Tag Archives: sustainability

Encouraged and optimistic: If you build it they will come … good business model?

Part three of a three part series

Grace Stanislaus

Photo credit: Rodger Allen.

The African American and African Diaspora museums and cultural institutions that have emerged across the United States are a testimony to perseverance.  At the same time they, like many other cultural institutions, face many challenges. Nonprofit CEO, capacity building consultant, master strategist and cultural arts worker Grace C. Stanislaus recently shared her perspectives on African American and African Diaspora giving, philanthropy, and the role of cultural and arts institutions.

“Our present level of giving to social justice, civil rights, poverty, health, education, and other social and political causes, and to the arts, is truly remarkable. Our giving to the arts is especially remarkable given the systematic denigration of our contributions to American and world culture, and decades of exclusion from art history books and from mainstream museums.”

“Yet coupled with our remarkable progress are challenges,” Stanislaus continued. “One challenge is the dramatic scale up in the size of the architectural edifices we’ve built in the past several decades to house our art and to tell our stories.  We’re suffering from the disparity between the increase in the economy of scale and the economic reality of what’s required to operate and sustain these multimillion dollar facilities.  The “if you build it they will come” approach as a business model doesn’t work without strong financial and operational foundations such as endowments or reserves.  It certainly doesn’t work when marketing funds are inadequate to nonexistent, and development departments are inadequately staffed.”

“In general our institutions experience a lack of diversity of funding sources and an over-reliance on a small and over tapped community of funders,” she continued. “We need to focus on building high performing boards that in their makeup represents the diversity of our society and whose members deeply understand their role in bringing the right balance of wealth, wisdom and work to the equation.”

“More time and resources have to be put into cultivating the philanthropic/giving culture among members of our African American and African Diaspora communities, old and young.  We need to recognize the changing climate of philanthropy in general, and find new and entrepreneurial approaches to sustaining and growing these valuable institutions.”

She ended the interview with a focus on the future, saying, “I’m encouraged when our museums establish young professional affiliate groups.  While we continue to aggressively cultivate and expand our current donor base, and to establish planned giving programs, we must prepare a future generation of members, patrons, board members, angel investors, impassioned volunteers and ambassadors to take stewardship of our museums.  The Studio Museum in Harlem has its Contemporary Friends program, MoAD has its dynamic MoAD Vanguard, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture is ahead of the curve in establishing its Ambassadors program. We have fought for our institutions; we now need to strategically ensure their survival and growth.”

Contact Grace C. Stanislaus at gcsart@aol.com

Part One: Encouraged and optimistic: African American philanthropy and museums

Part Two: Encouraged and optimistic: Pressing Questions, limited resources and support of the arts

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them @saadshaw.

Encouraged and optimistic: Pressing Questions, Limited Resources and Support of the Arts

Part two of a three part series

Grace Stanislaus

Photo credit: Rodger Allen.

“While our museums face many challenges, there are as many opportunities.   Collectively we need to determine what steps we’re prepared to take and how aggressive we’re prepared to be to ensure the current and future relevancy and sustainability of our museums.”

That’s how Grace C. Stanislaus, former Executive Director of the Museum of the African Diaspora and former President and CEO of the Romare Bearden Foundation, sums up the future of African American museums and cultural institutions.

Knowing that foundations, corporations and philanthropists often want to see support from those directly impacted before making an investment, we asked Stanislaus if she finds that African American communities support local and national museums.

“In general, yes.  Members of the African American and the African Diaspora communities have supported and continue to support our museums.  The many regional and national museums and cultural centers that have been established over the past decades attest to it.  And the impressive support that continues to move the long held dream of a National Museum of African American History and Culture to fruition affirms it.  But, it’s a qualified yes.  It requires that we broaden the definition of support beyond merely financial and that we include in our considerations the many socio-political and economic factors that impact charitable giving among African Americans.

“Statistically African Americans make more charitable donations of their income per year than whites despite the fact that over the past several decades the wealth gap between blacks and whites has become a nearly unbridgeable chasm.  This is the case even between middle income white households and high income African Americans – the result of many factors, but primarily of ongoing discrimination and unfair practices.”

“The pressing questions are: Where does support for the arts fall on the list of priorities as the wealth disparity gap widens and as African Americans fall behind in wealth and legacy building and move ahead in debt accumulation?   At what juncture does support for museums and other cultural institutions enter into the dialogue as critical decisions are made about saving for college education, weathering a prolonged period of unemployment, paying for health insurance and care giving, planning for retirement, and supporting extended family members and unemployed friends?

Today many of our nonprofit cultural organizations, museums, cultural centers and theaters across the nation are facing financial challenges because the level of support needed to assure their long term financial, operational and programmatic sustainability is simply not in place.  Many if not most have no to nominal endowments and not enough cash reserve to operate without distress.  While this is not specific to African American museums, it’s particularly impactful on our organizations when coupled with other social and economic challenges facing our communities.”

Part One: Encouraged and optimistic: African American philanthropy and museums

Next week: Encouraged and optimistic: If you build it they will come…good business model

Photo credit: Rodger Allen

Contact Grace C. Stanislaus at gcsart@aol.com

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them @saadshaw.

Fundraising: investment or afterthought?

Investment or afterthoughtInvesting in the fundraising operations of a nonprofit is an investment in the organization’s future. It takes time to build a fundraising program that is capable of securing revenue from multiple sources. It takes vision, planning, leadership and resources – including money.  And, it doesn’t necessarily “pay off” right away. A fundraising program takes time and attention to mature. Often three-to-five years. And during that time the investment in fundraising needs to be consistent. Once a fundraising program is well established it can support a nonprofit organization or institution in meeting its revenue goals. But, again, it takes time. And even once established, it cannot be put on “automatic pilot.”

Fundraising needs consistent attention from the organization’s top leadership. That means the CEO and board members have to be willing to cultivate and solicit gifts all the time, not once in a while. The focus needs to be on building and sustaining a pool of prospective donors and funders. You need a pool who can collectively give three times the fundraising goal because not everyone who wants to give will be in a position to do so when asked. You have to know who these people are. You have to be in contact with them. You have to know what they want from a funding or giving relationship with your organization.

Don’t wait until the organization needs money to build a fundraising program. That’s when it’s too late. Our recommendation: attract the people and expertise to build and sustain your programs and simultaneously attract the people and expertise needed to raise money for the program in future years. It can take a minimum of 12 to 18 months to secure meaningful investments from foundations, corporations or individuals. Having a strong program that meets community needs doesn’t mean an organization will be able to raise money when funds are needed. Successful fundraising is the result of consistent planning and engagement.

With the economy turning around and money beginning to flow again now is the time for nonprofits to build sustainable fundraising programs. Prepare for future challenges. Get your house in order. Be proactive, not reactive. Build a program that attracts unrestricted funding as well as the “easier” to obtain restricted funding. Yes, it takes time and creativity to find ways to secure unrestricted funding: but if you don’t make the investment you won’t have the unrestricted funds. Ensure your board and CEO are committed to fundraising. Seek out volunteers who are fearless fundraisers. Create a fundraising plan that seeks funds from multiple revenue sources – not only foundation or government grants. Attract, train and invest in committed and experienced staff.  Review and refine your case for support. Articulate your uniqueness. Align your organization with community needs. Respond to the market. You can do it: it takes vision, planning, commitment and your time.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them @saadshaw.