Meet Our Award Winners: Matthew Bregman
Fundraising accomplishment of which you are most proud: We launched a Patrons Circle at El Museo three years ago. Though it is (so far) much less lucrative than many other things I’ve been involved with in my career, I’m proud that I was able to shepherd it from an abstract idea to an ongoing part of the fundraising mix at our museum. Now it is taken for granted as an essential part of what we do, which feels great.
How would your co-workers describe you: I’m not sure — but I’d love to know! I think they’d say that I’m funny and a little obsessed with my kids, and that I never stop asking for things.
Greatest lesson ever learned: This is a hard question, and it actually inspired a recent post in my blog. But more succinctly, and specifically in terms of fundraising, I think I learned an important fundraising lesson back in my first job, when I was organizing my first revenue-generating special event. We were featuring Ralph Nader (long before he became a pariah because of the Al Gore campaign). Nevertheless, we were struggling to sell tickets, and we were sure that the key to success would be aggressive and comprehensive follow-up with our membership base. But no one, and I mean no one, was buying tickets. And I began to believe that the whole concept of the event must be terrible, and that I was not cut out for fundraising, and our organization wasn’t cut out for prosperity. Then someone put a tiny ad in the back of The Village Voice, and the phones started ringing off the hook. We had simply been asking the wrong people.
But more important than simply a lesson in lists, that experience taught me not to draw cosmic conclusions (i.e., this event is destined to fail) from specific evidence (i.e., our membership isn’t responding). There was an enormously successful event just waiting to happen, and if we’d insisted on focusing exclusively on our nonresponsive list, we would have missed it.