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60 Ideas in 60 Minutes: Museum Philanthropy & Membership Post Pandemic

Category: Financial Sustainability


  • Charles Katzenmeyer, Vice President, Institutional Advancement, Field Museum of Natural History
  • Eowyn Bates, Vice President of Philanthropy and Engagement, San Diego Natural History Museum
  • Amy Burt, Vice President of Development and Communications, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
  • Shannon Joern, Chief Philanthropy Officer, History Colorado
  • Ginevra Ranney, Vice President of Development, Lincoln Park Zoo


Tiffany Gilbert: Before we begin, on behalf of AAM staff, we would like to thank this amazing team of panelists for agreeing to share their expertise in this format and appreciate the time they’ve taken out of their busy schedules to be a part of this series. My name is Tiffany Gilbert. I am the Director of Meetings and Learning Programs here at AAM, and I have a few items I’d like to share with you before we begin the session. There are several AAM staff monitors here to support the panelists and will be collecting your questions and ideas that will be shared with the panelists as often as requested. For the sake of time, we may not be able to highlight all the ideas or questions, but they will all be collected and shared with the panelists. We will also share all ideas collected with you in a post-webinar follow-up email. The link to panelist slides will be included in the chat and will also be included in the follow-up email, along with any other resources or links provided during the webinar.

This webinar, along with the other webinars within this series, will be recorded and available publicly through April 27th. Following that date, they’ll be available in the AAM resource library, in which all AAM members will be able to access. The resource library has dozens of articles, resources, and tools specific to various topics, including financial wellness, development, and membership. A link will be added to the chat. Also, for those of you interested in connecting with other museum professionals to discuss topics focused on development, fundraising, and philanthropy, we invite you to join their community and Museum Junction. A link for that will also be provided in the chat.

Again, we will follow up with an email providing you with links and resources outlined in today’s webinar, along with details and registration information for our next two webinars within this series. I will now turn things over to our panel moderator, Charles Katzenmeyer, Vice President of Institutional Advancement at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Charles?

Charles Katzenmeyer: Thank you, Tiffany, and welcome everybody. Good afternoon to most of you, and good morning to those of you on the West Coast. It’s great to have you with us. It’s staggering to imagine there are 195 of you listening to this webinar. And so, I have to say on behalf of the panelists, we’re a little bit nervous, so forgive us that if you will. But we enjoyed giving this session at the AAM annual meeting in Denver last year. We had a lot of fun with it. I’ll do a little setup on this session and then introduce our panelists. First of all, I’ve always been told that if you can take away from a conference, say, three ideas, it’s paid for itself. So, with a little great inflation, let’s call it six ideas. We have a session today with 60 ideas. Some of them will apply to you and some of them will be a complete waste of your time. Just tolerate that, please, because there will be many, many more.

If you remember Rip Taylor the comedian, it was joke after joke after joke and they weren’t all landing, but some of them were pretty good. And so please apply that approach to this session today. This session is about ideas, but we didn’t want you to look at a slide presentation for a solid hour. Rather, I want you to see the people as they’re talking because we will be disagreeing a little bit, we’ll be discussing it back and forth. So, the slide presentation is in the chat and our colleagues at AAM will continue to populate the chat with the slides. Click on that, and you can open that, and I’ll be prompting you with the page number for the slide presentation. That’s important because in the course of this slide presentation there’s a museum identification quiz game that has 16 different museums. If you want to number your paper now from one to 16, see if you can guess them. And then at the end, I invite you, if you’ve gotten, let’s say, I don’t know, 14 of them or so, email us, you’ll have our contact, and we’ll send you a prize from the Field Museum. But it’s an honor system, so I’m encouraging everyone to just don’t clog up my email with your fake claims. But we’d love to have everyone play along with this game.

Now, let me tell you about this game. If you haven’t seen this at the AAM annual meeting, you don’t know that this is a somewhat irreverent presentation. We like to have some fun with it, we certainly don’t take ourselves seriously. We will make some fun of each other. I have recruited two teams of assumed expertise who are here to battle it out. These are friends of mine, but they’re not friends of each other. These two teams are… Well, they’re here to fight. It’s not exactly Squid Game, but it’s blood sport, so it’s somewhere between Game of Thrones and Squid Game I suppose. But these two teams are battling it, and you’re one of the teams too. We want your ideas, and you’ll be competing with these two teams through the course of this session in the next hour. You can add your thoughts and your ideas to the chat. It’s going to get really intense, and that’s why our friends at AAM will be monitoring that. At the end of every round, they’ll present some of your best ideas. So that’s how this will work. We want your ideas, we invite your questions, and that’s how we’ll do it.

Okay, I want to say again that these are very nice people, but they’re not all friends, so they don’t mind battling it in front of you. Let’s get started. This is a session talking about development and membership after a pandemic and what the pandemic represented for museums. At one point, early in the pandemic, 35% of all museums in the country reported that it was an existential crisis they faced, that they might actually close. Now, here we are at the end of this, and it didn’t turn out to be as bad as it might have been. And for a lot of reasons, including some government support and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, which is something that AAM helped craft the legislation that included so many of us.

We’re so thrilled to get back to what we used to think was businesses as usual. But I think this exposed some weaknesses in museums, particularly our reliance on earned revenue, tickets, special events. This is a session about compensating for that, or put differently, why would we build another straw house after someone’s blown it down? We need to be rebuilding our institutions with a stronger philanthropic component because one of the things that our panelists all believe very firmly is that philanthropy is a great deal more sustainable. So let’s get into this. If you have the presentation in front of you, you’ll see that on page one it’s me, Charles Katzenmeyer from the world-famous Field Museum in Chicago. That is not one of the quiz games, but that is a picture of the Denver Convention Center. Let’s go on to page number two. Our panelists are Eowyn Bates from the San Diego Natural History Museum, and her partner is Shannon Joern from History Colorado, and they call themselves Team West Side. I don’t remember the genesis of that name, I don’t think it matters nowadays, but Team West Side. And then the team calling themselves The Money Makers, that’s innovative, Amy Burt from the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus and Ginevra Stirling Ranney at the Lincoln Park Zoo. And full disclosure, I did work for many, many years with Ginevra, and that doesn’t give her any advantage in this game. None at all, right? Yeah.

Eowyn Bates:  Probably a disadvantage.

Charles Katzenmeyer:  Probably. Actually, yeah. That’s how it played out in Denver, isn’t it?

Eowyn Bates: Mm-hmm.

Charles Katzenmeyer: So, here’s round one, what have we learned since 2020? There’s our first museum. So, if you’re paying attention to this game, number one is that. That’s a hard one. Okay, Team West Side, you’re up first.

Eowyn Bates: Yeah, I’ll jump in. Hi, everyone. I am Eowyn from San Diego. I have to say, I don’t actually care if it’s COVID or not, but I do think during COVID it was a really good opportunity to remember to always do the simple things right? I say this about in every single fundraising talk I do, if you misspell someone’s name, you’re out. I’ve got the hardest name out there, so if I give you $1,000 and you say, “Dear Mr. Bates. Dear Edwin Bates,” I’m not giving again. I feel like there was an opportunity during COVID to really… We’re all at home, we’re not talking to each other. Your systems need to be perfect. Your digital systems needed to be perfect. And so it was an opportunity to really make sure that you’re getting those thank-you letters out on time, that you’re maybe making a phone call since you can’t see someone in person, that you took the time to make personalized approaches and make sure those personalized approaches are accurate and timely, which I think is always needed, but it was a good reminder during those couple of years of COVID. And then I think maybe the next piece was also me about front doors, physical and virtual. I know when we shut our front door, and we were closed for 13 months, I immediately said to my head of communications, I said, “You are now the front door of the museum.”

