This is a recorded session from the 2020 AAM Virtual Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo.
Museum professionals must understand fundraising to create and sustain value for their communities. Using a fast‐paced, popular game‐show format, a panel of development and membership experts will share ideas that apply to museums of any size or subject. Active participation is encouraged, and the audience always wins!
Presenters: Charles L. Katzenmeyer, Field Museum of Natural History; Rehana Abbas, Oakland Museum of California; Amy Kwas, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
Charles Katzenmeyer: Good afternoon, everybody and welcome to a session entitled 60 ideas in 60 minutes and I’m Charles cats in Meyer. I’m Vice President for Advancement at the Field Museum in Chicago and
In front of you are several experts who are going to make this session possible before we get started, I’d like to offer a sincere thanks to everybody at am for transferring so quickly and nimbly a massive in person conference to an online digital experiment that I think we can all say is succeeding that you are all here nearly 200 of you is proof of that. So thank you to the staff Laura Lott, Tiffany Gilbert, Arthur Affleck, Shelagh Grimshaw and the board for their confidence in this program this session premise today is pretty simple and several of you may have been to this conference and seeing this session before I had a boss early in my career, who said, if you take three good ideas from a conference, it’s been worth it.
I bet you with great inflation that has to be six or 12 now. But if you get a few good ideas. We’re going to throw a ton of ideas at you. All in an attempt to dazzle you with how good and smart. Our, our contestants are they won’t all apply to you, but several of them may and we hope that you can walk away with a few nuggets that are valuable.
I need to stress that the people participating today are competing for your attention. This isn’t you know professional blood sport they are friends, but on but they are competing. There are teams here.
In fact, there are teams here, period. And we want you to play a role to play. What your active participation.
To make this work. You can do that through captures through the chat in through the Q&A and my good friend, Don. I’m again this will serve as Co moderator and Donna. Would you introduce yourself and then I’m going to ask you to say a little bit about the development of membership professional network of which you are the chair.
Donna McGinnis: Thanks so much, Charles. It’s wonderful to see so many people even virtually those of you who really look forward to the conference every year, like I do, are probably really missing all of the opportunities to talk in the hallways and over a cup of coffee, but it is fantastic to have this opportunity to see some faces and have some conversations. Nonetheless, so that we don’t have to completely miss out.
My role I am president and CEO of Naples Botanical Garden in Naples Florida and I’ve had the honor of serving as chair of the development and membership professional network of am or the damn professional network. And that is a group that you can join free of charge. If you are an AM member and you go right to the professional networks page.
On the AAM website to join in and the DAM professional network is a group of about 1000 people who are working in the development field in museums or have an interest in learning more about it because it does apply to their job. So, it’s an excellent way to network within our membership base. And we hope to see you as part of it as well. And during today’s session. I’m going to be keeping an eye on the chat function and the Q&A. So, we hope that you will throw in your suggestions ideas and questions as well and I will bring those to the group. Thanks for joining.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Thank you Donna. Now I want to introduce our contestants our panelists, the talent that the faces you see on first Rihanna Abbas. Would you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your museum?
Rehana Abbas: Sure, I’m Rihanna Abbas. I’m the chief philanthropy officer Children’s Museum of California. As they call it was founded at 50 years ago this year is our 15th anniversary were founded as a museum of the people who heard history and natural sciences of California. And our mission is really around lifting up under told stories that have a lot of local importance, but also relevance on the national scale.
Thank you very much. And Amy Kwas representing the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, would you introduce yourself.
Amy Kwas: Can you hear me.
Charles Katzenmeyer: We can, yes.
Amy Kwas: Good, because I can’t hear anything. So, I’m sorry, I’m Amy class Vice President of Development at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and happy to be with you today.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Thank you all. Okay, let’s get to our game on. I’ll bring up our slideshow. And then you won’t see me anymore. Um, but we’ll get into our, our story and please, I’m going to implore you, we want your feedback and let’s put Donna to work. So, she’s going to be monitoring chat in questions and she will gladly curator of the best ideas. And bring to us, your voice. She is your surrogate
All right, here we go, 60 ideas in 60 minutes. Be the change you wish to see. I believe that’s something that we lead in our institutions and again, I’m Charles Katzenmeyer Vice President for Advancement at the Field Museum throughout the program, you’re going to see pictures of museums in this country and others and it’s a game will let you play at home in the following slide you’ll be notified of what that museum was so if you’re taking stock of this. So, you might write it down and see if you were right. Let me move on to the next slide. And you’ll see Don have, again, this is our co moderator and you can see the previous slide was the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. And this slide looks vaguely familiar to me. I can’t quite place it but sure is gorgeous. And I, I assume there’s a big freshwater lake nearby.
Our contestants representing teams mo money, less problems is rato boss and team big box is Amy Kwas.
And let’s get to round number one, we’re all thinking about operating support right now in the absence of revenue so membership and annual giving is where we can make a difference. And now we’ll start Amy with team big bucks.
