What I Learned about Fundraising from the Historic House Trust

My Conference House colleague Kirsten Teasdale and I went to the Historic House Trust-sponsored fundraising workshop on Thursday, July 30, 2009, at King Manor Museum in Brooklyn. The session was moderated by Susan Schear of Artisin and Elizabeth Wagner of JC Geever.


Here are the ideas that popped out at me as I reviewed my notes later. The postings following this one expand on them.

  • The board members must make their own significant gifts before they can ask others to give.
  • Review movement towards strategic-plan goals at least once a year, at the board level and with staff.
  • Developing collaborations with other organizations is more useful than worrying about competition. Your competitors aren’t who you’d think they’d be, anyway.
  • Do an annual appeal in the fall. If you don’t, your money is being given to someone else who did ask for it.
  • Cultivate donors: Look at your membership list to start.
  • Board members have to ask the major donors for gifts; major donors want to be asked by peers, not staff.
  • When going to foundations for grants, concentrate on the competitive funders, not the mega foundations or the family foundations.
  • Find a memorable tagline or value statement around which everyone—board members, staff, docents, members—can rally.
  • Use your gift shop to continue educating people after they’ve left the museum.

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