Our website is now the front door or our social media or whatever it is. I actually think that that was such a good thing for us in many respects because those lessons learned we’re still carrying through today, that our online presence is about engagement, it’s not just about asking for a transaction, that we are working to educate and engage people and not just ask them to sign up for something. Same thing for our school programs going online. I know our volunteers are still utilizing those activities and school groups still are. So, it was pretty amazing to be able to set those systems up, and we continue to use them today. I have to say, without COVID, we wouldn’t all have laptops and all these different things that got us set up so that we could continue it past the pandemic.

Shannon Joern: Thank you, Eowyn. I’m Shannon Joern, and I’m with History Colorado in Denver. We are the state’s historical society. We are a big museum in Denver and a network of statewide community museums. We’re unique here today in this space because we are deeply funded by the State of Colorado. But of course, even significant state government funding can be disrupted in a moment like a global pandemic. And that was true for us when in March of 2020 more than half of our state funding overnight was taken back by the state. We, like everyone, had to scramble and look for new funding opportunities that could keep us sustaining and operating.

We really turned to some of the same sources that a lot of people did through the CARES Act and the ARPA Act and looking at federal agencies and the grant programs that are available through agencies like the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. So today, what that has meant is that previously we really didn’t have a really robust federal grant strategy where today we do. We are receiving more than a million dollars annually through those kinds of sources, so it’s now become an important part of our diversified fundraising strategy. Galas, I think we both can speak to this. Eowyn, why don’t you start?

Eowyn Bates: Yeah. I know that Charles will fight me on this one, and I’m ready for him.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Bring it. Let’s have it. Bring it.

Eowyn Bates: I changed my name to I hate galas, because I really do. Unless you’ve got the best volunteer committee, and it’s hard to come up with a volunteer committee, I think there’s a lot of time and effort taken for a single event that may or may not result in long-term relationships or the ROI that it took to put on that gala. There are exceptions to every rule, and I think the Field Museum’s an exception to that rule, but I ended our galas actually a year before COVID, and I’m so glad I did. We really have been focusing on smaller events that are very much stewardship activities with 30 people where you can actually talk to somebody and not worry about what you’re wearing or a silent auction and putting together baskets. I really feel like there’s an opportunity beyond galas. Again, it means a lot of who you are as an organization. If you’ve got something set up that’s working great, I’m not telling you to stop. I’m just saying really look at your ROI, and if it’s friend-making, make sure that, again, you’re looking at that data. Are those friends, friends for life or they’re friends for a night? And if they’re not friends beyond that event, I would challenge you to consider another way of looking at events.

Shannon Joern: I agree with Eowyn. We are not an organization that has a history of doing a gala. Nonetheless, this past fall, my team did organize a really significant major event for our major donors and stakeholders really to test the idea of whether or not this is something we should take on. It was a huge success, and yet I’m clear that we are not going to do it again, not at least annually for the same reasons that Eowyn talked about, that it’s an enormous amount of work. It would take my organization probably a decade to see it become something that could work in the way we all hope it can on an annual basis and where there’s a real return on investment. So instead, we’re leaning into smaller, more easy to pull off and consistent events that are helping us really reengage with donors post pandemic.

Charles Katzenmeyer: All right. You’re triggering me a little bit on this, but I’m not going to take the bait yet because I want to make certain our game continues. I reserve the right to come back and squash that thought. So let’s move on. For those of you who are following the slides, the museum number two is on this slide number four. We’ll move to slide number five, and the Money Makers please take over. I hope you have some sense to share because that gala nonsense is just off the grid.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Well, Charles, you and I share an opinion on galas so we can have that conversation together when we get to it. I’m Ginevra Ranney, and I’m the Vice President for Development at Lincoln Park Zoo. We are the only privately-managed free zoo in the country. That just means that we don’t have any significant support from a government entity. So about 50% of our $40 million operating budget is provided every year by philanthropy. The first bullet here on our slide today is togetherness matters, because it really does. I think even since we were together in person in May in Denver, we’ve seen more and more of certainly our country and our organizations come back to togetherness, whether that’s in a workplace, whether that’s sporting events with kids, whether that’s families gathering or traveling. I think we are seeing the power of that with our donors. We’re also seeing data that tells us that, of course, we’ve all been, I’m sure, consuming this and worried about this, that the number of donor households in our country is declining, that more people are choosing not to give to charity. We’re also seeing what we believe might be some solutions to that, and they are bringing people together, creating small events, using your experts to tell stories.

I’m a believer in the galas, and I’m a believer in the small events you all just talked about. Your CEO, your trustees, they will host small gatherings for you. We’re doing something at the zoo called Rounds with Megan, Megan Ross is our CEO, and she’ll walk people around the zoo and we will bring small groups out to meet her and do that with her. I think that’s probably the version of that that any museum can learn from. It’s not to say that if you are a national organization or you have constituents all over the country or the world that there aren’t important ways to connect beyond being together, but I don’t think there’s anything that quite can be accomplished over Zoom or virtual that matches the kind of social comradery that will help donors stay with your organization at a time when that’s really challenging.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Everyone with that? Do all of you expert panelists agree on that? I do, so I just want to see the heads nod on that. Yeah. Okay. Thank you. Ginevra. Go faster.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Okay, I’ll go faster. Mission over transaction. Always, no matter what it is, even if it’s a membership outreach, it may not be about the free parking or the free admission or your new exhibition. Talk about what you’re doing to solve a problem that matters in the world and do it as much as you can and do it as tightly as you can. I’m not saying be long-winded. I think I started by saying Lincoln Park Zoo is the only privately-managed admission-free zoo in the country. That tends to work for us and resonate with people. It starts conversation. It’s an anchor point for a conversation about mission. I think there’s a lot of, again, literature that’s telling us this matters more and more even to younger people who are making decisions about where they’re going to put any charitable dollars. And so it’s just important to really ask yourself, “Am I telling a story here with this email or this letter or this talking point?” Why does your organization matter in the world?

Charles Katzenmeyer: Amen to that. Okay.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Amy, over to you.

Amy Burt: Hi, I am Amy Burt, Vice President of Development and Communications at the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus. The bullet point I had on the list was proactive communication about organizational finances is more important than ever before. We’re three-plus years post pandemic, and I think we’re still recovering. A lot of organizations may still be operating in the red.

If you are, tell that story to your donors. I think people are still understanding largely, but you do need to identify your plan for recovery and share that story with your funders post pandemic. I think it was easy if you were in a strong financial position, you shared your audit and your financial statements, and moved on. And now sometimes you have to have some conversations about it. Proactively doing that is really helpful. Charles mentioned at the beginning too, a lot of us were very fortunate to receive stimulus funding, whether it be Shuttered Venues or something else, and thank goodness, right? It sustained our operations really for the last couple of years. It really helped our financial positioning. But now we’re moving into a zone where we don’t have that any longer, but our operations may still not be quite up to where they were post pandemic. And I think having those conversations with your funders and that real need for sustainable revenue and funding sources is really there even if your past fiscal year financial statements appear to be a little more positive because of that stimulus funding. So again, it’s conversation and explaining those things to funders as you move along into this new era.

