Frequently Asked Questions
Property & Site
Why is the Marshals Museum being built in Fort Smith?
Fort Smith is considered sacred ground for the U.S. Marshals Service, as more Marshals and deputy Marshals died riding out of Fort Smith during the frontier era than in any other place or time in our nation’s history.
In addition, Fort Smith was awarded the Museum project after a highly-competitive selection process that had spanned several years. The dedicated group of volunteers who had represented Fort Smith throughout this selection process worked incredibly hard to earn this honor for our community.
The site is next to the river and will flood. Why did you select such a site?
The Marshals Museum property is positioned above both the 500-year floodplain and the 100-year floodplain mark. The site was chosen to pay tribute to the Marshals who rode out of Fort Smith into Oklahoma territory. That is why the spire of the Museum points west.
Are you using local contractors to build the building?
Our preference is to always work with local vendors and contractors when possible. 38 local contractors (those located within 30 minutes of the site) were invited or requested to provide information to the general contractor regarding capabilities, capacity, and pricing. 12 chose to decline the opportunity. A total of $6.4 million, or 40% of the overall work was awarded to local contractors. Many contractors were on jobs elsewhere and could not bid.
Why did you begin construction of the Museum before you had all the money necessary to complete the project?
Our fundraising team has raised enough money to construct the Museum building and pay many other expenses. We believed it to be prudent, with escalating building and materials costs, to begin construction. Meantime, our fundraising efforts have continued to get the museum experience built and open to the public sooner rather than later.
Post Construction & Operations
How are you going to sustain the Museum?
The USMM will operate on a $2.5 million annual budget. The business model for a cultural institution such as the USMM requires a combination of earned and contributed revenue. Current projections cap annual fundraising needs at $600,000 with the remainder of the required revenue being earned through:
- General Admission (Resident Markets, Tourism, Local Festivals and Events)
- Food and Beverage
- Facility rentals
- Programs and events
- Spring / Summer Camps
- Temporary exhibitions
Financial Information & Accountability
What financial oversight is in place?
There are five levels of financial accountability currently in place:
– Financial Manager (staff)
– Chief Financial Officer (3rd party)
– USMM Board of Directors Finance Committee
– USMM Board of Directors (complete)
– 3rd party reputable auditing firm
How much have you spent since you began and what has it been spent for?
As of March 31, 2019, the Museum and Foundation have spent a total of $18,619,699. The majority of this has been in construction-related costs, architectural design & engineering, experience design and asset purchases. $6,258,684 of the total was spent on educational programming, artifact management, administration, marketing, and fundraising.
Are the Museum’s finances public?
Yes. All financial information concerning the Museum has been public since our beginning. Our financial reports are shared with news outlets at our quarterly board meetings and are then shared with the public. Financial information is also shared with the public by request.
In addition, the law requires disclosure of expenses of tax-exempt organizations such as the Museum and the Foundation. Those documents (called 990’s) are available online.
Does education and programming make up a large part of your expenses?
Yes. Educational expenses represent a large part of our undertakings. For example, our two major lectures, Supreme Court Justice Scalia and U.S. Congressman Trey Gowdy, attracted nearly 2,800 people, including 1,100 students, and the public was available to attend at no charge. Programming like this will continue to be an important part of what the Museum has to offer.
In addition, the Museum has also actively distributed a series of Educator Resource Support Guides to teachers and others in multiple states, reaching students nationally. The subjects in these guides have been related to civic literacy, history, law enforcement, and the Rule of Law.
What has the federal government done to help pay for the Museum?
The federal government’s help has been substantial and appreciated. The US Marshals Service (USMS) has loaned the Museum most of its collection of artifacts and objects. Among them are a Charles Wilson Peale miniature portrait of Robert Forsythe, the first U.S. Marshal killed in the line of duty in 1794. It has also supplied the Museum hundreds of other items that will be used to tell the USMS history.
Also, thanks to the support of our area congressional representatives and their bipartisanship, the United States Mint sold U.S. Marshals commemorative coins nationwide that resulted in a $3.1 million payment to the Museum.
What is the difference between the U.S. Marshals Museum, Inc., and the U.S. Marshals Museum Foundation, Inc.?
The Museum and the Foundation are both Arkansas non-profit corporations. Both have 501(c)(3) tax-exempt recognition from the Internal Revenue Service. The role of the Foundation is to raise money to build the Museum and National Learning Center and to support its annual budget once it is open and running.
