Museum Capital Campaigns are moving forward—even thriving—and are helping institutions navigate current challenges and ensure their future relevance. Gain practical guidance on effectively starting, managing, or concluding a campaign in this session, led by three seasoned museum advisors paired with three senior development officers.
Speaker 1: … through the presenter’s chat. Awesome. Hey, everyone, I’ll be turning off my mic now. Any further concerns, let me know through the chat. (silence)
Eileen: Welcome, everybody. We are here for Capital Campaign Clinic, and I will kick it over to your moderator Laura McDonald.
Laura McDonald: Wow. Thank you, Eileen, and I’m delighted to be here today with a robust group of colleagues. We’re planning to spend the next hour talking about campaigns. As you can see from the graphic, we’ve sort of used this notion of a marathon to talk about each of the phases of a campaign. You’ll have a team of a consultant paired with a museum practitioner for each one of those phases. We invite you to ask your questions. Our colleague Eileen from AAM is going to be watching the chat to make sure that we address any of those questions as we go through.
And there are a couple of things that we’d like to do as well. Some of you may know that we’re doing a longer version of this, more of a clinic version of this on Friday, four hours, maybe three and a half to four hours to talk through these same topics, and that will really be a marathon, won’t it? But as we prepare for that, we’d love to make sure that both this session today and the session on Friday are addressing the questions that you have as your institution, either contemplates or implements a campaign.
So, we’d love to crowdsource content. Please, if there are specific questions that you have, that you’d like to go into deeper detail or think that we should on behalf of your colleagues in the field, put those in the Q and A or the public chat as well, and Eileen will be gathering those for us.
With that, I’d like to introduce our esteemed panel today. To talk about that initial phase of campaign planning, Abby Ashley of Milwaukee Art Museum partnered with Paul Johnson will talk through those very important first foundational steps. And then, the leadership gifts phase, sometimes called the quiet phase or the early phase, colleague Colleen Kelly from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is having a little bit of technical difficulty, but we’re confident that by the time we get to that phase, she will be joining Carl. And then, my friend, Candace Brady and I, Candace at the National Veterans Memorial Museum, a new institution here in Central Ohio will be taking up the last phase, which is important, not just in stewarding relationships with our donors, but also, frankly, in setting the stage for the next campaign, because there is always a next campaign.
With that, I’m going to go ahead and hand it over to Abby and Paul, and let you take us through those important first steps in a campaign.
Abby Ashley: Terrific.
Paul Johnson: Thanks, Laura.
Abby Ashley: Thank you, Laura.
Paul Johnson: Go ahead, Abby.
Abby Ashley: Okay. I’ll kick things off for us. Hi, everyone. I’m Abby Ashley, I’m the chief development officer at the Milwaukee Art Museum or MAM, as you might hear me say several times today. To review phase one campaign planning, Paul, our president, founder of creative fundraising advisors, he and his team have partnered with MAM as we’re preparing for our own campaign.
To begin our discussion today, I wanted to share a bit about how the Milwaukee Art Museum or your museum might find themselves approaching a need for campaign planning. I joined the MAM team in July of 2019. We were well on our way to completing a new strategic plan for the institution. I’m sure many of you who are listening in might find yourselves in the same moment or have just completed that moment. We had collaborated with staff at all levels, our trustees, advisors from our different committees, community groups, and we had also surveyed over a thousand Milwaukeeans within our cultural community. Some that just knew the building didn’t know us as a museum, really trying to lay that groundwork for what the museum wanted to adopt as a new vision for the years ahead.
As we’re entering a very exciting and critical moment, our strategic plan which we lovingly refer to as a strategic direction, I think this last year has proven time and time again that we could not have possibly known the limitations of plans sometimes give us. The third day of the third month of a year, we will be doing X. Instead, we follow a direction, not a locked plan so that we can remain nimble. We evaluate, we pivot, we find the need, and stay present and focused on listening to our museum internally, as well as externally listening to our community.
The outcome of our strategic work and the focus of our direction includes four key pillars, art relevant to our community, robust community programming, expansive hospitality, and impact aligned with financial strength and discipline. Committing one of our four pillars to financial strength and discipline has been a really bold move for our museum. In 2001, we built a Calatrava designed museum that quickly became the icon of our city. And though our community, and I would say, Wisconsin at large is very devoted to the museum, we had a need moving forward that I don’t think our community is well aware of.
We would need to begin focusing on building something that couldn’t be seen physically, not a capital project, not something that excites people as it’s coming out of the ground. Instead, we’re building a strong foundation. We were in the need for a very big endowment. I think this last year has proven that need for our museum, for many museums across the country, that when you go through a challenging time like a pandemic, a recession, your endowment would really create that sustainability and allow you to continue moving forward with key projects, and just sustaining your mission and the museum as a physical place.
Despite great internal excitement and consensus amongst our leadership, we were about to embark on the biggest campaign we had ever fathom, and we needed to assess if the museum and our philanthropic community were really ready to receive that challenge. A few months before we announced our strategic direction in February of 2020, we sought council and established our partnership with Paul and his creative fundraising advisors team to complete a feasibility study. This also happened to be just a few days before COVID-19 shuttered the Milwaukee Art Museum stores.