Charles Katzenmeyer: You guys are great. I think that first round went really well, and that’s a complete surprise to me. So, thank you very much for bringing the A game. That is exciting. Phillip Bahar, my friend, yes, we will be sharing a recording. James Landrin, you asked about galas and sizes, and I’ll just answer that question. Many of these galas are lots of people. I’ll just make my plug for gala right now. We in museums don’t have homecoming. We don’t have reunion programs. This is our tribal gathering, if you will. This is the thing when we ask everyone to give us this night and they bring their friends. And yes, a lot of people don’t pay to get there. They’re guests, they’re sitting at someone else’s table, but they’re getting your moments for mission. They’re seeing your brand in glorious exclusive opportunity, and you send them home thinking, “This was really quite a put-together organization. I like this. I can see why I was asked to this. I feel this is a successful organization.” It’s up to you to do the fundraising, I mean to follow up or to get to know the room, to walk your CEO through the party.

But I want to bring the town to the Field Museum once a year, and that’s what I think we try to do. It’s massively lucrative for us, and I will never give it up or even entertain the idea that it could be replaced overnight with something else. I want to do the other things as Ginevra suggested, we all want to do all the other things, but I want to play this high church moment because I can go one-on-one for the rest of the year. This is something spectacular. Okay, enough of that.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Well, wait, I got to say one more thing on that. You have to be an organization that can get your board of trustees involved, not another committee. It can’t just be committee-led, your board has to care about the gala, and your board has to be able to give at high sponsorship levels. And that’s the revenue piece that makes galas make money, and I’d be happy to talk further about that.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Completely agree. Absolutely. Board needs to be behind it, and they need to see it as another big tranche of money for you. So we’ll talk about capacity. That’s an issue for a lot of museums, but-

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Yeah, you have to be. So it doesn’t work for everybody, there’s a good point here. It may not work for you, but in Chicago and larger environments, I think it can be nice.

Charles Katzenmeyer: I like picking the pocket of the board one more time with this, and if you ever quote me on that, I’ll hunt you. But I was at Ginevra’s gala. I’m not going to say it, it was a brilliant evening, it was fantastic, and I made a gift because that’s what you do when you go to someone’s gala. I was a guest, but I went, and I made a gift. All I’m going to say is that try not to have a gala in a tent when there’s this really serious rainstorm, life-threatening rainstorm, but-

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: We have to move on, but that could be another session if you’re interested in-

Charles Katzenmeyer: Yeah, maybe we’ll move on.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney:… hearing that horror story.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Yeah, that was really fun. Yeah, there’s an emoji for that, but-

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Yeah, no, Willa just put it up. That’s the emoji for that. There are a few others I can think of too.

Amy Burt: We all have our weather-related horror gala stories, so yes, that could be a session.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Okay, we’re between rounds, and this is the moment when we would’ve wanted some ideas from the audience. I’m guessing that we had a lot of ideas in this first round, that’s not unusual, but this is the time that the AAM staff would bring forward your ideas and just share them with us. So please populate as you see fit because we want your thoughts. You are a team in this game too. I think the 100 and what of you? 237 of you can probably outdo the four of them. Just a hunch. So let’s move on in our game. If you’re following with the slides, I’m going to move to slide number six. There’s our fourth picture to the theme earlier, sustaining our institutions. First, let’s talk about unrestricted operating support, the thing we all recognize we need most. Give us your money, and let us decide what we want to do with it. So Team West Side, let’s have it, and let’s have it quick.

Shannon Joern: You bet. Okay, I have the first bullet, focus on building more diverse funding strategies to support sustainability and mitigate future financial crises. We’ve already touched on this theme so far in this presentation. I am sure that everyone here can relate to this important theme. Again, because we are both a function of the state and a nonprofit, but largely supported by the State of Colorado, when you may think that that’s a really stable financial scenario, which a lot of times is, and yet in a moment like the pandemic, who could have imagined that overnight half of our state funding was taken back by the state? We have to be really serious about a long-term strategy to diversify both our contributed and earned revenue as far as fundraising. That means for us really looking at where we hadn’t needed to venture into some spaces. We have gone all in on major gifts, support and that strategy, an endowment strategy that looks a little unique for a state entity. I’m going to talk about that later in the presentation.

Right now, I am working with a consultant to help our organization truly build a framework to do corporate sponsorship in the way that we really feel like we should be doing but we really haven’t been doing. Again, I mean it’s just nuts and bolts that even when in times, especially in times that feel stable, it’s your time to really expand and run in as many different directions as you can in order to be prepared for the next unpredictable moment that comes upon all of us and has us struggling.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Great. Who’s the next point because I think this is one of the smartest ideas we’ve had?

Eowyn Bates: Excellent. I think one of the questions you should all be looking at is who of your members renewed their memberships during the pandemic. I have this strategy, though I have to say I need to remind my team we need to look into this, that who renewed, and if they did, why? They must be really good friends to you because I can see people making a gift because it’s a crisis, your doors are closed. It becomes a disaster gift in many respects, and that might be a one-time gift. But someone who’s renewing a membership, they’re renewing from membership benefits that really don’t exist. I mean, obviously we all probably did some membership online things or virtual memberships, but that to me is less important than those folks who renewed. My guess, and I need to look at the data, but I’d love to look at the data to see are those people good planned giving prospects? Are those the people who year over year keep giving and believe in you so strongly that they would buy a membership that those guest passes don’t matter? And so I would go back to your databases and check those people out who renewed over that time and see who they are and maybe get to know them a little bit better and thank the hell out of them, quite frankly.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Yeah, that’s such a great point. I came back to our team here after your wonderful point and said, “We’ve got to find a way to code those folks forever as having been the people who renewed during the pandemic. I want to be able to pull those folks and watch their progress. They might be solid members for 30 years and then plan giving donors. They may not have the capacity in their lives to give more, but those true believers.” Thank you, Heather, you’re absolutely right, that’s a great point. I would say that it’s hard to imagine the other team winning this round without a point that good. But before we go to the next slide, we’ve got photo number five. That’s a beautiful museum. Look at that museum. I don’t know what it’s for, but it sure is good-looking. Don’t you think, Shannon? That’s a real nice looking museum. Okay, let’s go on to page number eight. Money Makers, before we go any further… That’s a very nice looking museum there on page number eight, everybody. It looks like it could house like 40 million objects and specimens if it tried, and a really powerhouse gala. We’re going to hear from the Money Makers, unrestricted operating support.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: So subtle, Charles. Use your experts as storytellers and solicitors is our first point here. Just all of us have experts. We are museums, I work for a zoo, but we have folks that do the work at our institutions every day and love it. It’s their passion, it’s their life’s work, and they have a story to tell your donors in direct mail, in emails, at events. We used our head of animal care and welfare for a year-end solicitation to lapsed annual fund members, and it outperformed any year previously by a factor. So really think about how the people that are doing the work can help you carry your story to donors and prospective donors.

Oh, the next one’s me too. Okay. This one is brand your annual fund. What we’ve had some luck with, and we did at the Field Museum as well and at Lincoln Park Zoo, is really creating a community and a suite of materials, I would say, around the level at which you really feel like you’re entering your lead annual fund. And that can be a different level. That might be $500 for some of you. For some of you it might be 25,000. So at what level are you really branding certain events? This event is for our conservator’s council members. You have a letterhead that looks a little different. Maybe you have a welcome packet or a welcome email that’s branded differently. You could consider having trustees or other volunteers co-chair that community. You might take special trips with those people. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I mean I can be, you can spend a whole lot of money on designed things, but that is not essential. It’s not even what I would recommend. Bring a story, bring a name, and put it on everything. It can be a different color treatment, but it helps really convey the message of community, and this is a society of people that come together because they love this organization and they find significant support every year like you for what we do and for our mission.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Great. Great. The rest of this, is that you, Amy?

