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Developing Donor Cultivation Confidence

Posted By Courtney McGowan McNeil, Curator of Art, Telfair Museums, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No matter how interesting a conference session may be, I typically spend most sessions with my notebook dutifully opened on my lap, listening carefully but just jotting down one or two ideas to bring back to the office. I was particularly looking forward to this panel, as I spend a great deal of time working with my institution’s collectors’ society, but I had no way of knowing I would walk out of the session with not one, not two, but three entire pages filled with tightly-scribbled notes. So many great ideas were tossed around that it was difficult to keep track of them all!
Katharine DeShaw’s donor development workshop was specific, logical, action-oriented, and made me feel like I had all the tools I needed to walk out of the room and ask the next donor I encountered for a million dollars. Well, perhaps not a million dollars, but the detailed strategies she presented were very empowering. Dedicated development staff are irreplaceable, but this presentation certainly made me see that, from time to time, an "ask” coming from both a development staffer and a curator might be just the inspiration needed to convince a particular donor to commit.
The remaining presenters were just as compelling; each one touched on issues that I face regularly. Their discussions left me with a laundry list of new ideas that I look forward to applying at my own museum: steering our young supporters’ group towards sponsorships for particular exhibitions, creating a system that will always notify donors when their work goes on view in our galleries or is loaned to another museum, holding collectors’ dinners in a unique artist’s studio rather than a generic restaurant, and further engaging younger supporters from my own peer group.
Curator of Art
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