So, Paul, I’m going to pass the baton to you to outline what came next, and our campaign planning and feasibility study steps.
Paul Johnson: Thanks, Abby. Yeah. I’m going to advance this slide here. I want to sort of frame our discussion and we’ll talk about what’s happening in Milwaukee as well, but I kind of want to frame our discussion today too about the sort of mindset that an organization needs to put themselves in, in terms of getting ready for a campaign.
And something that I always say to museum directors and boards and development directors and whatnot, this is really important, and sometimes it perks up people’s ears a little bit. But campaigns are not about building buildings, and they’re not about growing endowments, and they’re not necessarily about funding new or existing programs. Those things happen along the way, right? I view those things, the buildings, the endowments, and programs, all of that as sort of a means to an end, right?
Campaigns are really about a big idea and a really big vision. So, when we come in, like we did with Milwaukee, we come into an institution, it’s so gratifying, frankly, to walk into a place like Milwaukee, where they had already articulated that big vision, right? Through their strategic direction, that vision had been articulated, and it’s then our job to take that big vision and turn that into a case for their campaign.
And I want to say here that the kind of development of what we call the summary of your case, it’s not your case statement yet, but it’s the summary of your case. It’s really laying out why you want to do this campaign and the importance of a really strong, well crafted, aspirational summary of that case for support, really can’t be overestimated. The case really needs to articulate vision for the campaign and really the impact that campaign is going to have on the institution. And that summary of your case really becomes what I call the heart and soul of your planning process, right?
One of the conversations that I had with Abby and her director and others is that, especially with endowment campaigns, an endowment campaign can often be perceived as a what I like to call, I want a new pony campaign. We all want a bigger endowment. We all want more endowment. Everyone wants a new pony, right? That is not as compelling a case as what is the impact of that endowment going to do for the museum? How can you articulate that impact? How is the museum going to be changed? How is the community going to be changed? If you increase your endowment by a hundred million dollars, what’s going to be different? And that was really important to articulate as a part of that vision.
And so, in putting together that summary of the case, we always advised that, that case needs to be able to answer the following questions. Where are we going? Why does it matter? What is the impact? Why are we the right ones to do it? Why now? What will it take? And how can the reader help? One of the really important things about developing this summary of the case is that, it has to have two elements in it. I feel it has to have what we call a dream along with me element for the reader. The reader, the potential donor for this campaign needs to be able to see themselves in this campaign by understanding what the case says.
Then, we also often get the question, why conduct a feasibility study? Abby was very clear about this, but it was also very important for us to articulate to the museum, why are we conducting a feasibility study? And I think one of the most important reasons for conducting a feasibility study is that it helps an organization move things from the we think we know column into the we know column. So, we can all sit around as a board and a staff and whatnot, and we think we know that this is the right case, we think we know we can raise a hundred million dollars, we think we know the position of the museum in your community. There’s a lot of stuff that we think we know, but by going through a feasibility study process, we can begin to move things into the we know column.
And what that feasibility study then does for you is that, it ensures that you arrive at the starting line of your campaign, armed with information for campaign success. And it is a little bit of that combination of the art of fundraising and the science of fundraising, and when you bring those together to then bring an institution to the beginning of the campaign’s starting line, you’re armed with all kinds of success. I’ve just lost the slides. Hold on.
All right. A feasibility study also ensures that you’re ready both internally and externally to launch your campaign. And really importantly, your feasibility study prepares your board, your staff leadership, and your key donors for what lies ahead.
So, the key elements of a feasibility study that you should be looking for is, we always advise organizations, and Abby’s at the Milwaukee every scene, we have a very active committee, but we advise that this work be guided by committee of the board, that is board leadership and potentially donors on this committee. We always call it a task force. They meet three or four times during the process.
You’ve all heard feasibility study interviews and interviews are certainly key. We make sure that those interviews are a combination of, like I call, it’s a really good dinner party. We have close friends, we have good friends, and we have people that you want to be your friends. In looking at who should be interviewed, we often will have organizations, and Abby and I have certainly talked to this that say, “Oh, we know that donor really well. You don’t need to talk to them.” And I say, “I beg to differ. We absolutely need to talk to them. We need to talk to your donors. Even if you have dinner with them every Tuesday night, we still need to talk to them.”
It’s very important that in this process, you put together a realistic gift pyramid. People need to understand that this campaign is actually achievable. So, working on that gift pyramid, it can’t just be a proforma kind of thing, it’s something that you need to really work with the institution on putting together that gift pyramid. And also, during those interviews, it’s very important to gauge donor confidence and you test more than just the project and their participation in the project. And the other elements that we test are, does the organization do a good job executing its mission? Are the programs effective? Testing board and staff leadership. Other philanthropic priorities of the donors. Test naming opportunities. Test plan giving. Test annual giving.
And then, in a feasibility study, we want to get lots and lots and lots of perspectives. As I always say, we’re not going to just talk about the people who can make transformational gifts to the campaign, but we’re going to talk to the end users of the campaign, right? We’re going to talk to your members, we’re going to talk to your donors, we’re going to talk to your visitors, and we do that in the form of doing focus groups and doing surveys and whatnot.