Amy Kwas: So, as you all are feeling right now without, or revenue and your buildings contributed revenue is more important than ever. And I’m just here to tell you. Make sure that you are talking to your donors regularly asking for membership renewals and asking donors for gifts, whether or not it’s a COVID world loyalty is key. And we should be recognizing our donors at five years at 10 and years at 20 years as long as you can go. And I will tell you, it’s really important, we just received $130,000 request for somebody who was not on our radar but had been giving $100 a year for probably 20 years so pay attention and make sure you acknowledge those great milestones right now ask everyone to give back your time. Give back their time, don’t assume that everybody wants their membership extended ask them if they’ll give it back to you so that next year. You can renew those members or donors. At the same time, and not lose revenue this year as well as next year. This one, make sure your staff are comfortable asking, and this is more about the art of development, instead of the science of development.
With all of the pressure to generate contributed revenue. Make sure anybody who is in a position to ask donors for a gift that they’re comfortable doing so make sure they understand that if the time isn’t right. For that particular donor. It’s okay to not ask but also make sure they know that they should be asking because there are many, many people who want to support us. And then you might think nobody wants to give right now, but I would disagree, and in a COVID world prospecting may look a little different. Look at the Members who are renewing their memberships right now and I’m sure you have a hand a handful of them think about those as your best prospects for donor gifts for annual fund gifts.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Amy, if we’ve cleared up the sound and you can hear me. My question, to give back your time. I think when we all thought this vacation staycation from work was going to be six weeks to months now. Good Lord, we don’t know how long it’s going to be, so we all extended memberships. Hey, your memberships good kind of like kinda like my gym did, um, what you’re suggesting is that we go back, and we say, can we have that those months back. We want your philanthropy, you’re, you’re inviting a conversion right
Amy Kwas: We are. And don’t forget, I think some of the tax laws have changed temporarily this year. So, people who would typically file and easy for them, I think. They can deduct tax; they can make charitable tax deductions this year. So, whatever the value of that giving back is will count for a lot of your members this year on their taxes.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Don’t get me started about why we took deductions off easy forum in 1987 boy. If I had a time machine.
Amy Kwas: Yes, ah, yourself, Charles
Charles Katzenmeyer: All right, well, I read about it. I’m Rihanna. Let’s uh, let’s hear from your team mo money, less problems.
Rehana Abbas: Alright, so at this time when we are closed and some of our staff cannot do their normal job functions. Think about Stafford deployment. So, we have people in our museum, who are experienced in customer service and the store or our front lines, who are calling members. They’re thinking them.
But we are strategically calling the people who are up for renewal so redeploy your staff right now. Well, while they mean well, you’re still more employing them. And there’s work to be done. I’m…
Amy Kwas: Making…
Rehana Abbas: I think a lot of our platforms that we have traditionally used to museums can be really clunky and make it hard for people to give their money away and my organization. We started using it and a platform called classy.org and it has been amazing for us to see how many annual fun guests were getting in, because we make it really easy for people to give us their money.
When thinking about messaging, no one wants to support a sinking ship. Now I say this, knowing that all of our institutions are in really different places in terms of how this crisis is impacting us all financially.
But people want to invest in something that they think is going to succeed and make a difference in their community emergent messages that are. We’re going to close, unless you give us money right now are going to inspire a lot of confidence in your organization and also those kinds of messages really have an expiration date. And we have to think about. We’re in this for the long haul. It’s, it’s going to be a couple of years before museums are probably seeing the attendance that we saw before. So, you can’t do the sinking ship message for longer than, you know, a couple months if at all. I’m consider an impact report versus an annual report, so we change. We did, we started doing an impact report. A few years ago, instead of doing an annual report and because we felt that we wanted to show the impact of the Oakland Museum of California and we didn’t want to. We didn’t feel like we needed to print out the song in or important that was going to get sent around and maybe not be read. And so, we are doing an impact report. Instead, and I’m going to put a link in the tab here in the chat to a impact report that to the digital version.
And I just also want to take a moment because I see a message in the in the I see a message in the chat that the title of the team. And I do want to say I was we were encouraged to make fun titles of the team I’m personally a huge fan of interest vag and just was trying to use the song personally love to have a fun team name, and I’m sorry that it was coming, it comes across as john us. And you know, I will say that in this current moment. That we did not get this as an excuse. But we did make these teams quite a while ago and I think there’s an increased sensitivity right now. Whereas, maybe this would have been just viewed as a song title with a name change. I know that there’s more sensitivity now. So, I just want to go ahead and address that and say I’m sorry if that is if someone is upset about that and I do I see that. And you know, I understand how that could be interpreted. So just want to clear the air on that one.
Um, and then the last thing I’ll say is, is know your member data, and we do a lot of work on figuring out like what the spend per visit is so that we can make the case for investing in membership throughout the organization. So, for example, how much you remember spending the store, or how much you remember spending the cafe. We spent a lot of time making sure that to know that so that we can make the case for a membership organization.
Charles Katzenmeyer: That’s fantastic. Thank you. Um, you and I have talked about the impact report versus the annual report thing, and we don’t have to get into it here though we do enjoy that debate. I have a thorough believer in an annual report, but really what I’m a thorough believer in annually thanking donors and acknowledging in my case, I believe in print, but others are actively supporting online.
Recognition. Regular recognition of donors and regular reminders of what we do and reports for me, our impact reports, but can I go to your point about no one’s wants to support a sinking ship. I’ve always recast that a little differently and tell me if you’ll agree with this people give to success. They want to know that what they’re giving to is an organization that’s going to use that money really well and comfortable about
Amy Kwas: Confident and they’re gifted in it. Yeah.