Amy Burt: It is. The point I made initially is that, and we’ve really been doing this quite a lot post pandemic because I think it was something that was glaringly apparent, but that you really have to make the case for staff living wages, whether it be general operating grants or really any of your programming grants. We really call it out as the Children’s Museum. It’s more than 50% of our annual budget goes toward compensation and benefits. It is a rising cost. Also, living in the city of Denver, Shannon can probably talk to this, our cost of living has exponentially grown over a period of years. And so really we’re fighting tooth and nail to maintain high quality staff and to pay them the salaries that they deserve. I think we have seen a lot more understanding with funders in that venue. We’ve actually been approached by a couple who are particularly focusing on it, for living wages for nonprofits but also cultural staff.

And so I think seeking out those funders but really telling that story in all of your proposals. The other is just continue to build on some post-pandemic openness to unrestricted funding. I will say the first couple of years post pandemic everybody was your sustainability partner. Folks who typically historically maybe weren’t interested or accustomed to doing unrestricted funding were open to doing that. They still are to some extent. I do think that tide’s starting to turn. They promised us they wouldn’t go back to making us do all restricted grants, but they’re going back to it. But I think still while those opportunities are there, go back to your friends who were those sustainability partners, and continue to seek that restricted funding while you can. I think there is a little more openness now than there was pre-pandemic, for sure.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Great points. Do we have any ideas that the audience wants to offer before we go to our next round? We’ll keep it on page eight and take a look at that gorgeous building while we’re getting any ideas from the audience. We had a question from Madeline about children’s museums and encouraging members to continue supporting the museum after their kids have outgrown the target age range. I think that’s one of those classic children’s museum questions. You guys may want to connect. I think that’s a session under itself and a good one.

Amy Burt: Yeah, for sure. I think especially for us, children’s museums typically tend to be a little upside down in that giving pyramid. For us, foundations, corporate support, or individuals can be the smaller group, which is unusual for museums largely because they time out. And so we are continually looking at ways to crack that nut, but would love to talk.

Charles Katzenmeyer:  Okay, I am going to give this round, I think, to the West Siders because pandemic members are true friends. I think that’s just a really super clever idea. The other guys can just suck it up. You’ll be okay. You’ll win the next round maybe. So round three is same topic, sustaining our institutions, but now let’s talk about endowment. Because it’s the thing we all desire, of course, we want to have an endowment, and a robust endowment. We never talk about it. We don’t know how to sell it. It never gets into planning because some CEOs, they don’t want to raise money that someone else is going to spend. I lived this experience in my previous job where we ran a campaign and the CEOs just didn’t want endowment. He needed all of it to spend before he retired. It was shameless. That’s just a horrible, awful thing. I think to some degree we have a responsibility to speak truth to power on this. The long-term change for museums is that we build endowments. Now, there’s an absolutely stunning waterfront museum that you might see if you come to the AAM annual meeting in May. That’s as much clue as I’m going to give you. Okay, Team West Side, let’s hear about your endowment ideas.

Eowyn Bates: Yeah, definitely. Can I point out, that beautiful museum has eight million specimens in its collection, and is an outstanding museum that is turning 150 years old this year, so [inaudible 00:37:10].

Charles Katzenmeyer: It’s amazing. Isn’t that great? Do you think you’ll have a gala to celebrate?

Eowyn Bates: I was hoping I wasn’t getting called out on this, but yes, I am doing a damn gala. The party of a century and a half will be at the end of September.

Charles Katzenmeyer: I’ll come, and we’re all going to go.

Eowyn Bates: Charles, you will get a special invitation, definitely. But I want to bring up ESG investing, which really has nothing to do with pandemic though it came up during that time for us. If you don’t know what ESG investing is, it’s also called impact investing where you’re looking at environmental, social, and governance issues with your endowment earnings. If you’re an environmental organization and your endowment is invested in fossil fuels, are you really doing yourself in the world a favor? So can you have a double bottom line with your endowment?

If you’re not talking about this with your board, with your finance committee, with your investment committee, I really recommend you start the conversations. There’s tons of articles out there about it, and everyone has a different perspective on it. It is pretty controversial in state pensions and some other areas, but again, it’s a good topic. I have to say I’m glad our investment committee brought it up a couple of years ago, we’ve been talking about it, and we are in capital campaign since we are turning 150. One of our lead donors who ended up giving an eight-figure gift, part of the conditions of her gift was that we invested a portion of our endowment in ESG funds. So, we had to agree with that, that that’s the best strategy because our endowment is forever, right? We don’t want to ever have a gift that could decrease our earnings every year, but at the same time, we also really want an eight-figure gift.

And so there’s that balance of figuring out what that gift agreement will look like and also making sure that your investment and board members are on board with this new direction. This wasn’t invest everything in ESG. This is we ended up doing a three or four-year strategy where we build a certain percentage every year, but we give ourselves time to do that analysis and make sure it makes the most sense for this organization since we want that endowment to grow. But this is a really important topic. Again, it could, if it works for you, really again have that double bottom line, which I’ll bring up planned giving people. A lot of planned giving folks are giving towards endowment, and if you can say that their endowment will go towards socially responsible funds, that could be a stronger argument for marketing. So you could see how you could use it a couple of different ways. It might not be that your whole endowment goes that direction, but a portion does. And so I just invite you to explore that issue. I’ll put in a plug for AAM at Baltimore. My boss will be speaking about that issue for a session there, so check that out.

Shannon Joern: I’m touching on endowments for our public institutions like History Colorado, where, again like Eowyn, we have been around for a long time. We are 144-year organization. We want to be around for another 150 years. And yet we’ve had to get creative about how to advance an endowment strategy because we cannot, as a state entity, have our own captive foundation. But what we are doing is we work with a separate organization. The Colorado Historical Foundation is our biggest partner in this way, where there are multiple both unrestricted and restricted endowments set up there on our behalf. We really, really want to expand that opportunity for us, and planned giving for History Colorado is the perfect vehicle to advance these endowments. As the historical society, even when we aren’t in close relationship with donors, people think of us because we just come to mind as a major institution that people want to support. So we have a fair amount of planned giving activity that happens and we really, really see this endowment piece as an essential strategy to sustain the organization for another 150 years. They’re small compared to some of our colleague institutions in Denver, but again, it’s a big opportunity so it’s important to us to really focus there and see that strategy grow.

Charles Katzenmeyer: This is a great point. If we had activated our polls, I could ask everyone to respond to a poll. But I’ll just say, I think a very good policy for museums is to have a very firm understanding that estate gifts are endowment gifts. Unless the donor powerfully restricts it to something else, consider all estate gifts and bequests as direct unrestricted endowment gifts and have that policy stated. It’s great to affirm, it’s great as a backup when the questions come and you’re having a bad year and the finance department is like, “Really, we could plug a hole right now. That would be really helpful.” And you’re like, “Nope, sorry, we’ve got a policy. That has to go to the endowment.” It helps because you’re signaling the importance of endowment with your best prospects, your board. So this is something that should be board-approved as a policy. Okay, great session, great round. Let’s move on. And beautiful picture, by the way. That’s where the 150 looks. That’s great. I’m on page 11 if you’re following on the presentation. That is a pretty, stunning-looking, and interesting campus right there. Money Makers, what do you have?

