Funding Bill Passed; Fundraising Goal Met

Congress Passes $1.9M Increase; SDHC Raises $50,000 for Young Readers

While 2017 has been challenging for the South Dakota Humanities Council, things took a turn for the better with two major victories in a matter of ten days.

On April 24, we officially met our goal of $50,000 for the Young Readers Fundraising Initiative, and on May 4 we received the $50,000 match from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

And, after months of discussion and delays, the newly introduced FY 2017 omnibus bill passed on May 3. The NEH, a major source of SDHC funding, received a $1.9 million increase for FY '17, surviving funding threats associated with a “skinny budget” which proposed complete elimination for the the federal organization in FY 2018.

Thank You To Our Supporters

U.S. Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds voted in favor of the omnibus bill, which the Senate passed by a vote of 79-18. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 244 by a vote of 309-118.

We'd like to thank Sens. Thune and Rounds for supporting the bill.

We'd also like to thank our supporters. From the contributing authors for our "Why the Humanities" series defending the need for humanities in the U.S. to those who called and wrote legislators on behalf of our organization, we are overwhelmed by the support we received.

"Although we recognize the challenges to be faced in the 2018 budgeting process, we're pleased to see the funding increase for 2017, which shows that our lawmakers remain cognizant of the need for humanities and arts programming in the U.S.," said Sherry DeBoer, SDHC executive director. "We're heartened by the response from our constituents who came forward and spoke on our behalf at such a crucial time."

The NEH and NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) will each receive $150 million. Despite discussion to the contrary, funding levels for many programs in the bill did not change markedly from the FY 2016 levels.

Donors Boost Young Readers Initiative

Last fall, we earned a $100,000 federal grant to advance our Young Readers Initiative, which has provided more than 12,000 books to elementary students around the state. The National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant stipulated that we raise our first $50,000 by May 1, 2017, and another $50,000 by May 1, 2018 to receive the full match of $100,000.

We're more than half way to our goal of $100,000, with more than $50,000 raised by the first deadline, and NEH has released the first $50,000 match to us

"Our donors showed, once again, how strongly they support youth literacy in South Dakota," DeBoer said.

Launched in 2014, the Young Readers Initiative is a multi-faceted program that has received tremendous support from South Dakotans in its few short years of existence. Aimed at engaging South Dakota youth in the humanities, the initiative has brought Newbery Medal-winning authors like Kate DiCamillo to the state to talk about their work, touching the lives of thousands of young students.

Young Readers Festival of Books

It began with a Young Readers Festival of Books, featuring a Young Readers One Book selected by teachers and librarians, as a companion event to the SDHC's 15-year-old signature event, the South Dakota Festival of Books.

Our outreach to underserved communities was key to our selection for the grant, which will be used to promote literacy to elementary students on all nine South Dakota American Indian reservations and Spanish-speaking English Language Learners.

The NEH is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. The Humanities Access grant will support three years of programming for the SDHC Young Readers Initiative.

By providing support for our federal funding and helping us reach this important milestone for our Young Readers Initiative, our supporters have shown just how important humanities programming is to South Dakota.

We look forward to continuing and improving these valued programs.

"Thanks to each of you who took time to reach out in this effort. You have made an important difference," DeBoer said.

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