OutCentral plans summit, continues to push membership, facility rental

As it continues to expand its programming to reach all aspects of the Middle Tennessee GLBT community, OutCentral cultural center is planning a leadership summit designed to give multiple community organizations a forum.

The summit is set for Feb. 18, and the goal will be for leaders and groups to come not only with their own agenda, but also listen to other people and organizations to see how they might come together, said Jim Hawk, executive director.

“We want it to be an open meeting to get opinions and input, but we need to listen to each other first and foremost so we can reformulate what we’re doing and facilitate everyone’s ability to work together,” Hawk said. “We want to see what these leaders can come up with so that we can do more as a community, and so that we can engage the 18 to 25-year-olds as well as our older community members.”

The summit, which is envisioned as a quarterly meeting going forward, joins a fairly busy calendar of events for the center as it continues to reach out to various groups in an effort to promote its meeting space and offices for rent. These efforts, as well as an early-year membership drive that’s been wrapping up in recent weeks, are meant to raise the facility’s visibility as well as boost its bottom line.

“When we began the center, we had a goal of not having to continually fundraise,” said Kate Nelson, a member of the OutCentral board of directors. “That’s a drain on people. We designed OutCentral to have office rentals, space rentals and memberships so that various sources of income would carry the cost of the space, and we’re having success with that.”

As of mid-January, the center’s monthly expenses were coming in at around $2,300, with 26 individuals donating funds monthly. The center had 46 individual members join in 2009, and has set a goal of 100 monthly donors at $20 each, which would cover all expenses. Currently three of its offices are rented, with three still available.

“We’re trying to grow that membership so that there’s even less need for fundraising, and this was our first year to have a real drive,” Nelson said. “We’ve set up an e-mail campaign and also have a system in place for automatic renewals, so it’s beginning to build for us.”

About 15 community groups use the facility for events and meetings, so it’s getting plenty of input from the community — but could always use more, Nelson said.

“That’s why we’re looking forward to the leadership summit, and getting more people here,” she said. “It fits really well with what we do with OutCentral, which is to try to create a space for collaboration within the community.”

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