When it comes to fundraising, arts organizations can entice donors with vibrant images and bold designs. But when times are tough, and donors must choose their causes more carefully, those visual appeals often aren’t compelling enough to win out over the gut-wrenching images of starving children and war-torn villages on an international-aid organization’s direct-mail pieces.
To overcome the innate challenges involved in raising funds for the arts, the development staff at NYC’s Lincoln Center “leaves no stone unturned,” according to Tamar Podell, vice president of planning and development at the venerable institution.
“Through creative special events, flexible sponsorship agreements, dynamic direct-mail pitches, corporate solicitations and compelling face-to-face meetings … we aggressively work to convert the wonderful audience experience into increased annual operating support,” Podell says.
“[And] customer service is paramount for us; if donors have a bad customer-service experience, we face an uphill battle to renew,” she adds.
Lincoln Center’s development strategies cut a wide swath, since the broadness of its programming leaves it without a “typical” donor.
“Our donor profile for the 400 programs we present each year runs the gamut,” Podell says. “Aggressive audience-development initiatives designed to reach the boroughs and beyond are beginning to bring [in] newcomers.”
The center also looks to its Young Patrons Society — active, culturally aware 20- to 40-year-olds — as a training ground for the next generation of donors and taps into cultural program exchanges as well.
“This summer, we have cultivated support connected to Indonesia because we are presenting I La Galigo, Robert Wilson’s retelling of an Indonesian creation myth,” Podell says.
Listen in as she discusses other aspects of development at the Lincoln Center:
“Often, donating to the arts is not the first or even second priority within a donor’s portfolio of giving. Historically, donors give first to schools, hospitals and other similar organizations before the arts. Consequently, we need to be very competitive and present energetic, compelling reasons to encourage their support.