Charles Katzenmeyer: And I think that’s your belief that if we send a sinking ship message. Who wants to support a sinking ship this? This is a proposition. That’s failing. So, thank you for that.
And also thank you for trying your title. I appreciate that.
Amy Kwas: Charles. Can I jump in, please?
I am. I think this is a tricky one, though right now to I have had two foundations recently turn us down because they have said they need to support organizations that aren’t going to make it.
And we as my institution is incredibly healthy from a financial perspective because of years and years of incredible fiscal restraint. So, thinking about how you state that is really important and why I agree completely that people want to support a winner. It’s a tricky time right now.
Charles Katzenmeyer: That’s a great point. Thank you for clarifying that I completely agree with you that we need to be careful that we’re talking about impact in our success and outcomes, rather than large s in our fundraising. So, it, it takes a lot of money to be successful in them in a museum sometimes. But we’re really focusing on impact. So, let’s let’s give Rihanna all the credit for actually making that case by suggesting impact reports.
I’d love to see all museums telling their impact story as we go through this, because each of us believes. I’m going to say the obvious. Now each of us believes that museums are need to have in a community not nice to have. So of course, the initial blush of philanthropy around the COVID emergency is for first responders and social services that’s natural and necessary but museums bring something to a community that makes the community so much stronger and then that’s, I think, Rhonda. That’s your that’s your point there. Thank you. Okay, let’s go on. This is our first audience chat feedback. So, Donna, what do you know, and what can you share, so,
Donna McGinnis: A question for Rihanna, number one, Rihanna. There are some questions about what platform you’re using for your online giving if you might put that into the chat. But also, could you give us an example of maybe some of the impact messages you’re thinking that your museum is going to put out to your audience. Since, of course, Oakland is one of the cities, we’re hearing a lot about right now.
Rehana Abbas: Sure. So, so I want to preface this by saying that when we, when we had this conversation originally, we were really talking about COVID19 and coronavirus and the response that we’re doing right now. I would say to that. So, in terms of coronavirus the messaging that we’ve been putting out as around that, you know, really made a commitment to staff at this point we when we had to reduce our staffing when we had to reduce our budget, we decided to can to keep all staff and just reduce everybody’s hours.
So that kind of commitment is one that really resonated well with our members and donors, looking ahead and turn in terms of how we’re responding to the complexities of our current time and we’re doing a lot of internal dialogue at the Museum of which include that’s inclusive of staff at all levels to talk about what we feel is an appropriate response as a museum and also trying to you know, put forth messages of activism. So, we have a great black power section in our museum in our history gallery and we have take action cards and our social media over the last few days has been reposting those shows that people that people can take. But in terms of fundraising right now. We haven’t we haven’t we’re not coming up with some kind of fundraising strategy that it ties into this current moment because we feel that I personally feel like right now. It’s not the time for that. It’s time for other voices to be heard.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Like you done anything else. Anything to bring forward.
Donna McGinnis: One question for me as you talk about asking members to give back your time and so instead of automatically giving everybody credit for the length of time that your institution was closed because of code. Can you give an example of how you could phrase that kind of request?
Amy Kwas: Sure, and I maybe the best thing for me to do is multitask and find our current letter that will be sending out as we consider we opening, but it’s really about were our first assumption we did not tell our members that we would automatically extend them and I know some people did. And I think it’s perfectly okay to go back to members and ask them to donate it back, if you will.
Our initial message was we’ll get back to you when we understand what the scope of the crisis looks like. And now that we’re working towards the reopening with an undetermined date. We are starting to put it together messages that says, you know, we’d like you to consider.
Donating this back and again I’ll copy and paste. So, you can see it. And if that doesn’t work for you because we understand that everybody’s in a different situation. Click here to extend your membership. So, we’re kind of working on the assumption that people want to give back.
And for our classic members. Right now, we’re seeing just in some of the renewals that we’ve been doing, we’ve been seeing about a % response rate of people giving that back tire. It’s about 20% on the donor members. And again, these are just early, early numbers.
But for us, we have 36,000 member households, so that translates into a fair amount of revenue for us on a regular basis. So really important thing for us to consider doing. And again, a great way for people to give back because I, you know, I know. I just don’t think we want to assume that people don’t want to help. We want to assume that they do want to help. And if they can’t, that is fine too.
Charles Katzenmeyer: That’s fantastic.
Donna McGinnis: One last question for both panelists. Are you still going at using direct mail for your annual fund membership renewals, things like that, or have you fully gone digital?
Rehana Abbas: That’s a great transition because I believe we address that in the next section. I know, I know.
I know I do. I’m not sure if me if you touch on coming up.
Amy Kwas: Yeah, right now we’re all digital I anticipate at some point when we’re back in the office will do a paper again, but this may be the right opportunity in the right time for us to just make the move to completely digital.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Okay, this is
Amy Kwas: Great. It’s been great.
Charles Katzenmeyer: I’m going to say it’s maybe a little too cordial and friendly and supportive, so it doesn’t feel like a competition to me. So, you know, this doesn’t. This just doesn’t seem like World Wrestling to me. So, let’s keep moving. And we’ll, we’ll see where it happens, our next topic is about communications and that’s a great picture. By the way, um, and Amy, talk to us about member community member donor communications.
