Cover Story: A Historic Challenge
Fresh faces, fresh ideas
Seiter’s team is rounded out by Director of Corporate and Major Gifts Ka-Msiyara Corbett; Director of Foundation and Major Gifts Michelle Eisenberg, and Director of Annual Giving Danielle Shepherd.
Except for Specter, the staff has very little fundraising experience, which, Seiter says, allows them the freedom of not being bogged down with baggage from old jobs and ways of thinking. And she stresses that the staff is encouraged to work together toward the goal of moving donors up the pyramid.
“As a leader I can set the tone that we all need to work together. Everyone knows the goal is to get that $25 dollar donor to leave you in their will,” she says. “The membership people know they’re creating the pipeline and giving us the wonderful names.”
Because the staff, and the center itself, is so brand-spanking new, there also were mistakes to be made. OK, not mistakes, but maybe just enthusiastic misjudgments. In particular, the staff cast too wide a net when it first began trying to attract donors through DM, spreading its reach across the country and getting not-so-fabulous results.
Finally, Seiter pulled in the reins and began to focus almost exclusively on Philadelphia and its immediate vicinity. In January 2003, she stopped mailing nationally and buying national lists.
“We had in no way saturated the Philadelphia market with members,” she says. “So we pulled in our borders and, boy, we shot up. It didn’t make sense to recruit members from Nebraska; they just didn’t know who we are. Some people believe in our mission and never need to visit (the center), but that’s not the majority.”
The NCC has begun to focus on building its annual giving program (the 1787 Society) and its corporate support program. And it’s also slowly starting to expand its reach again, in concentric circles emanating from its hometown. In 2005, it will launch its first new exhibit at the center and then take it on the road in 2006. Plans are to collect names and buy lists in the areas where the exhibit will be displayed and invite local folks to the opening in the hopes that they’ll wind up becoming members.