And last but not least, and this is not meant to be self-serving. And I think Carl and Laura would agree with me, but engage counsel in this, engage counsel because we’ve heard a lot of organizations saying, “I think we can do this on our own.” And my advice to everybody is, we have different conversations with your donors than you have with your donors. We have a completely different kind of conversation that gives you a better picture of the organization than you can get on your own.
I just wanted to touch on this quickly. A really important part of campaign planning and preparation is an assessment and a development/fundraising assessment is really key, and these are the issues that are considered in the development assessment. I’m talking faster, I’ve run out of time.
Are the right systems and processes in place to support a campaign and an increased level of giving activity? What is the state of your data? This is really important. Are you adhering as an organization to really best practices for data hygiene? Is an organizational practicing effective, meaningful donor engagement activities? How are donors being communicated with before, during, and after they’ve made a gift? Does your organization have the right staff in place to support a campaign? Are current staff members in the right jobs? Is your colleague, by likes to say, are all the people sitting on the right seats on the right bus? What needs to be added to your staff to support a campaign? Do we need major gift officers? Do we need planned giving officers? Do we need researchers? Do you need more admin support?
And then, our staff leadership and board committee members being effectively used and leveraged to support fundraising out of these. These are all kinds of things that need to be considered and assessed as you’re looking to plan a campaign. And the last thing I’m going to say, it’s related to data but it’s also has to do with wealth screening of your database. It’s good to do a wealth screening. We fully support doing a wealth screening. We’ve done it with Milwaukee, but we really encourage you to invest in going deeper than wealth screening, and take that wealth screening, and really understand what that wealth screening means for your organization by doing a yield analysis, by doing a staff analysis, and really understanding what you’re going to need to address all of the issues that come up in a wealth screening.
So, I think that was my time. Are there any questions? I’m not saying-
Eileen: We do have one question, Paul and Abby, and I think this is probably good for the entire group to consider, in terms of sustainability and resilience plans, call for modernization of systems. How do you contemplate this as well? Do you find younger donors understand climate action better? And if you can keep your answer brief, so we can move on to Carl and Colleen, that’d be great.
Paul Johnson: I don’t know if younger donors understand sustainability better. I can tell you we’re working on another campaign in Portland, Maine, and Portland, Maine is all about sustainability, the entire city is about sustainability, and their board is actually leading the charge on building the first Platinum certified LEED museum building in the country. It is a huge priority for them, but I also think that, that speaks to an impact philanthropy model as well, which is often more attractive for younger philanthropists.
I don’t know, Laura or Carl or Anthony-
Eileen: We’re going to go ahead and let them take that at the end and move on to Carl and Colleen.
Paul Johnson: Great.
Carl Hamm: Well, Carl is here. Colleen will be joining us as she can. She’s having some technical issues with her microphone, so I’m coming in and out a bit. I’m hoping that she’ll be able to join us in just a moment. Colleen is the senior director of advancement and communications of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, where I’ve had a pleasure of working with her on a campaign for the last two years or so. They’re in the leadership phase now and have been through quite a journey. The O’Keeffe is building a new museum in downtown Santa Fe, which as you can imagine, has its own set of issues with historical, local laws and that sort of thing, so it’s quite a project.
But this photo, if Colleen were here, I know what she’s going to say about it, which is this was a photo that was taken on opening day of the original museum. And as you can see, they had already outgrown the original museum even before they unlocked the doors on the first day. There was certainly a pent up need for the museum to expand, and they are really focused on the O’Keeffe becoming more of a resource for the Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico community, rather than just being a destination type museum for O’Keeffe enthusiasts from around the country, around the world, which has represented some 85% of their audience over the course of the museum’s history.
A major project going on in Santa Fe, it is in what Laura called the quiet phase, although you can’t really build a new museum in downtown Santa Fe without it being somewhat the worst kept secret in town. Everyone knows that it’s going to happen, it’s just, in terms of the fundraising, they are not to the stage of going out for small gifts, they’re still in that leadership phase. And so, we were going to touch a bit on that.
The key points that we would make about the leadership phase. And I want to pick up on… Welcome back, Colleen, can you hear us?
Colleen Kelly: [inaudible 00:20:50].
Carl Hamm: I was just talking about your photo and how you all are in the process of building the new museum there, and just commented about it being the worst kept secret in town, especially now that you are beginning to get some press about it. But we were going to touch on just five points about the leadership phase, and the point Paul made about the importance of the feasibility study, and the process of leading up to a campaign even before you solicit the first gift is vitally important. Otherwise, you don’t have the buy-in from the board.
Soliciting the board is generally considered to be the most important and first aspect of the leadership solicitation process, not just because of the fact that many of your largest stone are most likely on the board, because they’re so engaged, but also because their participation signals to the others who aren’t as involved, the institutional buy-in, that this is not just a whim or some sort of a passing a project, it’s really important. And the feasibility process and those interviews, you’re going to know… By the time you get to this leadership phase, you will likely already know, at least, a ballpark range of what your top donors are likely to give, so that your first conversation with them about a gift is not really the first conversation.