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: We have great ideas. The first one is you, yes you, have a case for endowment because every institution does. If you are an institution, I think Shannon said this, if you want to be around in many years, that is your intention. If that’s why you and the people you work with come to work every day, that’s your board intention, then you have a case for endowment. The fundamental notion of legacy that that provides to donors to really have their association and their love of your organization to pass through generations, they want to be making endowment gifts. It is interesting, at the Lincoln Park Zoo, we are very, very funded in some of our program areas by current-use fundraising. So the idea that we’re going to put something away and wait for it to grow can be terrifying and difficult, but it is really important to be able to think… I’m going to blend this into the second point. I know I’m going to get long-winded. But it also helps you think big because endowment is long-term and among your donors with the most capacity who’ve been with you the longest, they’re becoming increasingly very, very open to that conversation. So it’s very possible that some of the largest gifts you ever might close to your organization could be endowment gifts. And they just grow over time, that’s what they do. So if you want to talk what would it really look like to grow this program over time, you can be having a fundraising conversation while you are having a planning for that program.

You should also think about having endowment that goes with your museum exhibitions. This is something I take zero credit for. Charles and another of our colleagues came up with this idea, it was baked and cooked before I got to the field, but the ability to keep your spaces and your exhibitions and increasingly the things you care for in these collections safe and protected and vital for your visitors, that all happens through endowment. So the second point here, funding model builds consensus with leadership, is for your core areas. At science institutions this is so important because we operate somewhat a zoo, somewhat like a little mini university or college, so talking about what are our areas of excellence and how are we going to fund them and how are we going to fund them tomorrow, in my case, how are we going to fund them in a week, and how are we going to fund them in 10 years or 20 years or 50 years. And that’s where you could start to include this long range big number, and it sort of brings your funding model together, it gives it tightness, and it gives it ambition, which just makes getting to consensus easier.

Charles Katzenmeyer: So many words.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: That was so many words. Sorry.

Charles Katzenmeyer: So many words.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: I know.

Charles Katzenmeyer: You have all of the words.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Do you want to just take a minute and edit that down? We’ll come back to the panel.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Well, maybe when we distribute it later to the people. [inaudible 00:45:51].

Amy Burt: I’ll be quick.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Yeah, it’ll be a zip, like a fast-forward kind of thing. I pray, Amy is the last [inaudible 00:46:02].

Amy Burt: I’m going to be quick. I will say I’m excited to see all the children’s museum folks in the panel discussion. So hi fellow children’s museum folks. But talking to children’s museums or other museums that might be smaller organizations or mid-size organizations, I think the big thing when you’re looking at endowment is just to have your ducks in a row. I think if you’re a smaller shop and maybe you’re new to endowment, I think the biggest pieces are to make sure you have your healthy reserves in place in case you do have those reserves if you need it for emergency funding and then embark on endowment giving.

I think also making sure that you’ve got a board understanding of what endowments are and how they work and support as you move forward with that. Then I think the big thing, again for a smaller shop, is to make sure you have a sense for how you’re going to handle the administrative side of an endowment. Are you managing the investments and things like that? You have staffing and a structure in place to do that in-house or are you looking to do something with a group outsourced? I think endowments can be amazing. Certainly if somebody came to us and wanted to give a significant gift, we would love that. I think it’s just making sure that you have the structure in place to manage it and really benefit from it. To Ginevra’s point, I think making sure that the buck is worth the bang, if you will, on that one and making sure it’s large enough to warrant. But you’ve got all that in place, I think they’re a wonderful thing to have for that long-term sustainability.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Okay, we’ve got 12 minutes and two rounds to go. There were excellent ideas in the chat, and I’m giving this round to the audience because I believe you have even more to share. So let’s move to page number 12. Now we’re going to talk about leadership, just people, ideas and practices. That’s a stunning image. I will tell you as a hint, it’s in Washington DC. That doesn’t give you much, does it? Okay, we’re on slide 11 or page 13 and this is our photo number 11, and I’ll give you a hint about that. It is not in this country. It is in England. Okay, Team West Side, what do you have?

Eowyn Bates: Yeah, I’ll jump in.

Charles Katzenmeyer: You’re going to have to be fast.

Eowyn Bates: I will. Staff turnover is awful, but take advantage of it. I think it’s a real opportunity to think about restructuring, redoing job descriptions, redoing departments. 50% of my division, I have about 40 people in my division, 50% have been here for less than a year. It is an enormous amount of work to sort that all out. On the other hand, it’s also an opportunity to rethink roles and responsibilities and to get some fresh ideas. So you got to take the good with the bad, and you have to increase pay and increase benefits and all those other things, but I think it’s a really interesting opportunity to rethink how you do it and why you do it and how you can do it better.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Great point. Is that the whole slide, the great recruitment is upon us and new roles for executive leaders?

Shannon Joern: I have a quick thing on that. We at History Colorado, really, our whole executive team is new over the past three years. Like Eowyn’s talking about, that has just given us an opportunity to rethink many things about our organization. I’d say this is a big piece that we are rethinking in the context of many topical issues in our country right now. But one thing we know based on the research that we read and hear about is that history museums are one of the most trusted institutions among all museum types. We are really redefining for History Colorado what we mean by trust. It does not mean anymore for us that we see ourselves as at the top of a pyramid in terms of a hierarchy of knowledge and that we are always the ultimate experts around Colorado history, but rather that trust is based in relationships and our relationship with community and the public. So that has become a really important new idea that we are embracing.

Charles Katzenmeyer: That’s a great point. Very difficult one. Okay, let’s move on to page number 14. That’s a beautiful image of Chicago. Picture number 12. Money Makers.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: The first point, strategic plans can’t be everything to everyone. A strategic plan will probably never solve all of the needs of… It won’t ever solve all the needs of every part of your organization, so you have to make a decision when that strategic plan is enough ready for you to go forward and raise money. We shouldn’t as fundraisers be deciding the direction of the institution, but there is a moment where the appetite of our donor community and the appetite of the public have to help cut through the strategic plan and get it to something you can fundraise for. So don’t get hung up on putting a bow around your strategic plan. It’s rare, and it’s hard.

Charles Katzenmeyer: There’s still the transition from that to feasibility to campaign.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Exactly.

Charles Katzenmeyer: So that feasibility is that reality moment where, as they say, the anvil upon which consensus is built. Keep going.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Okay. Know your anniversaries, know them for the big ones and know the little ones. What’s the 10th anniversary of that little hall the donor gave? Someone, again, a former colleague at the Field is so good at this, a donor, even if they’re really distant or you’ve fallen away, getting a phone call from you saying, “Hey, it’s the X anniversary of your thing or your space,” that is magic. It’s a reason to bring out the family. It’s a reason to engage the generations. It’s a reason to have a party or a tour or whatever. So know your anniversaries and get folks on your team focused on them.

Amy Burt: I’d just add to that, on the anniversary piece of it. I think those milestone moments for organizations, whether you can consider a pandemic a milestone moment, or a 50th anniversary, which the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus is enjoying this year, we continue to live for ways to bring in donors that maybe we haven’t seen in a while, some new donors, and really trying to maximize those opportunities. Even if you want to view a pandemic as an opportunity, I think it certainly reengaged a lot of folks for us, and we’re continuing that. Ginevra covered this to some extent in an earlier section, but that connection is key point and bringing back in-person meetings. I think a lot of us are already doing that.

