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June 9, 2009

CW Foundation releases 2008 Annual Report

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has issued its 2008 annual report and donor registry, published as a special insert in Colonial Williamsburg, the journal of the Foundation.

Colonial Williamsburg’s revenue-generating activities felt the impact of the slowdown in the domestic economy, high gasoline prices during the summer vacation season and decline in the financial markets. Total revenues, including budgeted endowment support, were $210 million, a decrease of $15 million from 2007, and expenses were $249 million, a decrease of $13 million from 2007. The operating loss was $39 million, an increase of $2 million relative to the year before. “The economic downturn took its toll in 2008, on the nation and on Colonial Williamsburg and its employees,” said Colin G. Campbell, the Foundation’s president and chief executive officer. “At a time when we were on track to achieve revenue gains and a reduced deficit it was particularly disappointing to experience revenue losses and an increased deficit.”

General admission ticket sales totaled 707,000, down 73,000 (9 percent) from the previous year. Taking into account those with multiday and annual passes, this is the equivalent of close to two million guests actually visiting in 2008. Revenues from ticket sales totaled $18.5 million, an increase of $250,000.

“Given the recessionary climate and record high gasoline prices at the height of the tourist season that discouraged travel, these numbers are, relatively speaking, better than expected,” said Campbell. “However, like others in the museum and tourism sector, we must improve these numbers in the coming years. I am confident that we will.”

Room occupancy and overall Hospitality Division revenues were off approximately 9 percent due in part to price competition in room rates and promotions at lower rates necessary to attract overnight guests. Conference business declined because companies and associations curtailed off-site meetings.

In the Products Division, direct marketing sales rose 1 percent and retail store sales declined 15 percent in line with retail conditions in similar stores nationwide. Among other actions, the Foundation entered into a multiyear distribution agreement with television retailer QVC to offer and promote WILLIAMSBURG® brand products.

Total donations of cash and objects during the year increased 2 percent to more than $42 million, the highest result in many years. The Annual Fund received a total of $14.6 million from 110,000 households representing all 50 states, including nearly 20,000 families choosing to make a gift to the Foundation for the first time. Gifts from individuals in the Williamsburg area were up by 37 percent.

“We are gratified by these fund-raising results, coming at a time when people were reevaluating and in some instances reducing charitable contributions,” said Campbell. “The support of friends in the immediate Williamsburg community is particularly heartening.”
Although disappointing in absolute terms, the Foundation’s investment performance of negative 17.6 percent ranks it in the top 5 percent of endowed institutions in the country. The endowment value was $611 million at the end of the year, a decline of $209 million including the impact of the negative investment performance, withdrawals to meet operating and routine capital expenses, and gifts to the endowment. Including the decline in value of pension assets and other adjustments, net assets declined by $326 million to a total of $728 million.

Because of the extraordinary financial challenges that emerged during the year, the Foundation found it necessary and prudent to eliminate 140 staff positions along with another 140 vacant positions, extend seasonal layoffs, reduce work hours for some non-salaried staff, freeze salaries, introduce a “furlough day” program for salaried employees, reduce officer salaries and adopt reduced operating schedules for some hospitality facilities. These steps and others reduced annual expenditures by $18 million by year’s end. Continuing initiatives to control and reduce expenses brought that total to $26 million by early 2009.

“Even as we continue to reduce expenditures, as we must, it is critical that we maintain the quality of our programs and services,” said Campbell. “We must be sure the organization is sustainable for the long term and positioned to respond from a programmatic and service perspective as economic conditions improve. We are observing operating schedules that are financially realistic, flexible and responsive to guest preferences. We are creating a flatter organization, with fewer management layers to encourage greater flexibility, innovation, efficiency and effectiveness.”

The report notes several highlights of an active year including groundbreaking for rebuilding Charlton’s Coffeehouse on its original foundations, Colonial Williamsburg’s most complete reconstruction in 50 years; the introduction of Revolutionary Stories to enhance a new season of the Revolutionary City street theatre program; introduction at Bassett Hall of a new character portrayal of the Rev. Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin who proposed the city’s restoration to John D. Rockefeller Jr.; and new museum exhibits including “Captured Colors: Four Battleflags of the American Revolution,” “Quilted Fashions,” “Sidewalks to Rooftops: Outdoor Folk Art,” and a rare exhibit of the work of 19th-century sculptor Asa Ames.

Colonial Williamsburg’s award-winning series of electronic field trips reached approximately six million students and their teachers in 48 states and was again honored by receiving three Emmy® nominations. The series of seven instructional programs appeared in 130 television markets, 17 statewide educational broadcast systems and on the Internet. In another form of educational outreach, over the next six years nearly three million California elementary school students will use classroom materials produced by Colonial Williamsburg in partnership with Pearson Scott Foresman, the world's leading elementary education publisher, as part of the state’s history-social science curriculum.

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a $600,000 Digital Humanities Challenge Grant and the Institute of Museum and Library Services made a $943,000 National Leadership Grant, all in support of the creation by the Foundation’s Digital History Center of a 3-D Visualization Lab and virtual reality versions of the Capitol, Douglass Theater and Charlton’s Coffeehouse, among other buildings.

“These grants make Colonial Williamsburg a leader among museums and historic sites in the application of cutting edge technology and are important to attract new and younger audiences to the Historic Area,” said Campbell.

The Historic Area was the location of a live two-hour broadcast of NBC’s TODAY Show in September. Also in 2008, a public service television announcement narrated by Tom Hanks was filmed in the Historic Area, describing Colonial Williamsburg as an important piece of America that everyone should experience.

Virginia’s legislature authorized the issuance of special Colonial Williamsburg vehicle license plates, sales of which will benefit the Foundation.

The full Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 2008 Annual Report is available online at: and

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution guests interact with history through “Revolutionary City®” – a dramatic live street theater presentation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Tom Shrout
(757) 220-7265