The first conversation happened through the fact finding process of the feasibility process. So, that really can’t be emphasized enough. Otherwise, you get into this and say, “Wait a minute, this isn’t going to work if we can’t get gifts of this certain size.” And Paul talked about this earlier. At the feasibility process, you have a somewhat theoretical gift table. If you say, “Okay. For us to raise a certain amount, it is going to take generally a number of gifts like this.” Here’s just a sample range of gift table. It would vary from organization to organization, but you get the idea that you go into the campaign already saying, “Okay. For us to raise $45 million, this is what it would take.”
And so, then, the process begins of… Well, if we need to fulfill this gift table, do we actually have the prospects for that? And Colleen, I’m going to let you comment on that. I’m going to skip ahead to this, and maybe you can sort of give a sense of this chart that we put together.
Colleen Kelly: Great. Can you hear me okay?
Carl Hamm: Yes.
Colleen Kelly: Can yo hear me okay? Okay. This is a report that we call the box report, and this is actually a true report that we’re working on, that intersects with our prospects and our gift recognition, and making sure that we have enough people at each level, enough recognition, opportunities, and something that has more opportunities than the actual goal that we need so that we have room for growth in the future.
And we have amended this and changed it many number of times. As you could see, where we have something filled in green, we actually have a gift secured, and the shaded area is a gift that’s pending. And as this has gone along, there were levels that are coming into this table that will need to be updated, that we didn’t even conceive of from the beginning, but it does give you a guide. Off in yellow, we have ideas of prospects, so in some cases, we have more prospects than open boxes. And in other cases, we need to move them around and make sure that those numbers come together. But I think it’s a wonderful exercise and it’s a great visual for your campaign cabinet to look at, to realize certain things are not realistic until we start to develop more prospects.
Carl Hamm: I know it’s difficult to see the numbers and so forth, because it’s a large page and we tried to condense it down so you could get the concept. But as you can see on the left, those are the actual recognition opportunities. It’s a marriage between the recognition opportunities and the gift table in a visual way, so that you can see that… Let’s say, at the third one down, I think a $2 million opportunity or something that… We have one committed and we have another one that’s available, and you can see in the yellow, the prospect, which in the real form, there would be a actual name in that box. And the yellow boxes represent individuals and the orange boxes represent foundations or companies, so you can then see on the numeric side how much has been committed, how much is available in recognition, that sort of thing. So, we wanted to share that with you as a tool that you might find helpful.
And then, the last piece that we wanted to really touch on is the recognition opportunities. What happens is that, until you have the project, especially a building project to a certain stage, it’s very difficult as the building continues to change and be redesigned, and you lose… I mean, you might have once had six galleries, but now you have five galleries, or you might have eight galleries. I mean, until you get to a certain point, you can’t really effectively put together the recognition opportunity, so it’s kind of a work in progress.
But you might want to touch on this, Colleen. This box report was done last June, and between then and now, a lot has changed with the campaign, with the goal, with the recognition opportunity, so forth. Colleen, do you want to comment there?
Colleen Kelly: Yeah. Absolutely, it’s a great example of flexible during the leadership phase. We had a prospect on that box report last June, who was in the 2 million… I think the $2 million section, and we’re now getting ready to close a gift for 12 million. That wasn’t even an opportunity we had. We created this education center that’s now on our recognition list, because that’s the donor’s interest, and we’ve created proposals and have been having Zoom meetings with him. He’s based in New York and here we are in New Mexico, so we managed to keep that conversation going throughout the pandemic and really keep that gift alive, but it was not on the table, so that it caused us to adjust some of the other levels and some of the other opportunities that you can see.
This is always changing, and what’s good is we don’t have this published anywhere at this phase of the campaign, so that as things come on and come off, we have a chance that somebody isn’t able to come back around and say, “Didn’t you have this for that reason?” And in some of my past campaigns, we’ve had opportunities come up that, as the designs evolve, you suddenly realize that the space is much more prominent or much… either more prominent or less interesting than you thought when you gave it a number.
There’s no science to this. There’s just a lot of intuition that makes sense for how you put… It’s not the cost of the actual space, but it has to do with a lot of different factors. So, having flexibility as you build something like this, this adds up to more than the total of our campaign. And again, that gives us opportunities for future donors that we meet along the way, that we don’t have every single space with a name on it.
Carl Hamm: So, that’s our own comment on the leadership phase and the point about being flexible. I think is probably the most important aspect of this phase of the campaign in that, the world keeps shifting underneath your feet. And like she said, a donor that might be a $2 million prospect becomes a $12 million donor, which then throws off the whole gift table and it throws off… I mean, it changes everything in a good way, and then you have unexpected bequests that are unrestricted, that might be able to be used for capital gift if the family agrees.
I mean, it’s a very interesting period. And as you come out of this period, really, the fun begins, I think, with reaching a much larger group of people and really talking about the campaign in the public, rather than to your top 20 people, which really you’re talking about somewhere between three and 20 people being the people that are really going to make the campaign happen, sort of regardless of size, because it really is just a matter of scalable gift.
With that, I’m going to ask for a question, or do we want to just move on and do the questions all at the end?
Laura McDonald: I think there’s a question that’s a perfect transition from you to us. Eileen, why don’t you go ahead and ask that? And I think we’ll tag team with Carl and Colleen in the response.
Eileen: Yes, it is an excellent transition question, Laura. What happens, speaking of being flexible, when you have a large donor from the quiet phase of the campaign, announce their gift before you are planning to announce the public phase, you then launch the public phase?
