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From the World War I Centennial News Podcast

Commission News: Raising Money for the Memorial with Director of Development Phil Mazzara  

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In May 31st's edition of the World War I Centennial News Podcast, Episode 125, host Theo Mayer spoke with Phil Mazarra, Director of Development and the Chief Fundraiser for the National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C. Read on to learn more about the Mr. Mazarra's experience in the fundraising field, and the ongoing effort to raise enough money for the National Memorial- what he calls "the most meaningful project he's ever raised money for." The following is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity: 

mazzaraPhilip Mazzara, Director of Development for the U.S. World War I Centennial CommissionTheo Mayer: As everybody but our newest listeners know, the Capstone Project for the US World War One Centennial Commission is the building of the National World War One Memorial in our nation's capital. It's a really huge undertaking that the Commission has managed to put together in literally record time. Congress allocated a space just two blocks east of the White House, an international design competition was held in 2015, followed by several years of design detail and development and interaction with controlling entities in Washington for such things. It has all led to a truly stunning and remarkable design that brings together an urban park environment with a national memorial in a unique and really special way. Of course, a huge part of this is raising the money to build it. To talk about that, we're joined by the director of development for the project, also known as our fundraiser-in-chief, Phil Mazzara. Phil, welcome to the podcast.

Phil Mazzara: Thank you, Theo, happy to be here.

Theo Mayer: Phil, before we get into the memorial, let me ask you about your background. What major projects have you helped to raise money for in the past, and also, how is this project unique?

Phil Mazzara: Well, Theo, I'm at the end of a 40-year career and I'm delighted to say I've been blessed and privileged to have worked with some of our country's best institutions, both at the collegiate level and healthcare, hospitals and medical centers, including two organizations that are known as NGOs. I have, in 40 years, worked in fundraising campaigns totaling around $700 million. I say this in order to provide the background for how one would look at raising money for a memorial which commemorates the service of Doughboys and others who served our country more than 100 years ago, and that's a unique challenge. Perhaps the only thing close to that in terms of uniqueness that I've done is work with a former living US president in raising money and not a lot of fundraisers get to do that. How you go about raising money with a constituency that is long gone is truly unique. We don't have, as a college would have, a cohort of alumni or parents. We don't have, as hospitals have, a cohort of grateful patients, and so we're really working to build a constituency out of people who, either they're businesses or families who were impacted by the war or have developed an interest in the war, like I did some 50 years ago when I was a student and studied the war and the impact of the war on English literature. For me, personally, this is the perfect culmination of a 50-year interest in the Great War and a 40-year fundraising experience.

Theo Mayer: Speaking of fundraising, let's talk numbers. Where did we start and how much is left to raise?

Phil Mazzara: Well, the World War One Memorial, which will be located at Pershing Park in Washington, DC, is essentially a $40 million project, and toward the $40 million goal, we've raised $27 million and we have $13 million to go, and our hope is that we can raise the remaining $13 million by the end of July or late summer, and the reason for that is if we can secure the remaining $13 million in gifts and pledges by that time, then we can break ground in the fall, hopefully by mid-October. That's important because that, then, would enable us to look at a dedication of the Memorial Park around November 11th, 2021, which is an important anniversary for us because that is then the 100th anniversary of the internment of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery.

pershing parkPershing Park in Washington, D.C., the site of the future National World War I Memorial Theo Mayer: Well, that's a lot of money raised. Who are some of the key donors that you can mention?

Phil Mazzara: Well, we're thrilled to have some early partners such as the Pritzker Military Museum and Library in Chicago and the Pritzker family behind that, the Star Foundation in New York City, were early donors and major contributors that sent us along our $27 million. More recent donors include FedEx, the NFL, and Walmart have just recently come in. We also have about $15 million in proposals that are pending, and so our goal is to raise, from that cohort of money and new proposals that we're submitting, the remaining $13 million in gifts and pledges by the end of July.

Theo Mayer: This memorial is going to honor the veterans of World War One for generations to come. I don't have an extra million sitting around. What can I do?

Phil Mazzara: Well, anyone and everyone can help build the memorial, so while we're focusing on the larger gifts because they get us to goal faster, everyone can make a contribution. The easiest way to do that is to go on the website and then click on make a contribution of any amount, and you can make it in honor of someone or in memory of someone, then gifts can be made as little as a dollar or more. All gifts, great or small, get us to goal and all would be very helpful and gratefully received.

Theo Mayer: I understand that, even after the memorial is built, there's an ongoing support and fundraising process that's going to continue. How does that work for us and other memorials?

Phil Mazzara: Well, most of the other memorials, I'm thinking specifically of the World War Two Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, have created organizations after the memorial was built and dedicated that are typically friends groups. Friends of the World War Two Memorial or Friends of the Vietnam Memorial, for example. We're looking at a similar Friends of the World War One Memorial, the Doughboy Foundation. As we put shape and form to this, we're looking at it in the context of what many listeners would know of as an annual fund, either an annual fund from their alma mater or symphony or an art museum that they support, that we would use for ongoing commemoration activities, ongoing ways to preserve the memorial through an active maintenance fund, so that the work of fundraising goes on from a capital focus construction campaign to a more of an ongoing annual support for commemoration and education activities.

maquetteThe Memorial sculpture maquette, or small-scale modelTheo Mayer: I know that we're working really hard to put a shovel in the ground. Can we start building it now? Why can't we just start?

Phil Mazzara: The Park Service requires that you have the money in hand before you put a shovel in the ground and that's a good thing because you don't want projects of this nature to begin and then stall so it's important for us to have the entire $40 million in gifts and pledges in-hand so that we can demonstrate to the Park Service that we've got the funding secure. Once that's done, it takes a few months of administrative work before you actually, then, can put a shovel in the ground. That's why it's important for us to meet these deadlines. If we don't make the July 31 deadline, then we can't really put a shovel in the ground as early as mid-October. It's very important for us to do that, because if you then lay out the timeline, we have to put a shovel in the ground in mid-October if we have any hope of dedicating the memorial on November 11th, 2021.

Theo Mayer: Any closing comments, Phil?

Phil Mazzara: This is probably the most meaningful project I've ever raised money for, both from a professional and a personal point of view. I'd like to remind the audience that I am a donor, I would say that I'm a small donor compared to some of the other gifts that we've got, and if I can make a donation to this project, anyone can make a donation to this project.

Theo Mayer: Phil Mazzara is the director of development for the US World War One Centennial Commission, raising money to build the National World War One Memorial in Washington, DC, to honor the veterans of World War One in our nation's capital. If you'd like to contribute in the name of all veterans or in the name of your ancestor, please go to, all lowercase, or you can also text to give, by texting the letters WW1 or WWI to the 91999, and of course, we have those links for you in the podcast notes.