and building a $10 million endowment.

By: Jennifer Potash
   Judy Feldman, the newly appointed development director for the Princeton Public Library, has quite a to-do list — wrap up the $18 million library capital campaign and build a $10 million endowment for the new building. "I’m looking forward to it," she said in a interview Monday.
   Ms. Feldman, a West Windsor resident, begins work Monday as the library’s first development director.
   In addition to a career in nonprofit fund raising, Ms. Feldman has worked as an educator as well as in public relations and built up and ran her own interior plantscaping firm.
   A certified teacher in New Jersey, Ms. Feldman served as a substitute teacher in local preschools and had a strong appreciation for public libraries. She also served for nearly eight years on the Princeton Day School Board of Trustees and volunteered at McCarter Theatre.
   "Coming to work at a library is very important to me," Ms. Feldman said. "Having a literate community is critical not only for individuals but for the general health of the community."
   The constant activity, from patrons and different programs, attracted Ms. Feldman to the job.
   "The library is one of the few places in Princeton where you can have a professor from the university sitting side by side with a recent immigrant learning to speak English," she said.
   Library Director Leslie Burger said the organization is delighted to have Ms. Feldman on staff.
   The Cornerstone Capital Campaign still has to raise about $1.5 million to fulfill the library’s $12 million contribution to the new three-story building. Princeton Borough and Princeton Township contributed $6 million.
   "It’s always the last dollars that are the hardest to raise," Ms. Feldman said. She praised the efforts of the library’s volunteer fund-raising committee and consultants for making the campaign so successful.
   A resident of the Princeton area for 27 years — her family has lived in Princeton Township, Montgomery, West Windsor and Lawrence — Ms. Feldman has raised funds for a variety of nonprofit organizations.
   Until Friday, Ms. Feldman was the development and communications director at the Princeton Area Community Foundation, a Montgomery Township-based public foundation that oversees endowment funds set up by members of the community and makes charitable grants to local nonprofit organizations. The PACF, as of Dec. 31, held assets of approximately $20 million in more than 100 distinct funds. The foundation distributed over $1 million in 2001 to more than 250 nonprofit groups in the central New Jersey region.
   When she joined the PACF in 1995, much emphasis was placed on building up the organization, founded in 1991.
   "In those days, our database (of potential donors) had 185 names," she said. "Now there are more than 5,500 names."
   The Princeton Public Library, already an established organization, has many contacts with philanthropic groups and corporate entities to seek grants and gifts for the library’s endowment and capital campaign.
   Ms. Feldman said she looks forward to working with the library’s Board of Trustees and the Friends of the Princeton Public Library, which raises money for the library, as well as the library’s foundation, which was established during the Cornerstone campaign, to establish a focused fund-raising plan for the library.
   The new, larger library will cost more to run than the former building, demolished in February, Ms. Feldman pointed out.
   Rather than rely on municipal funding for the difference in operating costs, the library is committed to raising an endowment with an initial goal of $5 million, Ms. Feldman said. The endowment received a $2.5 million kick-off gift from George and Estelle Sands, a Princeton Borough couple, last year. The Sandses also donated $2.5 million for the new library building.
   Attracting donations for the endowment fund during a period when many companies and corporations have reduced or cut out donations is a concern, Ms. Feldman said.
   "But we saw after Sept. 11 how many individuals and companies gave so generously, so the ability is there," she said.