Amy Kwas: Sure. So, the first thing is, you know, treat all of your donors like individuals because they are, um, and recognize which donors may be isolated. I know that as we look at our major gift portfolios and our leadership gift officers, they’re spending a different amount of time with some of our donors who are alone and are not leaving their homes just spending more time talking with them on a boat and zooming so pay attention to who might be isolated every communication that you have should show that you care first about them and about the institution second I would say, now is the time for a culture of philanthropy and with this I just I want everybody to think about how each and every one of us make sure that our constituents both internal and external understand that philanthropy is the engine that is running our institutions. So, take the time to help your colleagues understand what the contributed revenue outcomes look like and what they could look like at the end of the year to help the institution.
Make sure people understand the difference between your traditional fundraising and all those relief funds that you may be receiving right now, we’re really trying to differentiate that messaging, especially so that we can set realistic goals in future years. And then do for the public do things like tag every video with a Donate link.
People may not actually use that donate link and that’s okay. But when you talk to them later or, you know, this week or three years from now, they may remember that you’re an organization that’s fueled by contributed revenue. The other thing I know we have been struggling with for sure is that we’re only opening the mail once a week when someone from finances in our building.
So that means checks can be sitting for two weeks, so the minute those checks are donated and processed within 24 hours, you need to email your donors, a thank you letter. Make sure they understand how important that is. And one of the ways to do that is you know, within hours of it being deposited. They should be acknowledged.
And then start thinking about when the last time people visited was obviously many people haven’t been in our buildings for a while but use this time to comb your data and understand you may have a donor who gives you $1,000 a year $5,000 a year $500 a year who hasn’t been to your institution in five years. Well, I’m guessing a lot has changed so get all of that data ready so that you can invite people back in to see your incredible institutions.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Fantastic. Um, there’s a nice mix of best practices and a few edgy ideas certainties there on behalf of small institutions or institutions that really just haven’t climbed up on top of data we have. We touched on a few things that are easier said than done like calculating the spend per visit of members and donors and tracking went when my donors last visited it feels like a session unto itself because there are some shortcuts that don’t require a back house data and filled with data analysis on this, this doesn’t have to be a big data exercise.
Just because bigger museums have been able to invest in some of that it doesn’t have to be so that that’s a session will take in mind and going forward. I’m Rhonda. Let’s uh, let’s see what’s next for you.
Oh, oops, you’re, you’re muted.
Rehana Abbas: Sorry. Um so video is our friends. So, we have been using strategically using video to communicate with members and donors messages from our executive director and whenever we do that it’s not very positively because it just has a lot of authenticity to it. The phone is your best friend donors are calm and members, her home and they want to hear from you know and this is a great time to reach out and talk to people, we’ve been getting some really great responses, maybe just talk to people over the phone. And so, I guess there’s a little bit of a debate. There’s no such thing as over or is there right now.
Right now, really hear from others. There’s an there’s start tool feedback. Um, so right now I think that, you know, you really want to communicate and be as transparent as possible. I think in my organization, the transparency with which we’ve been communicating with members and donors has been, but I also think that that you want to just communicate. If you have nothing to say. So, it’s really important that you’re putting fresh, fresh messages out there all the time.
So don’t hold all the we need you now more than ever, or that kind of language is stale. I think the way that you can really make a difference right now. And I actually saw on the Q AMP a there was a question around how do you how do you communicate the needs of the museum over other kinds of organizations that might feel more urgent right now.
We really make it about the mission. We make it about how we’re serving community we make it about how we’re taking care of staff. We’re part of our community. And so really make the message about your mission and how your museum is responding and what how you’re serving your community in these times, and then don’t abandon snail mail. So, for us, we actually have found that we’ve seen great responses from mailed membership renewals we were doing digital and then at first, because we just didn’t have access to our letterhead, actually. And then we did a snail mail and a huge influx. We also were on the verge of sending a direct mail campaign out when the museum closed and so we’d already spent the money with a direct mail firm, we decided to pivot and change the messaging and send that direct mail. And we actually have seen really great results with it so there’s not a lot of stuff coming in your mailbox as, as you all know, so don’t at my advice would be, don’t man abandoned snail mail. It’s definitely not easy. We’re all putting our home printers to us right now. But if you can find a way to do it, keep sending out your snail mail.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Terrific. Thank you very much. Um, let’s hear from the audience. Anything Donna?
Donna McGinnis: So, a question for both by panelists. Can you give an example of something that you tried in terms of a phone call or an email or a video that just turned out to be surprisingly more popular and meaningful that you then you might have expected?
Charles Katzenmeyer: And moderators prerogative do a quick
Amy Kwas: Right now. Yeah. Right now, we have, we’re engaged with some what we’re calling extraordinary scientists and residents and their paleontologists and so we’ve been doing one on one donor meetings with them and they’re surprisingly charming and it’s been very well received mostly as a distraction. But we’re really using it to engage donors right in this in our efforts around paleontology.
Rehana Abbas: So, one thing we did. We participated in giving Tuesday. Now, and typically Giving Tuesday for us isn’t a huge we don’t see a huge influx of guests. But we really honed our messaging, we use the online giving platform that I mentioned before that makes it easier for people to give money and we found more than the more than double what we typically see through our Giving Tuesday now campaigns. To reveal…
Charles Katzenmeyer: Anything else done up in this round.
