5-Minute Interview With Matthew Bregman of El Museo del Barrio
El Museo del Barrio was founded in 1969 by a group of Puerto Rican educators, artists, parents and community activists in East Harlem’s Spanish-speaking El Barrio. Today, it’s a leading Latino cultural institution dedicated to representing the diversity of art and culture from the Caribbean and Latin America.
The museum houses a perm-anent collection, presents exhib-itions, conducts bilingual educ-ation programs both on site and in local schools, and hosts a variety of community events and festivals tied to Latin American holidays.
Director of Development Matthew Bregman has been with the institution for a little more than a year. Here, he discusses the museum’s fundraising structure, recent successes, and the challenges and opportunities presented by the impending loss of one of its major corporate sponsors, Altria Corp., which accounted for close to 10 percent of the museum’s contributed funding.
FundRaising Success: What is El Museo’s major source of contributions?
Matthew Bregman: As a member of New York’s Cultural Institu-tions Group, we receive 10 percent of our support from the city of New York. But we are much less depedent on city support than we used to be.
Beyond the city, corporate support is the single biggest category, but we also do well with foundations, and we have a very successful gala event each year. The area that we need to build up the most is support from individuals.
FS: What recent fundraising successes has the museum had?
MB: Our $5.5 million re-envisioning campaign is bringing in many new large gifts. This campaign is not a capital campaign — it’s an effort to dramatically expand our programming. In terms of surprises, we’ve brought on Target Corp. as a new corporate sponsor, which has been a very exciting development. They’ve doubled the size of their gift this year to $50,000. So that’s an important, burgeoning relationship.
Time Warner came on as a contributor to the re-envisioning campaign … with a $400,000 gift this past year, which was very exciting.
FS: How will the loss of support from Altria Corp. affect your organization?
MB: Altria has been a very generous supporter of El Museo for more than 20 years, and now we know they’ll be sharply curtailing their giving to arts groups in New York, including El Museo. Just as they’ve been great to us for the last 20 years, they’ve been great to us and to all of their grantees during this trans-ition. They’ve been very up-front about what was coming and that we should prepare for it.
They’ve also been great in that they are making an effort to encourage other funders to step up and increase their giving. But I think that the bottom line for us is that we know it’s happening, and so we have to diversify our funding base, which is important anyhow. So we are aware that we need to meet this challenge and take it as an opportunity.
FS: What advice can you offer to other organizations that have lost or foresee losing sources of funding?
MB: I guess my feeling is that you can never cease the relentless hard work and optimism. You just have to keep exploring opportunities for new relationships. I believe it was Samuel Goldwyn who said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” You just have to keep working as hard as you can to find those new relationships and build them and accept that there will be a lot of frustrations along the road, but we cannot afford to miss the opportunities when they finally arise. You go through nine prospects, and they may all say no. But when the 10th one is ready to say yes, you’ve got to be there to meet them.