Carl Hamm: I’m going to answer all that Colleen really answer, because she’s got that situation, perhaps, when the big gift initially comes in. There’s a distinction, I think, between the project being public or the phase of the campaign where you are actively soliciting large numbers of people.
In that sense, it’s better to talk about the rollout with the donor, so you’re all working together rather than just have the campaign sort of be outed publicly by a very enthusiastic donor. Colleen, do you want to comment on that?
Colleen Kelly: No, I agree. And what we’re doing right now is, we’re going through our early neighborhood notification process tomorrow night, so we were in the paper yesterday. It is public right now, but what we’re not doing is trying to talk about the specific amount. We’re raising the gifts, the scope of the project, so there’s still reveals to come and we have a couple of donors who are enthusiastic, and they want to have an event, and they want to invite the governor and all kinds of big people. And that’s an event that’s for the groundbreaking.
And so, you have to space out the excitement along the way, so that it can build and not reveal everything at once both with the media and with all of your supporters. And the other thing and last comment I’ll make is, it’s also something, you just have to temper enthusiasm while you’re in this phase and trying to focus on, in this case, mostly, seven and eight figure gifts that… We don’t start doing the public fundraising too fast when you haven’t completed those larger gifts that make that all come together.
And so, sometimes, it’s really hard that everybody wants to have something much bigger before you… This last year, we’ve focused really on about 10 donors only. And if you can just keep everybody focused there, as long as possible to close those gaps, you’ll be more successful.
Laura McDonald: I like how you phrased that, Colleen, about holding back the things that you’re going to reveal and not reveal everything all at once. I know when we were working with the Columbus Museum of Art on what was then a $75 million campaign ultimately became $90 million. Bob and Peggy Walter made a $10 million gift, and there was a desire on the part of the donors and others to have that announced publicly, well, before we were ready to launch the public phase, the campaign.
So, we had a wonderful event. We invited everybody to the inside courtyard area of the museum. And while the emperor may have no close, we refrain from talking about the campaign goal or the amount race to dig. I think that, really, when we’re talking about a quiet phase, what we’re talking about is insider status. You want to confer insider status on the donors who have that capacity to do the top tier of gifts in your gift chart, whatever your range of gifts might be. And you can do that in a number of ways, like inviting them to that special event or having some other quiet conversations with them. So, I love how you phrased that, Colleen, that was great.
Paul Johnson: I was just going to make one other comment about that, just quickly, about one of the things that we often also do just internally is, we talk about a working goal internally before we announce it to the public, because there are those things in a leadership phase that are unexpected, like a donor comes in much bigger than you anticipated, or a donor comes in lower than you anticipated.
So, internally, we talk about a working goal until we actually announced it as a goal, because that I think manages expectations internally and whatnot. During that leadership phase, internally, on a committee, on a board, we’re talking about a working goal.
Carl Hamm: I think every campaign I’ve been a part of, maybe ever, the goal became more than the goal. I mean, it increased from the original conversation of the campaign, it increased. I mean, for whatever reason, for need or for those reasons you talked about Paul. I mean, that’s, I think you’re right on.
Laura McDonald: But at some point, you are going to announce publicly. And so, Candace and I will push on and talk about the public phase, which you think is the last phase, but it’s not, and we’ll continue to encourage you to put your questions in the Q and A.
I also know that there are a couple of handouts. If you hit the handout tab up there, that you can download, that capture a lot of this information that we’re talking about. And in my experience, campaign cabinets and board members are always eager to go public before you really should. So, just know to manage that expectation. And we’re going to talk a little bit about that experience that Candace has had at the wonderful National Veterans Memorial Museum.
I love this photograph of it that shows it here in the foreground with the skyline of Columbus, Ohio in the background and another museum, COSI, our science museum, just to the right. But we’re going to talk about some of the experiences that you had, Candace, as you joined mid campaign, but we’re part of this transition and have lived with the results of the transition.
Tell me about some of the questions that were being asked at the NVMM, as you were thinking about when to go public and what kind of prerequisites you thought were necessary?
Candace Brady: Yeah. So, we were fortunate, I would say, fortunate with this capital campaign that 50% of the amount of the campaign came from one donor. We were able to announce this project probably earlier than most, knowing that one of our influential donors was the big push behind this project because he was great friends with the visionary. The visionary of this museum was the late senator John Glenn, who is a marine. As I’ve learned, it’s once a marine, always a marine.
And so, he’s a really good friend of his, came forward and said, “Let’s do something in his honor, that’s let’s really do something to honor all veterans.” And this is the project that came out of it.
Laura McDonald: Great. And I know that as you went public, in our experience, there are some other prerequisites, not just that you are at… And we would say, 2/3 of the goal, 67% of the goal before going public, but also that every member of the governing body has made their campaign gift, any other insiders that are important, and that your messages and marketing materials are ready to go when you go into that public phase.
As the museum went into that public phase, what was the reasoning for it? I think we see a couple of connections here or questions here about, is it even relevant anymore? So, what’s the purpose, and what kind of process did you have to finish strong and share impact?
