CANADIAN MUSEUM ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE
Toronto, March 25-28, 2009
Collections Coordinator - Passage Project
The following is an account of the sessions that I attended. I selected sessions based on what I thought would be most useful for the Passage partners, and for the Steering Committee as they plan for the future. I hope that you will find some helpful hints and information that can be applied to your sites.
Creating Sustainable Funding for your Nonprofit
Presenter: Terry Axelrod, Benevon Consultants
Before any fundraising work begins it is imperative to quantify your goal, determining your own definition of sustainable funding. For example, if you want to establish an endowment fund, calculate how large that fund would need to be in order to sustain the organization. You should also set goals in terms of where you will find your funding, ie 5% will come from corporations, 13% from foundations, etc etc.
Traditionally, organizations have focused on obtaining large sums of monetary support from large organizations and government groups. Smaller donations have been discounted as being worthwhile to pursue. The Benevon model focuses more on these individual donors and smaller sources of funding, creating a large support base for the organization. This method of creating sustainable funding is a circular model, using the following cycle: Point of Entry – Follow-up – Ask for Money – Introduce Others – Point of Entry etc.
- Point of Entry – starting with members of the organization, a one hour tour event is held that introduces or re-introduces people to the organization. This must have an emotional hook, but you should also be discussing the practical needs and goals of the group. It is imperative to obtain permission from attendees to record their names and contact info for follow-up. Your intro event agenda should include a start-up time where you greet attendees, have them sign-in, and mix and mingle among the group. The program itself should have a welcome by a board member explaining their personal reasons for getting involved, successes to date and vision for the future. This is the time to brag about your organization, but don’t take too long or you’ll start to lose interest. A walking tour of the site is a good idea, with three stops, each describing a mythbuster fact, story and need. An example could be that only 5% of the collection is actually on display because of a lack of space, pointing out a specific object that visitors heard about and were looking for. Mentioning your specific needs will help the attendee think about ways in which they can help you meet this need. The live testimonial is key, creating a connection with your audience and making the organization come to life.
- Follow-Up – this is the cultivation superhighway, and can be broken down into 5 simple steps. Re-connecting with your Point of Entry attendees, thank them for attending, and ask what they thought of the event. Then, be quiet and listen to their likes, dislikes, suggestions or whatever else they have to say. Ask if there is any way the attendee can see themselves getting involved with the group, and finally if there is anyone they think should be invited to a similar event in the future. While you are still not asking for money at this point, it is important to remember that the more contact you have with a person, especially in-person, the stronger the connection and the more likely they will be to support the organization.
- Ask for Money – there are two ways to ask for money, one-on-one or at an ask-hour free event. The key is to get multi-year pledges that can be connected with specific outcomes. Information on your new donor base should be entered in a database in order to track their involvement with the organization, the same as other members and volunteers are tracked. For the one-hour event a breakfast works well and it is possible that a sponsor could be found, greatly diminishing the cost of the event. Again, it is important to set goals, such as 100 people, 10 people per table. Table captains are important to answer questions and guide discussions during the event. Attendees should be welcomed, and listen to a short testimonial from someone connected with the group, but who isn’t a board member. A small commemorative gift should be given to each attendee, handed out by volunteers or the table captains. Each table should have a little feature vignette that will help the attendees to connect even more to the group as they enjoy their meal. Once the meal is finished, a visionary talk is given, followed by a very brief video that features various aspects of the museum. A live testimonial or interview then takes place with either a key community member or otherwise invested individual. It is then time for the “pitch”. A credible person who is linked to the mission of the organization follows a set script, and cards are given out by the table captains to each attendee. On the card are options for donating, such as:
- Sponsor an artifact for $100/yr for 5 years
- Sponsor a collection for $1,000/yr for 10 years
- Sponsor a museum for $10,000/yr for 5 years
- Contribute ____ for ____ years
- Contact me, I have other thoughts to share
- Introduce Others – now that a connection has been made and your community of sponsors is being built, these relationships need to be maintained. Continue to host bi-annual free feel-good cultivation events in order to keep donors engaged, update them on what their money has been spent on, and generally keep them informed on the organization’s progress. They are encouraged to invite others to these events who they believe would identify with the group, who could be invited to a Point of Entry event, bringing the process full circle.
This method of fundraising may seen overwhelming since it does require a fair bit of effort, but it has been proven to create sustainable funding for nonprofit groups from across North America. In order to succeed the focus must be on the context and content of information as opposed to the quantity of a museum’s collection. Museums must be recognized as a public good and should be supported as such.