I think what I’m finding is, interestingly enough, around galas, we’ve gotten used to, we’re using it right now, to Zoom and Teams and things like that. And for our gala planning with our committee, a lot of those meetings were being held the last two years through these wonderful opportunities online. But we’ve missed that level of engagement. I think that’s fallen off for us. And so, as we start planning our new event in September of 2024, we’re looking to bring folks back in person. It’s easy to do the Zoom meetings, but we’re looking for reasons for them to be at the museum and see us face to face, a little more than we had been in the last couple of years.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Amen to that. Okay, we’ve got six minutes and another round and a bit to go, so we will go a little bit over, and Tiffany said it’s okay. We’ll also answer questions if you all want to stay around for a few more questions. And they have been very good in the chat. So let’s move forward. Round five is a wild card. As you’ve probably noticed, some of our teams have won some rounds, some want to fight it out. This is the last round upon which they can really fight it out. They’ll bring their best ideas, I assume. Team West Side, well, one idea. Go.

Eowyn Bates: Gosh, I thought we’d never get to the slide, so I didn’t prepare. I’d just say these tough times, and I got to say we had massive rain in San Diego on Sunday, and it rained inside our museum on Monday. We’ve got buckets everywhere. We’ve got fans everywhere. Surviving tough times isn’t just about pandemics. My team was out there like, “Let’s get pictures because this is our next fundraising appeal. Done. Let’s make it happen.” So it’s being positive but also looking for change and being uncomfortable sometimes. I think you have to be uncomfortable through this. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know how to do it, but let’s give it a shot and let’s fail forward.” I really think there was a lot of that during the pandemic and we got some grace and also some trust from people because we were willing to try and be innovative in our actions, which I don’t think we gave ourselves permission to do before pandemic.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Ruth Hyde calls it pandemic permission. That’s brilliant. Willie, you’ve offered so much in this session, you should be on this panel next year. Thank you very much for your ideas today. That’s marvelous. Okay…

Shannon Joern: Quickly, I think that, yes, surviving tough times requires change. So in the midst of the pandemic, History Colorado had to… We use the word pivot. We created a pivot strategic plan. We changed on all the deliverables that the organization offers. What we did not change is that we kept our staff intact. We had no layoffs. We were really committed to that because we are in service to the people of Colorado. It’s our obligation to serve the state, and we really feel deeply committed to our state service and knowing that our staff is our most important asset in terms of sustaining any kind of impact that we can have.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Excellent. Okay. Money Makers, this is your wild card. We’re on page 17, folks. Almost done.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Travel is back. That doesn’t mean everyone’s going to spend all their money and you’re going to go for three weeks to some place that takes you four plane rides to get to. That’s fun too, but think about where you can take your board, think about places where your experts might work. There’s a movement, this is live in the zoos, and I know the Field Museum does it, where you take a small group of your board or your donors to see another institution that’s like yours and learn from them. You can plan three-day trips, you can plan longer trips. These don’t have to be fancy, but there is no better way to build the social fabric of your organization. It’s magic when you can be with your donors long enough to really get to know them as humans. And maybe you stop acting so much like a fundraiser, which maybe you do or maybe you don’t, maybe sometimes I do. But it’s really back and it is the number one way, I think, to create deep, lasting relationships with your donors.

Charles Katzenmeyer: It’s life-changing.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Thank you. Yeah. It’s a road trip, and road trips are life-changing. That’s wonderful. Is this last point yours?

Amy Burt: This one’s mine, and it’s fundraising and membership sales start in the parking lot. This may feel like fundraising or even organizational 101, but I think where we’ve been the last couple of years is we’ve been in survival mode. I think we are feeling, at least at my organization, that we’re moving away from survival mode to a renewed focus on truly just the highest quality experiences for the community that we serve and what we’re doing at the museum. And that starts in the parking lot with a good experience there. Parking is at a premium in a lot of places. It is here in Denver as well. But ensuring that that’s a good experience, your front door, your entrance to all of your exhibits and programming, but really just soup to nuts. Getting out of that mindset that we’re just surviving into this thought that we are more than surviving, we’re knocking it out of the park, and that all contributes to fundraising.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Marvelous. That’s great. Okay, folks, we’re going to hold on and go a little over the hour. We’ll take some questions, so start loading those up. Tiffany and company will be taking your questions and making certain that we answer them. We’ll stay as long as the questions are there. But I’ve got a few more thoughts, we’re on page 18. I believe very much, and it’s been stated earlier today, that high touch is still everything. It is everything. Everyone’s mentioned that one way or the other. Don’t let your systems get in between you and your donors. Put yourself in their place. If you’re sending something you would not want yourself, then why are you sending it? I have become somewhat infamous for this one, but no garlic, no onions, no shellfish, no pork, no nuts. If someone says, “Well, that’s what makes the food taste good, all those things,”

I’m going to just remind you that we aren’t doing donor events for the food, we’re doing it for the people, and the food is second. So let’s not offend anyone or send them home running for their EpiPens. Let’s be smart about the food. I so firmly believe that we should be hiring musicians and actors. They are so grateful for the work. They love the opportunity for a solo or their own soliloquy, but they blend so well when they need to. And that’s what we do as fundraisers, we blend. We step back and we let the thing be what it is, that we’re the ensemble. And that’s something that musicians and actors so get. I believe that everything we put out, absolutely every piece of paper, every digital message, everything we have should have a teachable. It’s our opportunity to remind people why we exist. Practically, everyone likes to learn. So when we’re teaching and we offer some value that’s available, accessible, and inexpensive to share, we’re doing the work of our institution, we’re proving it again. That’s true for everything we do out of our offices in advancement or development.

And finally, I strongly believe that we have the opportunity to prevent what I call the Maleficent effect. For those of you who don’t know that, the Maleficent effect is a whole set of drama that occurs when someone doesn’t get invited to the party. They just didn’t get invited. So someone thinks they’re one of your VIPs and you still think, “Oh, I just have had enough of those people.” They still need to be invited because they think they’re on your A list. Because if you don’t invite them, you’re going to create what could be months or years of bad will. So if they think they’re important to you, invite them to your campaign committee. Tell them what it is. Let them say no if they don’t want to do it. But don’t just ignore. That will create something in those volunteers and donors that is very dangerous for you because you don’t want a critic out there just lobbying grenades at you from any remote distance. You just can’t have that. That’s not what we’re here to do. Okay. We say thank you, and we’ll stay for your questions, but I’m going to roll back on my presentation. I’m looking at it, you can do the same, and we’ll go through the pictures real quickly. For those of you who want to follow, picture number one, Independent Seaport Museum. I imagine a few of you got that. Picture number two, someone put it in the chat, the Neon Sign Museum in Las Vegas. Picture number three was Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle. Picture number four was the Inhotim Museum in Brazil. Gorgeous. Picture number five, History Colorado.

Thank you again, Shannon. Picture number six, I don’t think that has to be explained. Picture number seven, National Aquarium in Baltimore. We’ll see that when we all go to the AAM annual meeting in May. Picture number eight, San Diego Natural History Museum. Picture number nine is the Children’s Museum of Denver. Picture 10, Planet Word Museum, the new museum in Washington, the Planet Word Museum, founded by Anne Friedman on the AAM board. Picture number 11 is the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, UK. Picture number 12, the gorgeous Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Picture number 13 is the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Someone got that in the chat. Very good. Picture. Number 14 is the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington DC, probably one of the most well-looked at and well-known new museums in the whole wide world. Picture number 15 is the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York. And picture number 16 is the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Okay, if you think you got 12 of those, email me at, and we’ll send you something as your prize. There we go. And now we want to take your questions. We thank you very much. We’ve lost a few people, but let’s take some questions if you have them. Tiffany, do you have any of the questions collected already, or Colleen or Tiara?

Tiffany Gilbert: I do, Charles

Charles Katzenmeyer: Please, let’s have them.