Candace Brady: Yeah. I talked about project as we were looking at how to memorialize and honor our nation’s heroes. There was already a thought that we would just make it in Ohio museum because we’re located in Ohio. And when we started to talk about the purpose, the project, in speaking with veterans are like, “My allegiance is to the country. I’m not an Ohio veteran, I’m a national veteran.”
And so, during this process, we had to seek national designation, which made all that we did very, very public. But with that national designation, we were able to be the only national veterans museum, and that really helped our purpose as we seek to educate honor, and memorialize, and connect our nation’s heroes.
Laura McDonald: What are some of the ways that you kept donors informed about your progress and excited about the project? By this time, in most campaigns, it’s drawn on for at least a couple of years for the insiders. And so, how do you keep people enthused?
Candace Brady: Yeah. So, we had a couple of exciting pivotal points. The construction of the museum was actually a contest. We had designers submit submissions to what could this space look like, and we kept donors informed throughout that process. Of course, we had hard hat to ours to allow them to come into the spaces we were building from the ground up.
So, we created a hill, actually, to put the museum on. And so, we kept them a part of the progression with that. We sought feedback as we were looking at different finite details. We also showed highlights. So, our museum is about the stories of veterans. It’s not about tanks or aircraft, it’s about the humans that are in war or conflict or peace time.
And so, we were able to send snippets as we have recordings all around the country from coast to coast of different veterans, we were able to keep our donors engaged by just saying, “Here’s a little taste of what is to come.”
Laura McDonald: Great. And I know on Friday, we’re going to delve a little bit more deeply into this, but Colleen and Carl talked about using the commemorative opportunities, the donor recognition, as a way to frame conversations with donors about the magnitude of their gift. Talk a little bit about how you all then executed that donor recognition as you were preparing to open the museum.
Candace Brady: Yeah. So, we were very sensitive with this project knowing that we were building this building for veterans. And so, we kept the namesake, just the national veterans. We didn’t want to offer a naming recognition for the building, but we did look inside of the building for different naming opportunities, and had those conversations with the donors on where they sought their company or their family, where the link would be with regard to each pieces and portions of this project.
And then, we still have naming opportunities with our benches. We have benches in our memorial grove and we are still sharing that opportunity. Even though our building is here, that’s still a viable opportunity for others to honor a loved one and place their name on name plaque on the benches in the grove.
Laura McDonald: And then, one would think that this public phase is the end of the campaign and everybody who is exhausted by now. I just had a conversation with a philanthropy, the chief philanthropy officer at a major American museum who talked about the fact that they essentially have no documentation from their last two campaigns, which is shocking to me, and will be a real handicap as they consider their next campaign.
As we pivot and we think we’re done, but there’s still a capstone phase. There are variety of things that we do there, but talk a little bit about some of the ways that your institution celebrated that wonderful opening on Veterans Day a few years ago.
Candace Brady: Yeah. With our opening, we really wanted to make it public. We wanted to use the opportunity to announce the museum to those potential visitors. We wanted to be able to celebrate and steward our donors. And then, we also wanted to have the opportunity to attract new donors, who would work with us with more of the project-based funding.
And so, we sought to engage veterans from around the country well known, as well as those who serve in Congress. And the big portion, we really wanted to be able to document everyone that visited us that day, so that we could communicate with them in the future.
Prior to the opening, we placed a website, we put up a website in a social media platform, so that we could engage information from those who were interested in celebrating with us on that day. We had more than 3,500 people. We had timed entry to allow everyone to have a great experience. And then, from that, because we had their email, their name, their information, we were able to follow up with photos from the day, videos, but then solicit them to become members of the museum as well, and that proved to be very successful for us.
Laura McDonald: Some of the museums that we’ve worked with, we’ve also structured some of those public phase gifts. It’s a package that might say, for your gift of a four-year pledge of $2,500 a year, we’d be delighted to recognize you as a $10,000 campaign donor. And in addition, we’d be happy to recognize you once we open for two years as a member of our founding patrons society or director circle or whatever you might call it.
Beauty of that, as we know, acquisition is much more expensive and challenging than renewal. And so, now, we’ve got a ready, made set of patrons that we can renew in year three and have that be part of the sustainability plan for the institution as well.
I think we’re moving into the time when we’re going to have general Q and A, and I see one in particular, Eileen, that one about naming opportunities.
Eileen: Yes, that is an excellent transition question going into kind of general questions. From Eric, what do you think about naming opportunities with the time limit such as maybe 25 years? His institution has some rooms built in the 1990s, that are no longer suited to their uses and people are… but the plaque says so and so. So, what are the ways that you can build adaptability and change over time?
Laura McDonald: I’ll say, and then I’ll invite others to jump in as well. But yes, in the gift agreements that we’re helping organizations structure today, that includes some sort of recognition like that, we are building in a phrase about that the naming recognition is for the useful life of the facility, but not less than X.
We’re also saying that there will be permanent recognition on a central plaque in the lobby or some highly visible area. So, there’s always permanent recognition, but I will say that in the absence of a gift agreement, and let’s face it, a lot of gifts in the ’90s and ’80s and ’70s, there were no gift agreements, these were handshake deals, or there was a very simple pledge card.
