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April Common Ground E-Newsletter

24 April 2014

Betty's Galaxy
$500,000 Grant
Vote Smarters Invest in the Future
Yes, we thought of changing its name to Betty’s Galaxy. Every rare once in a while someone does something at Vote Smart so extraordinary, so timely, so special, that our jaws collectively drop to the floor. Such was the case this past March. We were beset by the loss of key staff and a non-election year decrease in contributions. The board worried that we would not have sufficient funds to complete Political Galaxy, I Spy or any of the amazing conversions taking place at our offices.

Then a member, a retired nurse sitting in Northern California, sent us a message. “I have decided to give Vote Smart a $50,000 donation.” Only Betty, at 92, had put in an extra zero ($500,000).

Turns out that Betty is not only fun to talk with, but is as sharp as anyone at any age, and that extra zero—well, it was no mistake. She has sent in the first of four $125,000 installments.

It will enable Vote Smart to stay on track and moving forward, able to release our new tools in time for the presidential primary season next fall, and to give our members a preview this summer.

Millions are learning to turn to us for the facts, for reality. National media, political scientists—even the Defense Department now turn to us to get the lowdown for citizens and our overseas troops.

Betty’s unprecedented and unselfish gift is really an investment—not for her own personal gain but for those who come behind her. We have never called our members and supporters “investors” before, but it is such an apt way to characterize those of you who have invested in the work of our staff, interns and volunteers over these past years. And it brings their work into clear focus.

We have not been simply giving our time and money to a good cause. It is an investment in the future of our political process and health of our democracy. As surely as we expect to see a return on our other investments, we expect to see our work result in better-informed, more confident voters and new generations of Americans who are empowered to hold their representatives accountable. Vote Smart is perhaps uniquely equipped to accomplish this, with our army of idealistic young and senior citizens.

In the last year our supporters invested close to $1,000,000, including twenty-five bequests totaling $90,000. This has allowed our staff to create the world’s most innovative interactive tools for informed voting—Political Galaxy, I Spy, and VoteEasy 2014—to be previewed by our members only this summer. The return on that investment will be in your hands shortly and you will marvel at what you have made possible!

If you are one of our members who has been considering making a major gift such as Betty has, through cash, real estate, annuities, securities, a trust or foundation, or eventually a bequest, please contact Adelaide Elm Kimball at 406-859-8683 ( so we may discuss this idea with you.

And please remember, we appreciate any and all help you can continue to give Vote Smart at ANY level through this critical next election year—financial, promotional, and volunteering! THANK YOU!

Montana Offices May Relocate

Vote Smart’s Executive Board is considering relocating its Montana research offices to a more traditional university setting.

Due to the increasing cost of operating the retreat research facility and difficulties staff have had with recent winter weather and summer fires, the board has decided to market the research center property to assess its real value.

Under no circumstance would the board move the facilities to a university setting before the 2016 presidential elections heat up.

However, the spiraling costs of operating the non-research components of the Montana facility in order to attract sufficient numbers of volunteers and unpaid interns, has become an issue. The cost of maintenance, utilities, feeding and housing interns now exceeds what it would cost to simply have paid-internships in most cities.

Many members, interns and staff have had wonderful life-transforming experiences at this wonderful facility and the selling of it would be painful to them. A sale is not pending, nor is the selling of the property a certainty. The listing of the property is a precautionary measure to evaluate and expand options. It is such a unique property and the board would need time to find the unique buyer this beautiful property requires, should selling it become the most prudent option for the organization.

Vote Smart’s Key Votes program and offices at the University of Texas will be unaffected by these potential changes.  

Related tags: blog, e-newsletter, grants, Montana

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