The Museum has planned the construction of the Museum and the National Learning Center. It will be responsible for operating the Museum, managing the operating budget, overseeing educational programming, and ensure that the Museum is operating within its means.
Both the Museum and Foundation Boards of Directors are comprised of private citizens. Both Boards have a majority of residents from Fort Smith and surrounding areas.
Have you talked to every possible prospect and asked for money? Have you missed some and could they have made this possible?
We are currently working on several different initiatives to raise the remaining funds for the Museum. We have reached out to hundreds of potential donors. Regardless, there are still likely to be prospects that we have missed. If you have a fundraising idea, please contact our team. We would love to hear from you.
Will you have to keep raising money in the future?
Yes. Fundraising is at the heart of any cultural institution. It is an ongoing effort to fund operations with both earned and contributed revenue. Over time, the Museum’s Foundation plans to raise money for an endowment, which would then be used to supplement the operational budget and help defray future capital needs of the Museum.
Where has the money come from?
Approximately 54% of funds raised to date have come from generous donors – individuals, businesses and foundation in and around the Fort Smith area who have a passion for missions that matter and believe in what the Museum will mean for this area for decades to come.
The remaining 46% of funds raised to date have come from outside of the Fort Smith area.
What if I can’t give a large check to the project?
Gifts of all sizes are needed to support the work of this organization. Without federal funding, the Museum and Hall of Honor relies on members, supporters, and corporate foundation partners to invest in our mission to make a difference.
How is my support used?
The majority of the funds left to raised will be used for the production of the Museum experience. This includes five immersive galleries – To Be a Marshal, The Campfire: Stories Under the Stars, Frontier Marshals, A Changing Nation, and Modern Marshals. There will also be a National Learning Center, a Hall of Honor, retail space, and a cafe. The experience will be transformative, moving, and engaging, grounded in story and emotion.
Why haven’t you signed up a celebrity to endorse the project and help raise funds?
Throughout our fundraising efforts, we have made, and continue to make, extensive efforts to enlist a celebrity to assist in publicizing the Museum.
What is my GoFundMe donation paying for?
Your donation will go toward the production of the guest experience. This includes five immersive galleries – To Be a Marshal, The Campfire: Stories Under the Stars, Frontier Marshals, A Changing Nation, and Modern Marshals. There will also be a National Learning Center, a Hall of Honor, retail space, and a cafe. The experience will be transformative, moving, and engaging, grounded in story and emotion.
How long will the GoFundMe campaign be active?
The USMM is working to reach an immediate goal of $2 million by July to go towards our greater goal of $15.3 million.
What percentage does GoFundMe take from each donation?
There is a standard transaction fee of 2.9% plus $0.30 per donation that allows for credit card processing and safe transfer of funds.
What sorts of payment does GoFundMe accept?
GoFundMe only accepts payments through credit and debit cards.
Why is the USMM campaigning on GoFundMe?
This campaign is a response to supporters and interested donors of the Museum asking for opportunities to participate and fund the Museum experience.
When donating to GoFundMe, what does the option of adding a tip to the donation go towards?
Tips are what help keep GoFundMe live and active on the web, and do not go towards the beneficiaries. Tips are 100% optional for donors, and the donor can enter their preferred tip percentage amount in the drop down at the time of their donation.
Are donors and beneficiaries protected from any misuse of funds donated through GoFundMe?
Yes, there is a GoFundMe Guarantee refund policy which protect donors (those who give money to a campaign) and beneficiaries (the intended recipient of the campaign funds other than the campaign organizer) in instances of misuse. You can find GoFundMe Guarantee facts here: https://pages.gofundme.com/guarantee-faq/
The Riverfront & Downtown
Why should I support a project that is only a small part of riverfront development?
The Museum includes a large campus of beautiful parklands, featuring a monument to the lighthorsemen of the five civilized tribes. It will feature the world’s most comprehensive collection of US Marshals Service artifacts. The Museum will attract tens of thousands of tourists year over year and will be a catalyst to developing the remaining property along the river.
Will the Museum help all of downtown? How?
Without question, the Marshals Museum will become an icon for Fort Smith – attracting tens of thousands of visitors to the region on a yearly basis. The USMM has worked with experts in the field of feasibility studies and attendance projection on three different occasions. They project that, on a stabilized year, the Marshals Museum will provide a $13-22 million economic contribution to Sebastian County.
Experts have also concluded that the USMM will be viewed as one of the state’s top three signature attractions, alongside Crystal Bridges in Northwest Arkansas and the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock. Together, through cross promotion and collaboration, these attractions will help to strengthen tourism across the state.