BATH, Maine — A $2,300 donation is a lot for most people, but Mark Schoninger didn’t hesitate when he realized his money could have a triple impact, and maybe more.
Schoninger, who with his wife, Louanne, owns Bath Natural Market on Centre Street, had been hearing his customers talk for several weeks about a Kickstarter fundraising effort to benefit the Bath Freight Shed Alliance. On Saturday, the last day of the campaign, he logged onto the project’s website for the first time and saw that with only hours to go, the alliance was still more than $4,000 short of its $18,000 goal. Kickstarter projects receive their funding only if the fundraising goal is met by the deadline.
Schoninger noticed that the alliance was offering prize packages for various donations and that the top level — $2,300 — earned all of them, including a private party with local foods and live music hosted in the freight shed.
“It was a kind of serendipitous moment,” said Schoninger, 38, who bought Bath Natural Market in 2004. “I saw all these different things fitting together so I talked with my wife and we both thought it seemed like a good idea.”
The alliance topped its goal Saturday evening. Some of the money will fund electrical work on the historic freight shed and some of it will be used as matching funds for grants previously received by the alliance. That means the Schoningers’ money — along with donations from 236 others — will have double the impact, but Mark Schoninger’s idea went a little further. He has opted to let the private party his donation earned be a fundraiser for a local organization, which he thinks could raise another $2,300 and possibly much more.
“At minimum, my $2,300 gets turned into something more than $7,000,” he said. “It seemed like this was an efficient way do a lot of good for a lot of different people.”
His wife, Louanne, whom Schoninger married in February, agreed.
“I think it’s the perfect opportunity to support the community,” she said. “In a way it’s an extension of what we already do.”
Schoninger has approached a local charity organization to see whether it wants to be the benefactor of the fundraiser, but as of Tuesday the organization’s board of directors had not considered the idea.
The Bath Freight Shed Alliance is working to take over the Bath freight shed, a building more than 100 years old on the Kennebec River near downtown Bath. The alliance has an agreement with the building’s owner that in exchange for using it, the alliance will perform a range of needed upgrades and renovations. An organization called Maine’s First Ship is building a replica of the 1607 pinnace Virginia at the site and organizers envision the building being a center for numerous nonprofit organizations, including the Bath Farmers Market.
Although the project will require hundreds of thousands of dollars more to reach fruition, according to Wiebke Theodore, who heads the freight shed alliance, the success of the Kickstarter campaign was crucial in the short term.
“The momentum is unbelievable,” she said. “We cut it really close and [the Kickstarter campaign] really took an outpouring from the people of Bath. We’ve connected with so many people who we hadn’t been in contact with before. Now there are so many people invested in the project.”
Schoninger is no stranger to donations. In addition to some monetary gifts over the years, he gave one of his kidneys to a relative 10 years ago. The way he sees it, he’d rather give his money to charity than spend it as others might, such as on a high-definition television.
“My television is 15 years old … but I want to use my money to buy things that matter,” he said.