Courts have upheld that the understanding was that, recognition is in perpetuity. So, I would say, you remove that recognition at your peril for two reasons. One is that, there have been cases in which families have gone back, and through legal action have required the organization to retain that recognition. But secondly, you send a message to today’s donors that, “Well, we said forever, but we really didn’t mean it.” I think that what’s much more important.
I remember working with a museum that had an auditorium, and part of the campaign was to completely renovate that auditorium. At some point, there’ve been a campaign and there were names on each seat in the auditorium. Well, what are we are going to do now? We have to buy all new seats.
What we did was we created a plaque that’s in the entrance to that auditorium. It’s sort of a layout of the old auditorium with all of the names from those seats, on that plaque, still recognize some gracious language about building on the generosity of previous generations, so that we… The institution clearly honored those donors and those gifts, but also provided an opportunity for the new donors to come in. And frankly, with new gift agreements that clarified the duration of that naming recognition.
So, I think that, that’s a great question, and one that is a bit of a changing environment as well. I don’t know. Carl, it looks like you’re ready to add something there.
Carl Hamm: I was just going to say, you’re talking about individual gift agreements that have specific terms. I think this also speaks to the importance of having recognition policies that are more evergreen, that exists, that sort of govern the institutional recognition approach, so that if you’re making an exception, you know what you’re making an exception to, in terms of the gift agreement.
The thing in art museums particularly is that, someone has a name on a particular gallery that happens to have Monet. Now, in 15 years, in a complete reorganization of the art, it might become Chinese bronzes or something. And so, it’s important that when you’re making recognition decisions, especially in interchangeable buildings like that, it’s the room rather than the art that one’s recognition follows, that sort of thing. That’s where policies come in to be really handy, or when people get divorced or get whatever that you have a rule. So, Paul?
Paul Johnson: Yeah. There’s a big feedback. I was just going to make a comment about endowments and naming endowments, and just the caution around endowments too, that… I think endowments for positions that you know are always going to exist, you’re always going to have a museum director, you’re always going to have a chief curator, you’re likely always going to have a director of education. And I think endowments are in perpetuity, unlike building naming opportunities that are for flexible.
I think having an endowment for a curator of 14th century French class is maybe not appropriate, because then you always have to have a curator of 14th century French class. I think those are great naming opportunities actually for some people, but I just also encourage… or I would discourage, actually, working with a donor who wants to endow a very particular program.
Now, named opportunities also send a very important signal, and I’ll just point to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which three days ago announced that they raised $5 million for an endowment to create a permanent DEAI position within the museum. That sends us hugely important signal to the community, and I know for a fact it was a very strategic move on their part. But I think named endowments are different than named building capital projects. So, just to distinguish between those two.
Laura McDonald: Agreed, and that’s where the gift agreement and the gift acceptance policy has to have the three I, should ever become impractical, impossible or ill advised-
Paul Johnson: Right.
Laura McDonald: … to continue this. Then, it has, how do you address that situation? Carl, I don’t know if you have any stories you want to share. You helped to engineer a stunning gift when you were at the Saint Louis Art Museum that endowed the director’s position.
Carl Hamm: Yes. In fact, that was very much a donor directed gift. She was outgoing as the chair of the board at the time and wanted to really make a sort of shocking gift, that would be a legacy of her time there. I think that there were some rules in place that she was able to sort of negotiate things around. For instance, the endowment policy at the museum called for gifts to sit for five years before they’re actually harvested.
And so, rather than do that, she wanted the money to be harvested now, so she just increased the gift and basically paid the amount, increased the gift by the amount that it would’ve grown over the five-year period. So, when there’s a will, there’s a way, especially when it comes to such a important gift. But yes, every gift is unique when it comes to that level of personal involvement.
Laura McDonald: Great. There’s another question we’ll get to in a moment, but I do just want to remind that we have a request of those of you who are in the audience today. As I said, we’re doing a much longer version of this on Friday. And as you can tell, the way we’ve kind of rushed through some of the material, we have a lot more to share. But we also want to make sure we’re addressing the questions that might crop up, so I’d like to continue to invite you, if there are things that you think we should address on Friday, that we only touched on here, please put them in the chat or the Q and A.
And I see that, one of the questions has to do with the CRM, the donor data management system that we’re using. We’re all moving towards data driven campaigns and data driven fundraising. I know the person who heads up our nonprofit technology practice would say that, “Your database should be your single source of truth, not taking things out of the database and manipulating them in Excel.” But sometimes, that’s what we end up doing, unless we have somebody who’s using Tableau or one of the other add-ons that you can add to your database to do some of the dashboards and reporting.
So, I’d be interested to hear from Abby and Colleen and Candace, what donor data management systems you’re using, and how they’re driving decisions at your institution? Go, Abby.
Abby Ashley: Happy to jump in here. We use Raiser’s Edge at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and I will say we are very fortunate to have a great management of that database centralized within development, working closely with our IT team across the institution. And really, we’ve worked critically over the last year while we’ve, wouldn’t say, had a plenitude of time, but really focusing on cleaning up that data.
And my director of info systems is wonderful at really leading the charge in practicing what we preach, right? So, the database is only as good as the data we’re putting into it. And so, really making sure that we each have a responsibility for what we’re entering, and how we can be using the different details from meetings or just our wealth screening data to be making critical decisions for the institution.