Donna McGinnis: Not yet.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Okay, thank you.
Let’s move on to major gifts and campaigns, you know, we are distracted in so many ways right now and we need a pause, and we need contemplation, and we need conversation. But our institutions need money. So, we have to steal ourselves away from what is a very challenging moment in history.
Perhaps one of the most in our lives and bring leadership to our institution so we go forward with major gifts and campaigns on all scales that’s big museums little museums, all kinds of institutions under our broad welcoming down or museum. Let’s hear from Amy team big bucks.
Amy Kwas: Alright, so first of all, you can still see your donors, don’t assume that people who might be older won’t Zoom with you. I’ve actually had one gift officer get very creative. And she went on a walk with one of our donors. Yeah, you know, socially distanced and very safe, but they both are active outdoors women, and it was a great way. So, I think there’s still creative ways to see donors, because so much of this work happens face to face.
I think everybody should probably reevaluate their gift acceptance policies do you, you know, are your policies, such that you’ll only extend a pledge for five years, maybe, now’s the time to think about doing that longer as people are reevaluating their portfolios.
For this one, accountability, you know, it’s still really important for all of our gift officers. I do think it’ll look different. This year, though, you know, maybe the dollar amounts that people are required to raise or rewarded for are different. Maybe they’re lower maybe they’re documenting all of their engagement, a little better and a little differently so they can explain like yes, I was about to ask this person for a major gift. However, they’ve asked me to wait until next year. You know, when their portfolio improves things like that.
You know, big question right now is asked her weight. And again, it probably depends on your institution but you know, I think you have to evaluate each and every ask based on you know, make sure you’re not burning any bridges, of course, but also understand like if you waited another six months or another year. Would you get the same six seven figure gift that you were thinking so should you be patient, or should you hurry tough decisions, but I think each and every gift has to be considered under those circumstances?
And then lastly plan giving everybody’s you know our major donors are reevaluating their portfolios right now. And this seems to me like a great time to be talking to donors about making plan gifts for the future, we’re really thinking and in executing on asking some of our annual fund donors to make plan gifts to endow their annual fund gift forever. So, for us, $1,000 gift each year is translates into a $45,000 gift. So again, a relatively easy ask but a good thing to set the organization out for the future.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Terrific, thank you. I’m hearing you say essentially fire on all cylinders, which you can…
Amy Kwas: Yeah, absolutely. And just be sensitive to where people are in the world.
Charles Katzenmeyer: That’s marvelous. Thank you very much. Okay, Rihanna.
Rehana Abbas: So, when Museum of California, we are ending $85 million campaign. We have just surpassed 90% of our goal.
So, one thing I’d say is don’t throw your campaign case because of coordinate to just give it a makeover. So, for example, a really important part of our campaign is that we’re redoing our seven-acre campus and gardens and we’re making the case now that you after this moment is has passed. People are going to need a safe place to gather as, as a community, more than ever, and so that is even, I think our part of our case statement. It’s actually even further solidified now.
Keep asking. I think that a lot of organizations are really, really nervous about asking right now but have to think about your donors. You have to know the donors, but the reality is, someone is asking, so it might as well be you. If you can do it right.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Thank you. You’re right.
Rehana Abbas: Comprehensive campaigns. Can everyone articulate what you’re asking for. So, we’re in a comprehensive campaigns buttons includes annual operating support for five years and its capital and it includes and down.
It can be complicated and plans, giving I’ll add into that. So, it can be complicated to have a conversation with a donor that includes all of those components.
So really, like with staff, you have to, and anyone who might be soliciting have to practice practice so that you can on those messages and really articulate exactly what you’re asking for.
Obviously, the days of champagne and caviar to celebrate our milestones are gone. If we ever had those in my museum, we never really a caviar. And for those for those kinds of moments of celebration. You have to get really creative. So, this is something that we are still working on as we had a lot of big milestones. We were going to celebrate over our next fiscal year. But, you know, we’re looking at, we’ve, for example, done things like we haven’t beautiful campaign newsletter that really celebrates the success of the campaign and talks about how the campaign is kind of meeting this moment. So, I think it’s important to think about other ways you can celebrate
And then the last thing I just say make your public phase matter. So as a museum that’s incredibly community based, we really want our campaign to feel like everyone can be a part of it. So, um, you know, we, in our public phase. We’re really talking about how the museum impacts the community and we’re making it easy for people to give using the platform. I mentioned earlier. And you know, we actually like our goal is $85 million, but with the public phase work. That’s not what the emphasis is because to your general public at $5 million sounds like a completely insurmountable amount of money.
And there’s that thought of, what’s my $25 going to do an $85 million campaign. So, we try to break it down into smaller parts and just talk about it differently to make it more accessible. So, the public in our community village. You want to purchase it.
Charles Katzenmeyer: What, what are we getting from audience chat, Donna.
Donna McGinnis: At the only comment we have on this section is we have one member who says we are funded by the state, but also have a foundation, which raises money. Anyone else in a similar setup. So, I would just invite those of you listening who are part of organizations, again, which are funded by public funds but also have a foundation arm, go to the chat and identify yourself or your colleagues.
Rehana Abbas: And I will say in Oakland Museum of California. We are funded in part by the city of Oakland our building in our collection are owned by the city of Oakland. We used to operate that way where we actually were department of the city. And we had a foundation that raise money separately.
