Meet Carole Wolf. A woman with a passion for her job. Well connected in her community. And she has an extensive knowledge of how the arts can benefit us all.
But is that enough to stave off firings, cutbacks and fewer fundraising dollars?
Carole is the successful executive director of the Mill Street Loft, an arts group in Poughkeepsie. They are managing their budget month to month. They track everything very carefully. “Now, more than ever we are looking at where we have spent our money and how it is working,” she emphasizes.
But they, like many groups I have spoken to, had to cut staff positions and limit staff hours. (With hopes to restore them, she says quickly). She knows that unless their current revenues pay for the costs they won’t be in business too long.
Not for profit groups have to make a “profit” to survive and grow
Sometimes we forget, not for profit businesses have to run on a profit model. For these community groups, the profitable dollars go into raising salaries, running new programs and expansion, rather then towards dividends or higher returns for the owner. But, like all of us in business, we must make money to stay in business.
When asked how fundraising is going, Carole talks about their recent Friends of the Arts Awards. Over 300 people showed up and they raised about $75,000. (But she quickly assured me that it was not all profit.) The event was not only about money but about building new audiences, says Carole: “Acknowledging people in our community. Building new partnerships. Creating visibility in the community to other arts groups, cultural organizations and human service agencies.”
Carole’s instincts are sharp. That’s what has allowed her organization to grow in this community, but again I ask, “Is that enough in this new environment?”
Database marketing = the difference between success and failure.
I would love a peek at Carole’s database…or her cell phone directory…or where ever she keeps those valuable names, phone numbers and email addresses.
Here’s an insider tip: if you get an email from Carole it may help your bottom line.
How? Carole can help you make your staff more productive by using creative techniques. Does she use this talent? No.
Many of us are too focused on us and getting our message out about how wonderful we are. In my experience, it doesn’t seem to matter whether it is a for profit business or not for profit . We are all making the same mistakes. When, in fact, if we focus on using the new technologies to help others, they in turn will be more likely to help us in the long run.
Using new technology makes the tasks easier…once you learn the secret.
How does it work?
- If you have a large contact database (and what exec doesn’t) separate the names into groups: business, community, political etc. You decide the groups based on their needs, how they operate, and their importance to you. The key word in the past sentence is “them” and “they”. This model is not about you, but it’s about them: those key constituents you would like to reach.
- Now see what knowledge you process that you can easily offer. To business executives, Carole could email a weekly tip that would enhance the creativity of their staff at their next staff meeting. I would subscribe to her email.
- Now she needs to include a promotion for her email newsletter on her website to encourage sign-ups. She should promote it…promote it …and promote it again. These tips should be archived on her website so that we can access the tips we may have missed. And the trick here is that businesses should have to sign up with a name and email address to gain access. (For Carole, email contacts = new business.)
- Each newsletter has a pitch. This is key to this project working. I bet you think she should ask for money. Maybe or maybe not. How about this: “If my creativity tips are working for you, think how much more creative you could be if you attended one of our class series.” Link them back to your website for the class schedule.
Use this time to think about what you offer and how you can use the new technology to promote your skills more effectively.
Want another fundraising tip? If your organization works with kids in your community, we have just created a new fundraising program that doesn’t cost you any money or staff time and helps kid’s creativity at the same time. Visit
The Undercover Kids and become a Community Partner.
Mill Street Loft
45 Pershing Ave
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
The Mill Street Loft