By Jim Hackney,
I have a personal passion for museums and consider it an honor to encourage people to support our hallowed halls for works of art and the educational opportunities they provide. It is a unique adrenaline rush to ask someone for a great gift and have him or her respond positively.
And I should say, I really like asking!
Museum directors and volunteers have a variety of reasons why the can’t ask a supporter for a gift:
- I am just too busy.
- I am too close to that donor.
- The development staff are supposed to do that, not me.
They often ask me, in my role as their consultant, “Why won’t you just make the ask for us?” As much as I enjoyed that role when I was a museum development officer, as an Alexander Haas consultant, I have to give the truthful answer: “It just won’t work!”
Why it won’t work and why we won’t do it for you is a simple concept. Your donors want and deserve to be engaged and involved with you, the leader and the face of the institution they love and enjoy. The best, most successful solicitations are those in which the museum director or volunteer can be in a face-to-face- and one-on-one conversation that focuses on the donors’ interest in the work and collections and future of your museum. You – as the visionary cheerleader – must establish and develop meaningful relationships with donors so they will be inclined to direct their generosity to help fulfill the mission of your museum. As the donor becomes more engaged over time, other staff and volunteers can be exceptional partners in sustaining the relationship.
There are four things you need in place that will help you in the process of acquiring and maintaining the resources you need to implement the goals and objectives of your museum:
- A compelling case for support – what will gifts from donors enable the museum to do?
- Great leadership – who are the volunteers willing to join with you to ask others for support?
- A solid strategy or plan of action – how will the museum reach its goals?
- And time dedicated to get the job done!
As fundraising consultants, we will guide you, teach you, support you and motivate you in every way possible…including bugging and nudging you until you make those calls. But we cannot go raise the money for you. Your donors don’t know us and don’t have lasting relationships with us. And you don’t want them to. Your donors must have the relationship with you and your museum, not us as the outside consultant. Our role is to work with you to develop the best plan for success, to implement the appropriate strategies, to listen to your concerns and to guide and train your board, volunteers and staff.
Fundraising is hard work…and it should be…and we can help you feel that asking for money is the most joyful and rewarding part of your job.