In 2011 we actually separated from the city of Oakland and became independent 501 c three. The city’s funding over time is declining. And then eventually leveling out which is one of the reasons we’re doing a campaign right now, but so we’ve been in that position. So, I personally wasn’t there in 2011 when we need that separation, but I’m sure that anyone wants some resources around that I cannot talk to colleagues who were
Charles Katzenmeyer: Fantastic. What, what I meant to say earlier on is I think we could all take a page from the strategies that are commonly used by museums that have identified themselves as community-oriented museums. Because in, in a sense, aren’t we all intending to be just that, you know, our architecture is so often. Imposing it’s meant to be.
Impressive. Not threatening, but impressive and that is distancing. So, in some senses. We have a lot to overcome in terms of philanthropy, for all but at the same time. All of the things we know is philanthropy professionals is if we focus at the top of the tree first that that pays for everything and what the top of the tree needs is a little different. So, it seems like that’s another fascinating chat for another time. But, but thanks for touching on that we may all need the lessons of community-based museums, as we come back after this lot of lessons to share, no doubt, okay, beautiful image of a museum. I’m just going to give you a cue clue that this museum is here in Chicago.
Where I am. Okay, our next section is perhaps the most timely of these, and that is, we’ve all stopped doing events. We can’t come to our museums and those events were a lot of the beginning points for relationships that could go somewhere else or touching points that that brought us back with people.
Where are we going to go and we’re going to hear first from Amy.
Amy Kwas: Alright, so the first thing I just want to make sure everybody thinks about when they’re doing virtual fundraising events is who’s zooming don’t assume that it’s just young people are most active donor on our Zoom calls that we’ve been doing as a 94-year-old and he’s figured it out. It’s amazing, really think about what the goal is. Are you trying to raise new money are you replacing money? Is this a stewardship event that will drive how you approach the event for sure?
We all talk about the food at all of our events all the time and will donors calm. If there’s no food. The bottom line is doing a virtual fundraising event. Just because you put it out there, doesn’t mean they’ll come. This is like any other event we do there has to be a strategy to get people to come to make a gift. So, think that through very carefully, don’t just think about putting on a show.
The next one. Though I will say is use your assets. This is an some of the things that we’ve done for our donors, not necessarily for fundraising purposes, but more for stewardship has been amazing. We have leveraged our interpretation staff, our collection staff. We’ve used our IT staff. We’ve used our marketing staff and it has been we have used the whole museum to really create just incredible programming for our donors.
And then, you know, I do think that there’s going to be some of this that is forever. And we need to learn a lot from what we’re doing now take these best practices. And translate them both back into virtual events in the future as well as in person events in the future as well. Like I said, we’ve been using our assets and new and incredible ways and we need to do that when we’re on site as well.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Terrific. Thank you. Rehana?
Rehana Abbas: What virtual events. So, some of these are not things that my museum is personally doing but I’ve seen in other institutions, I’m definitely manage expectations. If you typically raise half a million dollars on your fund you need the night of is that really realistic to do if you’re pivoting to virtual and it’s really important to manage those expectations with your museum leadership.
And I’ve seen some organizations that are leveraging celebrities really well during their virtual gala’s because celebrities are bored at home, too. So, there’s a wonderful dance local dance organization in Oakland, and I’ve seen that their gala, they had to be digs they had Misty Copeland, I think, really.
Working with people who are going to bring that kind of like wow moment to your virtual gala is great. At my organization, the question is do we even want to keep doing a gala. And you know, I know that there are some organizations, I would say, especially maybe large organizations and that have gallows where the revenue was just, you’re just too dependent on it.
For us, our gala was sort of in the middle of situation where was money. We were dependent on. We definitely had a positive net, but we were spending, you know about 50 cents for every dollar we raised on actually throwing the event. And we think that there’s more sustainable. Less expensive ways to bring that revenue in through it, Major, major an annual giving so I think it’s really important. This is a moment for us all to ask to even want to keep doing this and all those resources, you’re going to spend to turn a gala into a virtual event where else could you be deploying those resources that might result in you know more sustainable funding for your organization. Committee members still need TLC. If you’ve been working with the committee on your gala, and now all of a sudden, you have to pivot to virtual or if you have a committee that’s doing all of this work. You really still need to treat them the same way, even though you’re not seeing them in person. I actually saw an organization here where the Director of Development put on her gala dress. Made care packages and the day of the event drove to every committee members home and dropped off those care packages, those kinds of exercises go a really long way.
And then I would say, practice makes perfect. So, we’ve been we have started doing virtual events for donors and our fantastic events manager really was on top of making us. Practice, practice, practice. And then the two staff at the executive director and our chief content officer who was featured in the program.
They did a fantastic job because they weren’t worried about the technology. They knew what they were going to say they felt comfortable with the lighting and their seating. So really, you have to practice to make sure that the people you’re putting up uncomfortable situations.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Yeah, all of that. So true. We, in my case, will not abandon our gala. That’s not a realistic conversation to have. It’s been too important to us and several of you will probably identify with us, a colleague of mine from another museum had spent her career in higher ed and she called me one day and said, I really don’t understand the phenomenon of the gala in your museum community. What is this, we spend way too much time on this stuff, and for what we’re raising is can’t be right. And I said it’s more than the money your gala is when we get back to them. Your gala is your moment that’s your tribal gathering for the institution that’s what everyone puts it on and gives you them and we’re taking stock of who’s there and we’re celebrating us right now us. It doesn’t have to be black tie.
