The Tricentennial needs $2,041,894 to reach its private fundraising goal, Tricentennial Commission staff told its executive board on Wednesday. The funding gap for events and coordination during San Antonio’s 300th anniversary year was closer to $2.9 million in November 2017.

As events planned throughout the year are finalized, Tricentennial Executive Director Carlos Contreras told the Rivard Report, the total private funding needed – originally $10.3 million – has started to decrease.

“We have a better idea of what [events] are going to cost and better idea of what we’re doing,” Contreras said. The monthly cost associated with a firm hired for marketing and advertising – KGBTexas – will likely drop off when its contract expires at the end of June.

The executive board is confident it will meet its fundraising goals in time for Commemorative Week, May 1-6, despite what previous leaders admitted was a late start. The week, which officially begins one day after Fiesta ends, includes dozens of events throughout the city, some Tricentennial-focused, others not.

Funding outside of private support comes from the City ($2.3 million), County ($287,000), and various in-kind services from both private and public sources ($9.7 million).

It’s been three months since Edward Benavides stepped down as executive director of the Tricentennial. He has since resigned from the City as well. Contreras, who is also an assistant city manager, and new co-chairs stepped in to lead the local government corporation surrounded by what Benavides himself described as “negativity” and falling behind on work that some say should have been completed months earlier.

The Tricentennial chose not to renew a contract with fundraising consultant Kathleen Doria last year. Since then, fundraising efforts have been spread out among commissioners, staff, and other local leaders, Contreras said. 

“Frankly the mayor is going to be helpful, the city manager has been helpful, and others will [assist in fundraising],” he said, especially board members.

Earlier this month, the Commission voted to reduce its monthly budget for local public relations and marketing firm KGBTexas. That bill won’t exceed $16,500 per month from February through May. January was double that, and December was $74,000 due to additional work done for the New Year’s Eve celebration, said Katie Harvey, KGB’s chief executive officer.

The reduced contract came as no surprise to the firm, Harvey told the Rivard Report in a phone interview after the meeting, as it was always the plan to reduce the contract “so that [the Tricentennial] wasn’t so reliant on contractors. … It’s not effective to completely outsource an entire vision strategy and 100 percent of execution [of it] on an agency.”

December was an abnormal month, she said, because the PR firm was between contracts with the Tricentennial after Benavides stepped down. “[KGB was] asked to go on hourly [rates] while they were restructuring.”

Many responsibilities previously performed by the firm have been redistributed through existing and new staff provided by the City, she said. KGB developed the contract in collaboration with Contreras. It was unanimously approved earlier this month.

Under the contract, KGB will receive $105,675 for January through June, according to figures provided by the firm.

After that, Contreras said the Tricentennial Commission expects to have absorbed event planning and marketing functions by the end of summer and will only have a few events to plan for the fall.

Tricentennial Commission Co-chair Lionel Sosa, who co-founded the legendary marketing and advertising firm Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar & Associates, criticized KGB Texas’ abilities when discussing the design of new billboards Wednesday during the meeting. But he said afterwards that the firm is “stepping up to the task now. In the past … the management of their contract could have been managed better, but this is a new day. I strongly support them and I’m confident that they will step up to the plate as needed.”

The Commission also discussed social media efforts. Vanessa Hurd, the relatively new deputy director of the commission, noted that the Tricentennial has more than 41,000 likes on Facebook, 3,000 followers on Twitter, and 7,300 on Instagram.

“How is New Orleans doing?” Sosa asked, and noted that a critical comparison of the two 300th anniversaries as a whole was published by the San Antonio Express News.

As of Wednesday, Hurd noted, NOLA 300 has 2,200 likes on Facebook, 129 followers on Twitter, and little more than 1,100 on Instagram.

Though not a complete or reliable measure of success, social media presence is important in modern campaign planning and promotion. Local firm Tribu has taken over social media duties and website design for the Tricentennial.

During its meeting, the six members of the committee also approved a contract with Hurd, former DoSeum CEO, to continue on as deputy director of the commission through the end of the year.

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org