Tiffany Gilbert: Okay. A couple of them you all did answer. First of all, wonderful presentation, lots of engagement in the chat. I’ll be sure to share that with all of the panelists. Let’s start with one. “Is there a way… ” Nope, sorry, “How do people sign up for those rounds with your CEO?”

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Well, we invite certain donor audiences to them. You got to get invited, essentially. We’re basically doing those invitations through phone call and email to donors based on a list that we have looked at. We’ve taken our donors, and we look at folks that aren’t yet under management that we don’t know well. We look at their current giving, all starting at the top, and then we look at their consecutive years of giving as an indication of their loyalty and any other information we might have. And so we use it really as what some people would call discovery or qualification. And so those are invitations that will be shared by our gift officers. And in some cases we will ask our CEO to reach out herself and say, “I’m holding these rounds. We’ve met before. I’d love to get you out to the zoo. Please come join us.” I think we’ll do those for groups of about 10 to 12 or so. They don’t work much bigger than that.

Tiffany Gilbert: Thank you, Ginevra. I have one more question for you. “Can you share some of the brand assets for the annual fund?”

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Sure. Probably best to have that person email me and then I can…

Tiffany Gilbert: Okay. The person that asked that question, I have your email. Ginevra, if it’s okay with you, I can forward her your… sorry, forward them your email address of that.

Charles Katzenmeyer: I imagine your branded annual fund might also be somewhere on your web, right?

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: Not.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Your brand asset or-

Ginevra Stirling Ranney: It’s early days here. It’s not as glorious as all of the founders council materials at the world-famous Field Museum. But yes, I’m happy to…

Charles Katzenmeyer: Okay.

Ginevra Stirling Ranney:… share some.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Have our team that does that here.

Tiffany Gilbert: Eowyn, I feel like I may have cut you off. Were you going to say something? No?

Eowyn Bates: I was just going to add on. We do something called Java with Judy, which is our CEO. We do it quarterly, same kind of idea, 15 people. She can actually just come in and give big picture and then disappear, and we have a scientist come in. It’s a really nice, easy, easy way, have some coffee, have some muffins, have a scientist or a curator come in and talk and people feel special. Even if they don’t come, the invitation I think is just sometimes as important as people coming. So don’t discount those smaller hands-on events where people can speak directly with leadership.

Charles Katzenmeyer: I love that idea because you’re not necessarily having to do a catered dinner for that. You’re saving some money and some of your long-term, most-beloved donors actually can come in the daytime. They’d love to come for donuts with the director, as Erin pointed out. Yeah, great idea. Okay, Tiffany?

Tiffany Gilbert: Okay, another question, “Do you use mission-focused messaging for the earned revenue campaigns as well for facility rentals and mission tickets, field experiences, et cetera?”

Charles Katzenmeyer: I don’t know about all of you, I believe that usually in a museum of some size that’s a different team entirely than the advancement team here. But that is a very good idea that everything contributes. You see that in museum stores a great deal. Your purchase supports the mission of the XYZ Museum that you’re in right now. But that’s a very good notion that at every turn your revenue flows, whatever they are, earned or philanthropic, really do have a mission outcome. That’s perfect question, whoever asked that, thank you.

Amy Burt: We do, especially on the membership side. I think particularly with post pandemic price increases, which we’ve just had to do in order to maintain a balanced budget. Every time we do that, we certainly talk a lot about where those dollars go.

Shannon Joern: Yep.

Eowyn Bates: We do it for facility rentals as well. I mean, those dollars are going to your bottom line whether it’s a corporation having a holiday party or not. It’s really simple to add mission messaging on your whatever, blah, blah, blah. I mean, throw it on. It doesn’t hurt. Zoos I think are incredibly effective at doing this. Buy a Pepsi and save a white rhino, right? If you take that aspect and apply it to your museum, don’t be scared of doing that with your admission tickets, with your stores. Really push it. I mean, that’s why people are there, and that’s why you’re here, so share that messaging out for sure.

Charles Katzenmeyer: So true. That’s the reason that you want people to round up their ticket at the desk as they purchase a ticket. That’s the reason that you ask them to round up at the store, online. We ask people to cover our credit card charges. That isn’t just money, it’s another way for people to show their love. In another time, and of course these panelists are way too young to appreciate this, but in my time back in the olden days, we would say on the business reply envelope, “Your stamp is an additional gift.”

It’s the same notion. If you’ve got 35 now, 55, or 65 cents for us, you’re doing something extra for us. And it’s really just a little mini expression of love. I think that’s absolutely brilliant. Also, it brings the earned revenue people to mission with you. We don’t have enough partnership with them in almost all of our institutions. They have their own goals and their own things, and they fight with you sometimes for dates to use the building, and they’re part of mission too. So thank you for asking that. That’s a great question. Tiffany, what else do you got?

Tiffany Gilbert: We have a question from Lauren Garnice, “Can you explain a bit more the endowment piece that goes with museum exhibitions?”

Unknown: Charles, I think you should do that [inaudible 01:10:01].

Charles Katzenmeyer: Yeah. This is a lesson learned from a challenging experience. There’s a watch party going on here at the Field Museum, so all these people are going to groan because I might share too much, so I’ll be careful not to. We were working on an exhibition and we shared the budget with donors, “This much is the build, this is the education piece. This is the endowment to make certain that we have funds permanently to keep maintenance of the exhibition.” Well, the build we got covered quick. The education was a challenge, and practically no one wanted the endowment. So first of all, in subsequent permanent exhibition funding, we shared one budget, only one number, and didn’t break that out, because everyone saw that you have enough to build and they then stopped thinking that you need anything more. But in all of our subsequent permanent exhibition campaigns, we have included a significant percentage of the cost for endowment for that hall, for maintenance of that hall. We all have indirect costs, and that’s actually another line in this budget, but the maintenance of the hall is something that is so meaningful.

If you are in a building that is older than, I don’t know, three or six weeks, you will need that someday. You don’t need it today because it might be a brand new building, like Amy’s looks pretty new, but you will need it someday. When you turn your Lion House into something else, like Lincoln Park Zoo did recently, you’re going to wish you had a lot of maintenance dollars. So build that into the budget early and then promote the overall budget when you’re raising money. And bigger is better. So if someone says, “Wow, that’s a very ambitious program.” Yes, that’s what we’re billing it as. It’s the most ambitious exhibition we’ve ever done. That’s our ambition. That’s what you’re going to invest in. That’s success, at least in Chicago. But I think everywhere people want to support success. They don’t give so much to need. They give to success. Tiffany, what else do you got?

Tiffany Gilber: Yeah, so it was actually a question that came through that I’m really interested in too. It comes from Barbara Pratt. The question is, “With a high level of turnover, how do you deal with pay equity? Those who have long history with an institution often makes far less than new hires.”

Eowyn Bates: Yeah, I’m happy to answer that. I think this could be a whole another session because I think everyone’s dealing with this. But we created pay bands two years ago for every single position in the organization and pay grades. So everyone falls within a certain band. And the goal is to get them to, whatever, 50 or 75% of X band. Our first process of that was to get everyone up, and I forget what the percentage was. If there’s one of my staff on here, they’ll correct me later, so I don’t want to say it wrong. But the first goal was to get people up to X percentage of that band, which helped get the people who have been there for a long time into, A, the right band because some people weren’t even in the band.