It can be whatever’s is organically right to you, but that sense of the community together for philanthropy. For this cause is essential. I think and for and will be crafting that going forward. I’m fascinated by what we’re doing in the interim with virtual and a huge shout out to Tom Jacobson at the Los Angeles Zoo. You can find his gala on YouTube. I believe that he is ahead of all of us in this evolving reality of how you do these well that combination of live and prerecorded program that leads to philanthropy. So the story that leads to an auction package, the idea that that leads to an outright gift within the program and after the Brooklyn Academy of Music did a very nice thing they have an annual art auction and they opened it several days before the actual gala program, which was just too tight hours and then they left it open for another couple of weeks to continue to move people to that really clever. So, it’s an evolving reality as we fundraise digitally in a program in a fundraising environment.
Quick chat from the audience. Done. And then we’re going to go to our last topic.
Donna McGinnis: It’s a couple of good comments from our audience one going digital allows our non-mobile members to participate in events, I can resonate with that living in Southwest Florida another. I just want to reiterate that the small dollar donor who is feeling the financial pain of COVID and can’t give now will remember your compassion and potentially give big later also don’t overlook intentionally recruiting some of those folks as volunteers to make fundraising calls for you make them part of it.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Marvelous. Thank you very much and thanks everyone who’s offering your comments in the chat and questions.
That is the spirit of this session. And we do appreciate your help. Okay, our last session section here is Wildcat engine well card in general. This is where our competitors can get a leg up on each other and perhaps win the race. Let’s go. Amy?
Amy Kwas: Okay. So, first and foremost, you guys. If you don’t have one create an online donation box. So, every time you sell a ticket online. Every time you sell a membership online. You should be asking for a $5 donation.
To give you an example we this is this accounts for $80,000 a year for the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. So if you can do the math divide that by five. That’s a lot of people who are stepping up and making that extra $5 gift. Um, make sure that all of your colleagues, understand the end game throughout the museum. Take the time right now to spend, educate all of your colleagues that are working at the box office or in your call center or in exhibits to help them understand what a smile means throughout the institution what extraordinary customer service means they don’t know who they’re interacting with and all of those experiences can help move somebody from member to donor to major gift donor to planned gift donor really for us. We think about maximizing the lifetime value of each and every one of our visitors and that means never making assumptions about who can give in, who can’t know what your story is, this is so important in fundraising be able to share with your donors what your story is with your institutions, I can tell I’m like this right I my kids grew up at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It’s why I work here. And I share that because it resonates with a lot of people right now, if many of you have corporate sponsors as fun as funders, you know, they’re really not getting any value with our doors closed so work extra hard to find the value for your corporate partners, we’re adding them to our online content. So right now we’re pushing out a lot of science content through our social channels and tagging it with some of our corporate partners.
So, on the phone with a corporate partner yesterday and we presented some ideas to them. They said, here’s what we’re really interested in right now sustainability. So, we’re talking with our school services department as we think about virtual field trips next year, which ones are have a sustainability link and how can we engage those corporate partners in those efforts. And then lastly is data, data, data.
I don’t know about you, but I’m busier than I ever have been some of the days longer than I can really imagine sometimes. And so, when I think about how I’m spending my time. I’m trying to focus on where I’m going to get the biggest return for my time investment and that means I’m using data, a lot more to work with donors and prospects of who really has capacity to make a gift that’s transformational to the Children’s Museum
Charles Katzenmeyer: Terrific, thank you. Rhonda.
Rehana Abbas: I think this is a great time to keep what was working for you and for your fundraising at your museum and really rethink what was that, and this is a great time to go back to, and my next bullet fundamentals. The fundamentals of picking up the phone calling donors reaching out to people personally. Those are here to stay. And I think this time is really showing us that that’s true.
I love the saying someone once said to me, fundraising doesn’t happen from the spreadsheet. So, you can do all the wealth screening, you can do all of the prospecting you can have high ask low asked all of that information. But if you don’t build relationships and go talk to people, it’s going to stay on a spreadsheet. So, it was fun, those fundamentals are really important.
And my museum, we’re talking about that. It’s a time for culture of philanthropy on steroids. So, what does that mean for us. I think people actually are using the term culture of philanthropy, a lot right now and there’s many different ways you could probably define that. But the way we’re thinking about that is it’s really important for organization for every person in the organization to understand how their work impacts philanthropy, so I’m, at my museum, we, we did this, we’ve been really committed to making community engagement at the core of our work so oftentimes in museums community engagement might be some projects are some a department that is working on, you know, public programs or something like that. It’s like community engagements happening over here on the side.
At MCA, we really took a lot of time over the years with grant funding to really make community engagement at the core of what we do. So, every single person in the museum from curators to educators to the development staff to the finance staff.