My last museum, we used Altru, which of course is still a Blackbaud product, and it had some other capabilities that were really helpful when we were in a capital campaign as well. But Colleen, Candace, please add on.
Paul Johnson: Nope. Colleen, you’re in mute.
Colleen Kelly: Fair. Did I went back on? We also are using Raiser’s Edge and we also have been cleaning it up in anticipation that we might move to something new with the new building. But beyond Raiser’s Edge, we use Wrike as our project management system, it’s what our curatorial team uses since everybody isn’t on Raiser’s Edge, and we do our moves management with donors in there, so we can tag people who are supposed to be doing certain things.
We use Slack as just a way of communicating among the entire… We have a lot of different channels. I knew there was a question about the gift table that Carl showed, those were just straight up Excel documents, so we had just complete flexibility over there. Sometimes, that’s the best way to go.
Candace Brady: At the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, we purchased Tessitura. It was the very first CRM, being that we are only two and a half years old. And so, everything in there is new. And so, we don’t have the cleanup issue, but we do have the buy-in issue, making sure that everyone within the organization is using that and not deferring to Excel list that they used when they first started.
We didn’t purchase our CRM until a year after opening, because the staff was not hired until two weeks before we opened, which we’ll talk more on Friday of why it’s important to hire staff early on in the campaign. But that’s what we use, and it’s only as good… Tessitura, it’s a robust system and it’s only as good as the users within the system.
Paul Johnson: Good.
Candace Brady: It’s been challenging for us, but it’s working well.
Paul Johnson: Just a very quick comment. A mentor of mine for many years ago, Kay Grace, who many of you probably know or have heard of. One of her favorite phrases is, systems liberate, and good systems liberate, bad systems hamper development efforts. That’s one thing. And the other is, shadow databases are the bane of a development office’s existence. Do not create shadow databases. Do not say, I can’t work in the system, I’m just going to create this Excel document. And then, suddenly, you have a bunch of Excel documents. Shadow databases are the bane of everyone’s existence.
Laura McDonald: Yeah, I know. The mantra that my colleague uses is single source of truth. You need a single source of truth for the campaign. And even if your data management system isn’t ideal, it’s the one that you’ve got, so you figure out how to make it work. As I said, there are some add-ons, whether it’s Tableau or… There’s a product some of our clients use called, JCA Answers, and these create the kinds of dashboards and reports that more and more, your campaign committee and your board members are going to want to have on a monthly or bimonthly basis.
We’ve got two minutes left, folks, maybe just one final comment and I’ll call it, as we go around the screen and the order, I see you. One final comment, something you’d ask our colleagues to keep in mind as they contemplate or implement their campaign. Carl?
Carl Hamm: As I mentioned before, I think that flexibility, boldness, confidence, and the willingness to maintain peace and calm when you have board members and directors and everyone in your face trying to boil the waters.
Laura McDonald: Be the non-interest presence. Paul?
Paul Johnson: Yeah. Just two really quick things. The first is, you’re going to see a flurry of activity at the beginning of your campaign, and everyone’s going to get very excited and all of that. And then, you go into the long haul, you go into that, like five to 20-mile run, and it just takes persistence and patience and a constant reminder.
The other thing is, it’s really important that your campaign not be toned up. One of the things we worked on in Milwaukee is, we planned this campaign prior to George Floyd, prior to Kenosha, prior to all of that, all of those events have completely reshaped the case for the campaign. Had we gone out with our previous case without being sensitive to those issues, we would’ve been seen as being tone deaf. So, I think that’s super important in terms of your case. Thank you.
Laura McDonald: Candace?
Candace Brady: I would say, staff. So, use the opportunity to make sure that you have the right seats on your bus and the right people in those seats as you’re preparing for a campaign. Staff is very important and making sure they know their job, they know they’re part of the campaign, their role, they’re comfortable with it, and you’re comfortable with it as well.
Laura McDonald: Abby?
Abby Ashley: I was going to say, staff as well. I think morale is really important, not just within your development team, but thinking about your cross departmental efforts. Staying hungry, staying ambitious, particularly with the last year we faced, is really important.
Laura McDonald: Colleen? Nope, you were on, and then off. There you go. Nope.
Colleen Kelly: Well, we’ll have more on Friday, of course, but I would say, don’t also forget to build your board. I’m the staff liaison to our nominating committee. And so, you want to be building the board of the future. Our board has changed dramatically in this last year and in getting new energy for the future of the institution.
Laura McDonald: And I’ll just say, make your donor the agent of change. The purpose of the campaign is not for donors to give you money, so that you can expand an art museum or expand programs, the purpose of the campaign is for donors to build the museum or expand the museum or provide the art. Make them the agents of change, it’s what they really want.
Eileen, do you want to close us up?
Eileen: I’m going to wrap you up because we are over time and we need to say goodbye, but these fabulous folks will be available on Friday for a much deeper dive, and I’m sure they’ll also be prepared to answer some of the questions for smaller institutions, and that this is something possible for them to do, it’s not just about the large institutions.
And if you are looking for the link, you can go to the description of this program in the program tab, and there is a link within that description for how to register.
Thank you, guys. Have a great day. Don’t forget to visit the exhibit hall, and we will see hopefully many of you on Friday.
Colleen Kelly: Get me back to Zoom.