Their salaries were below that band based on really what they should have been paid according to market. And so we got people in there, and then our goal is to get people up to X percentage. And then when people are hired, they have to be hired within that band. So you’re creating some equity. Now, someone still might be getting hired at a higher rate within the band because, let’s be frank, sometimes you’ve got a great candidate and you may not have a lot of great candidates and you need to negotiate and you’re going to pay. And that is, I hate to say it, but the way of life sometimes. But at least you’ve got something to look back onto that I feel that this person’s in the right grade, in the right band. We’re doing that research based on… I’m not comparing myself to the Field Museum or the LA Natural History Museum. They’re much bigger organizations with much larger budgets. I’m looking at similar size organizations because people will come and say, “Well, the school or the California schools is paying more.” Well, it’s totally different. Let’s look at likes to likes. I understand that there are competition, but the pay should be equivalent to similar organizations. So it’s a painful exercise and takes a lot of time, but I really recommend you do that. And then the second year we looked at just increasing what minimum wage should be at our organization, and now we’re in year three trying to determine what that next step is. But another session because this is a big.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Such an important topic, and you did a great job of explaining it. Thank you. We’ve lived it with that 50% turnover, which is astounding. Constance Jackson said to us, but I think only to the host and the panelists, “People in New Orleans would walk out on an event without shellfish, onions, or garlic.” I will accept our friendly amendment, Constance, that New Orleans is an exception to the rule, because you don’t have Creole without those things. I completely respect that. Okay, Tiffany, any more questions?

Tiffany Gilbert: Yeah, let me give you all just one more I think was really good for the group. And also just wanted to note, we will have a flash session at the AAM annual meeting on pay equity coming from Micah Parzen from Museum of US. So if anyone still on this call and wants to check that out, that’ll be happening in Baltimore this May. This one is, I think, a really good one for the group, and maybe we can make this the last, and I can send you whatever we have left over. If you want to reply to any of these, I’m happy to send those out to everyone. “Can you speak more about creative fundraising events? If galas are out of reach, what smaller fundraising events or in-person gatherings have you found successful?”

Charles Katzenmeyer: Galas are not out of reach. What you call a gala is what isn’t the gala. But go ahead, other people, creative ideas for events in the modern time? I’d love to hear you guys knock this one out of the park.

Shannon Joern: Cocktails with the curators.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Great. Yes.

Shannon Joern: Yes, people love it. It leads to lots of just direct engagement with staff and the content and the behind the scenes opportunities that people really enjoy.

Charles Katzenmeyer: What else have you-

Unknown: We’re doing-

Tiffany Gilbert: There was a good response-

Charles Katzenmeyer: Oops, wait.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Sorry.

Tiffany Gilbert: I’m sorry. There was a good response to that question too from Heather Annette with a link to Dinner with the Director at the Heckscher Museum of Art that was offered in response to that question also. Sorry, Eowyn.

Eowyn Bates: No, it’s okay. The problems with Zoom, we’ve never figured that one out. But we do science salons, which are small conversations at people’s homes, which of course everyone loves. It’s, again, meant to be a conversation, not an event. We’re not speaking at them, we’re speaking with them, and so it’s a great way to get to know folks.

Charles Katzenmeyer: There’s a way to coach your experts on that. I imagine you all have lived this. Experts believe that they’ve been invited to be experts, so I’m going to share the truth of my expertise. I have 35 years of this. What you’ve just described is a little bit more of a horizontal conversation where-

Eowyn Bates: It is, and we always have a moderator in order to keep those experts at bay.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Brilliant. Know that one of the things we want to do is we want to listen as we’re having these salons because people will foment the things they care so deeply about. This is a listening exercise, which means the fundraisers have to be in that room to listen, not talk, to listen. We need to coach our experts a little bit about the listening exercise because I do know some young talent that occasionally does get into a little bit of an argument when they feel that they’re being talked wrongly at like, “No, no, it’s this way. I’m the expert.” You can coach people around that, I think. But that’s a great idea. Amy, others? Ginevra, you’ve got your walk-around.

Ginevra Ranney: We had some success both here and Charles, the Field Museum in thinking about… So you can sometimes ask your experts, “Who else are you working with? Is there going to be another interesting scholar or colleagues who may come in to do some work with you? Or are you going to see someone at a workshop?” There may be more local celebrities or people that have an interesting point of view on something you are doing. So you can also bring your experts together with other interesting speakers, more symposium style. Those tend to be a little bit more time-consuming events to put on, but they tend to be real magic. And donors do love when organizations collaborate with others who have a similar mission. They think that’s smart, and it shows that you’re open-minded. And so we’ve seen a really strong donor response to those kinds of programs over the years as well.

Charles Katzenmeyer: Fantastic.

Amy Burt: I just have a couple of quick points. Actually, we’ll be opening in April, in the spring, but we’ve got a new rotating exhibit space where the exhibit room will switch out probably every six to eight months. With that, we just have a natural opportunity for sneak peak moments with donors more than just the two to three years when we open a new long-term exhibit. So that’s kind of neat. At least once or twice a year we’re going to have a sneak peak opportunity. The other thing I would say just on galas, because one of the things that was mentioned is just the ROI, which is real, I mean, the cost of food at a gala can be staggering. What we’ve done for our annual event is we have a pretty strong facility rentals program, and we’ve got anywhere from seven to nine preferred caterers on that list. Part of what they do as signing on as a preferred caterer is they each do a station at our gala pro bono. They’re some of Denver’s best caterers, and it works for us. It’s kind of neat and it’s fun to have different folks there providing food and drinks, and it helps bring that cost down.

Charles Katzenmeyer: I have to compliment my colleague, Ginevra Ranney, she helped to found the women’s board at the Adler Planetarium. One of your brilliant moves was there’s an exclusive cater at the Adler Planetarium, and part of their contract is to underwrite the gala for food and beverage. So that is an event that, I don’t know if it’s still that way, but the way that you cut that deal, was to make certain that the event was covered. So same principle, “Hey partner, this is our philanthropy evening. Would you help us by reducing our primary costs down to almost nothing?” That’s wonderful.

Ginevra Ranney: I think you negotiated that deal, but thanks for the credit.

Charles Katzenmeyer:  I think it was kind of you. You were ahead of me. Okay, Tiffany, I think we still have more than 100 people. So God bless all of you for staying with us for another 22 minutes. But we will let you go with the promise that we’re going to do this session in Baltimore and live. So there’ll be lots of prizes. We have a lot of fun, and it’s even more irreverent, and it is a blast. So we thank you very much for being part of this session today. Tiffany, is there more from you?

Tiffany Gilbert: Yeah. First of all, thank you all. You were amazing. This was such a wonderful and very successful webinar. Thank you for kicking off this Financial Wellness Webseries. We’re looking forward to doing more of these in the future and packaging them. We just think they’re great, and you all did a wonderful job with kicking off. Now I can walk around with my head held high. But thank you also to all of our attendees. Really appreciate you being a part of this, well, what is our first webinar in our Financial Wellness Webseries. You’ll receive a follow-up email with links, links to the slides, any ideas that came through on the chat, some of the questions that came through, because we want you all to continue to have these conversations internally and with some of your colleagues. We also invite you to register for the next two webinars of the series, Planning for Sustainable Success: Building a Development Plan for Museums on February 20th, and How Do You Know You’re Ready For a Campaign? Where Do You Start on March 27th. Registration information will be sent out to all of you also in that follow-up email. As soon as this webinar is available to watch, we have to have it captioned, as soon as it’s available, I will send a link or we will post a link through communications or social media so that you’re able to locate this webinar to rewatch it. I certainly would want to rewatch it. But also thank you again. Take care everyone, and we’ll see you all hopefully in May in Baltimore.

Thanks a lot. Bye.

Ginevra Ranney: Bye.

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