NEH Recognizes SDHC as 'Exemplary' During Site Visit

The above photo was taken during the NEH Site Team visit.

Back: L-R Roger Campbell (Pierre, Board Member), Scott Krawczyk (NEH Facilitator), Gina Jahr (SFACF, Sioux Falls)
Front: L-R Betsy Birmingham (ND, Site Team), Liz Young (VA, Site Team), Matt Moen (Vermillion, Board Chair), Kendra Calhoun (Avera, Sioux Falls) Sherry DeBoer (ED, SDHC)

5-Year Site Assessment Review: Assessing our Role in the State

The South Dakota Humanities Council has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Humanities as an "exemplary" organization with "robust and fully mature" relationships that have led to success for programs such as the South Dakota Festival of Books.

NEH representatives visited South Dakota to conclude a five-year review process that included site visit interviews with more than 40 people representing the constituency, board and staff of the South Dakota Humanities Council, whose mission is to celebrate literature, promote civil conversation, and tell the stories that define our state.

The NEH Site Team included:

  • Scott Krawczyk, director of the Federal/State Partnership, the NEH division that provides SDHC's annual operating money. Scott began his duties with NEH in July 2015 and recently served as the Head of the Department of English and Philosophy at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
  • Dr. Betsy Birmingham, professor of English and Associate Dean in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at North Dakota State University in Fargo. She currently sits on the ND Humanities Council.
  • Ms. Liz Young, former chair of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities which, like SDHC, hosts an annual book festival and raises endowment funds. Young is a telecommunications/marketing consultant who has helped conduct eight NEH site visits in the past 15 years.

Significant Relationships

Per the report filed by the site team, SDHC's success stems from creating valuable partnerships with similar organizations, cultivating sustainable fundraising resources and producing high-quality programming.

The report cited the significance of relationships with the South Dakota Library Association, the South Dakota Department of Education, the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and the Children's Museum of South Dakota as especially effective in reaching South Dakota youth and young readers.

The South Dakota Library Association and Department of Education have been staunch supporters of SDHC's statewide One Book South Dakota program, while the Symphony Orchestra and Children's Museum have partnered with SDHC on grants and events for the annual South Dakota Festival of Books.

'Jewel in the State's Crown'

The "robust and fully mature" partnerships developed with those organizations were a major factor in the NEH concluding that SDHC's signature event, the South Dakota Festival of Books, is "the jewel in the state's crown."

Known for featuring well-known authors, poets and illustrators like former National Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michael Dirda and National Book Award-winning authors Louise Erdrich and Sherman Alexie, the Festival of Books has steadily increased in attendance since its inception in 2003.

The annual event unites thousands of readers and writers each fall with author presentations, readings, autograph sessions and more. SDHC's goal is to curate relationships that last well beyond the three-day event and to bring in audiences from every corner of the state.

The site team recognized such efforts to unite South Dakotans and reach underserved areas by calling the organization "exemplary."

"Especially notable are the breadth and liveliness of the Council's approach to linking the people of South Dakota to the life of the mind through a relationship with books and reading; the staff is especially dedicated to ensuring that the Council serves the full cultural and geographic diversity of the state's population."

'Good Work has Begun' on Endowment

The site team said "good work has begun" in building a long-lasting endowment fund to solidify SDHC's future in the face of budget cuts and other unknowns.

SDHC has endowed funds in three South Dakota-based community foundations and has increased overall fundraising from $82,200 in 2012 to $237,360 in 2016.

Donations to the Festival of Books have also spiked during the past two years, with $123,900 raised in 2016 versus $87,600 in 2014 and $95,400 in 2015.

Thank You

SDHC would like to thank the following people who participated in the site team visit:

Strategic Priority One — Expand the audience of readers and writers

  • Patrick Hicks, Augustana University
  • Sheryl Baloun, SDHC Board Alumni
  • Scott Skar, Barnes &Noble
  • Thea Miller Ryan, Outdoor Campus
  • Ann Smith, Sioux Falls School District
  • Heather Stephenson, Siouxland Libraries

Strategic Priority Two — Community Conversations -- Collaborations

  • Scott Petersen, Washington Pavilion
  • Larry Rohrer, South Dakota Public Broadcasting
  • Sam Shaw, South Dakota Department of Education Liaison
  • David Delta Gier /Jennifer Boomgaarden, South Dakota Symphony
  • Lynn Verschoor, South Dakota Art Museum,
  • Lori Walsh, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Dakota Midday
  • Trisha Meyer, Sioux Falls Veterans' Administration and Hospital
  • Kate Treiber, Children's Museum of South Dakota

Strategic Priority Two – Community Conversations -- Scholars & Coordinators

  • Barbara Johnson, Stained Glass Scholar
  • John Miller, Grants Scholar and Project Coordinator
  • Lawrence Diggs, Speakers Bureau Scholar
  • Sandra Pay, Sioux Falls Arts Council
  • Nancy Veglahn, Grants Scholar
  • Jon Lauck, Project Scholar

Group Interview Strategic Priority Three — Diversifying Revenue

  • Margaret Cash Wegner, SDHC Board Alumni
  • Jean Nicholson, SDHC Board Alumni
  • Gina Jahr, Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation
  • Jeff Veltkamp, South Dakota Community Foundation
  • Mary & Lorin Brass, Brass Family Foundation
  • Brian Bonde, ACFRE, Advanced Certified Fundraising, LLC
  • Steve Sanford, SDHC Board Alumni
  • Randell Beck, Pulitzer Board and Avera