Every single person can talk about why their work has to do with community engagement and I see culture of philanthropy is sort of the next step for the museum to be able to have where every person in the museum can think about how their work impacts philanthropy. And then everyone in the museum is an ambassador and advocate. It’s important because people get nervous that you’re going to go ask them to ask for money and a lot of people think that that’s not at all. What they want to do and that’s not what we’re asking. We’re asking for everyone in the organization to be an advocate and an ambassador and to be able to state what the case is why the museum needs philanthropic support and how philanthropic support is so crucial to the museum and so I spent the first. I haven’t either. Almost nine-month-old baby and my husband and I both have full time jobs. And so, working from home was very challenging for me in the beginning of the situation and I was beating myself up a lot for not being the employee. I wanted to be yours to be the mom that I wanted to be.
And someone said to me, it’s not working from home. Your home because there’s a global health crisis trying to work. And personally, with all of the events that are also going on in the world right now. And in this country right now. I think that’s been even more amplified. The point of this one is give yourself grace, you cannot be the person that is there’s so much pressure on all of us and contributed revenue right now. You cannot do what you need to do for your organization. If you’re not taking the time for yourself. And when you need to. This is such a fraud time and it’s such a difficult time on so many different layers. And I think it’s just really important to take the time that you need. So that you can do an issue for your organization. And then this is my last note that I’ll just say about hiring this kind of a note on hiring.
You can teach people how to ask for money. There’re others. There’s other fundamentals around fundraising like accountability. So you want I want to have staff who feel very responsible for stewarding degrade donor relationships for prospecting and cultivating and for accountability around the numbers that they’re responsible for. And the way that they develop their budgets every year.
If I find someone who I think has all of those skill sets, but maybe they’ve never solicited somebody before. I don’t care. I don’t ask someone, what’s the biggest gift you ever closed because I think that’s a silly question, because I know for me personally, the biggest gift I ever closed is definitely not the most interesting story around fundraising, it doesn’t show any of my fundraising skills. I think it’s a silly question. Because when you’re working in myths, I would call our museum and mid-sized organization with a $16 million operating budget. The biggest gift I close, there is smaller than the biggest gift. I’ve closed somewhere else. But it was a lot harder. So I think that you really have to think about the fundamental skills that somebody has and what are those characteristics, you’re looking for when you’re hiring someone versus what their resume might say they’ve checked boxes for.
Charles Katzenmeyer: Terrific. Thank you very much. I’ve got a few thoughts as we close this program. I do believe that each of us in our institutions new old large small have milestones milestones that are worthy of celebration and around which we can crank up excitement and engagement.
Maybe you’re looking ahead to a campaign and you’re recognizing that it’s the 30th anniversary of this program. It’s the 15th anniversary of that. My goodness. We’re coming up on a major institutional anniversary toss those into your plan for the future is how you create and a unique way to engage with what you do. It’s a reminder about what you do.
I talk a lot about the malicious that effect. So, for those of you who’ve seen this program before apologies, but for all of you know the sleeping beauty. fairy tale, the whole thing is put in motion because someone didn’t get invited to the party. And then she curses the young princess and 16 years later, or she, you know, bricks of anger and falls asleep.
We have that opportunity to avoid that opportunity, all the time, as we’re building committees, is we’re inviting people to participate and inviting people to be leaders, particularly as we drive into a campaign. We just can’t leave anyone on the roadside who thinks that they are someone to us if they think or their identity or their, their connection to us is important. And even if we’re kind of a little sketchy. I’m not really sure you are that important to us. If they do and they are not invited to the party. We are creating the same problem. We have to include them in our tent, because the downside of that is just horrid down three months, six months, two years into your effort.
I do believe for all of the talking that we’ve done today that the reason that this panel is so good is that they’re very good listeners. We bring a grace to our donors and prospects when we stop pitching the institution and we build a relationship by listening. There are so many donors who have so much power and money, but their grandkids just never call them and it’s a heartbreaking reality that it’s human it’s completely humanizes them. And we don’t know that until we stop talking about our case and our solicitation and we start listening. I believe in hiring musicians and actors. I think they know how to be a part of an ensemble, but they’re always grateful for a solo and they’re grateful for the flexibility of the kind of work that we do.
I do believe that volunteers require a radical honesty. It’s part of the deal with them that when we’re being frank with them. That’s, that’s how they’re on the inside of the institution. We’re not going to let you continue in a story, an idea, a myth that isn’t what we are. I’ve got to stop this here because three years down that’s going to turn into something we don’t want so
Let me take you back to the roots of this institution. Let me offer you the radical honesty of that. It’s a gift and it hurts feeling sometimes, but you’re probably doing everyone a favor. And finally, I’m a firm believer and my staff will roll their eyes when I say this, but it’s not about the food and I realized that onions and garlic and shellfish and pork and nuts are wonderful additions to a zesty menu, when we get back to getting together, but it’s not about the food.
It is, however, if anyone needs some argument beyond just common courtesy for leaving onions, garlic shellfish pork nuts etc out. It is an expression of access and engagement and inclusion and those are the words that are sizzling us up these days but if someone can’t have onions because of an allergy or garlic. We have suddenly not included them.
And that’s the common courtesy that we’re all seeking so no one is no garlic no shellfish, etc. We I’m speaking for everyone in Chicago, but we really look forward to seeing you in person. Next year, God willing this is Millennium Park and we thank you for your time and attention. And I believe Sheila from am we have run out of time, so just thank you all again for the chat for the questions and we really do hope that we can continue these conversations in person.
Next year, thank you all.