When the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation closed the doors to its museum because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the organization's 150 employees had no work to do.
“The bulk of our employees are part-time, and they’re forward-facing, meaning they work at our visitor services desk, in our store, and in our education department, or they sell memberships,” says Melissa Giller, spokesperson for the Reagan Library and Foundation. “With the closure, they were all essentially out of a job.”
Except they weren’t.
The Reagan Foundation’s board of directors and its executive management team decided to keep paying all staff members—even though the organization was facing a weekly loss of $150,000 in revenue.
“The foundation is beyond fortunate,” Giller says. “We are very successful in our fundraising efforts each year, and we have a pretty good-sized endowment. We are using that money to keep everyone employed.”
The payroll extension program was originally approved for two weeks, through March 27, but after a bit of brainstorming, the foundation’s leaders launched another program.
“They decided it would be a really nice touch if we created a phone bank and reached out to every single member—all 40,000 of them—to check in and make sure they’re OK, tell them that their membership will be extended for as long as we’re closed, and assure them that we will reopen,” Giller says.
Employees were trained during a Zoom meeting March 30, and they started making calls the next day. After answering emails and completing work on ongoing projects each day, scores of staff members take to the phone and reach out to members.
“Due to the success of the program, our executive director had another conversation with our board, and we have announced to staff that everyone will remain on the payroll through at least April 30,” Giller says, adding, “40,000 is a lot of people to call!”
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Top photo: Air Force One Pavilion at the Reagan Library
Photo by Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum