Interview With Nick Gaudreau, Director of Development, Church Street School for Music and Art
For almost two decades, the Church Street School for Music and Art has been a place where New York City kids can learn to strum a guitar, hit the high notes and build a gingerbread house.
The nonprofit community arts center’s enrollment grows every year, along with its need donation dollars.
To find out more about Church Street and its fundraising challenges and experiences, check out FundRaising Success’ interview with the school’s director of development, Nick Gaudreau.
FundRaising Success: Tell us a little about the organization.
Nick Gaudreau: Founded in 1990, Church Street School for Music and Art is a nonprofit community arts center dedicated to arts education in Lower Manhattan. When Church Street School first opened, the school was located in a second-floor loft, a block and a half below Canal [Street] on Church Street. It was a wonderful space with great light, high ceilings and painted plywood floors. Founding directors Lauri Bailey and Lisa Ecklund-Flores did all the teaching, along with two art teachers. About 150 students enrolled the first year.
Today, home is a newly renovated, ground floor loft on Warren Street between Greenwich and West Broadway. The space, uniquely designed by an affiliated parent, is full of space and light, with the sights and sounds of music and art everywhere. In just the few years that we have called this new facility home, it has become too small, as enrollment has grown to nearly 400 students annually. The school’s board of directors is planning another expansion into the lower level, forming our most imminent fundraising priority.
The community that Church Street School serves encompasses TriBeCa, Chinatown, SoHo, Battery Park City, as well as parts of the Villages and Chelsea. There is a growing number of students who travel from Brooklyn, the Upper West Side and New Jersey. Connection to the community is one of the things that makes Church Street School for Music and Art so beloved. Its board and donors are community based. Now 18 years old, Church Street School for Music and Art has built a dedicated board, a talented and stable roster of staff and faculty, and a director whose inclusive vision and skill excites a loyal following of students, alumni and friends.
FS: How do you fund your mission?
NG: CSS is primarily tuition-driven. As our capital campaign proceeds, there is a higher reliance on individual contributions and corporate sponsorships.
FS: What are the biggest challenges your organization faces as far as fundraising is concerned? How do you overcome them?
NG: The biggest challenge is the lack of understanding by institutional stakeholders in methods of relationship management and the extent to which each individual knows how to maximize their relationship network. Through discussions and “Development 101” presentations, an increase in knowledge and ability to maintain relationships and maximize interactions has yielded major institutional assets. Administrative support and effective/efficient lines of communication have led to an improvement in donor stewardship and cultivation.
FS: Do you foresee any big changes in the way you reach potential donors and other supporters in the near future?
NG: By increasing the level of interaction between mail appeals, electronic collateral, Web site and social-network tie-ins, we plan to revolutionize the efficacy and approach by which we maintain open lines of communication with our stakeholders.
FS: How would you describe your fundraising philosophy?
NG: The school prides itself on out-of-the-box thinking and creative personal expression; however most funding sources are in-the-box-thinkers. Our goal and success is mastering and owning the “edge of the box.” By using proven fundraising methods and combining them with edgy and creative approaches, we reach our constituents in an entertaining and effective way.
FS: How do you reach out to supporters and potential supporters in ways other than purely fundraising? Are you engaged with social-media sites — MySpace, Facebook, etc. — and online social networking?
NG: We are currently developing our Web 2.0 campaign and combining those avenues of communication with real and electronic collateral to create a multimedia, interrelated marketing and fundraising campaign.
FS: Can you describe a recent successful fundraising effort?
NG: By working with local government and placing our school as a key point in the cultural heritage and enrichment of the Financial District and TriBeCa’s post-9/11 rebound, Church Street School has leveraged a great deal of grant support.
FS: Any major difficulties or setbacks you’ve faced along the way? Things you would do differently with your fundraising?
NG: As any like-sized institution is aware, a small staff can only accomplish so much. Constantly self-assessing the institution and modifying staff and volunteer plans is critical. But an open and emotionally supportive environment allows for those mid-plan modifications to be met with understanding and enthusiasm.
FS: What advice would you give to organizations similar to yours, in size and annual operating budget?
NG: Persistence and constant and open communication allows for those who may be timid or distracted to feel invested and to reach their maximum impact for your institution. E-mail and phone calls are key!
FS: Would you like to share any additional thoughts?
NG: Fostering an environment of creative freedom with your staff, board and volunteers results in many new and innovative ideas that can be filtered through the lens of fundraising best practices. This environment also provides a happy and healthy office environment that is an important base for a fundraising structure.
Church Street School for Music and Art
74 Warren St.
New York, NY 10007
Phone number: 212.571.7295
On the Web: www.churchstreetschool.org
Annual Operating Budget: $1 million
Mission: “Church Street School for Music and Art provides affordable music and art education for students of all ages and their families, and we serve a range of socially, culturally and economically diverse communities. We are the only community-based school for the arts in Lower Manhattan.”