External Connections

Fundraising, sales, education, and engagement. All are concerned with making connections between an arts organization and individuals (and groups) outside the organization. The first two have long been focused most on people who have historically been supportive of arts of the European aristocratic cultural tradition. The latter two have spent somewhat more time dealing with those who have not.

Fundraising and sales are further related in that 1) they are intended to seek an immediate, direct benefit to the arts organization (donations and ticket revenue), 2) as such, they are almost entirely focused on the organization’s needs and interests, and 3) they have been pursued with little attention to learning much about the funder or purchaser. The exception to that last point, is, of course, major donors; and, as many have argued far better than I, 2) and 3) are incredibly counterproductive. This is especially true now that the pool of people eager to participate in the arts as currently presented has become so small.

Education and engagement are about the “long game.” They do not usually bear short-term financial results, although that is not always the case. (See Riverside Art Museum) They also demand a degree of mutuality that has not characterized arts fundraising and sales in the past. (Again, that needs to change but it’s a different blog post.)

It’s difficult to “educate” without understanding the learner. Good teachers have to know their subject as well as the interests and abilities of their students. It’s impossible to develop a relationship (engage) without a high degree of mutual understanding and benefit. Who wants to be in a one-sided relationship?

Fundraising, sales, education, and engagement are the vehicles through which arts organizations connect with individuals and communities. As we get further into the 21st Century, it is becoming ever more important for our fundraising and sales practices to be more deeply rooted in relationship principles than has been true in the past. And, the relatively newer disciplines of education and engagement could benefit from the rigor and resources that have been applied to fundraising and sales.

They are all important to the current and future health of our organizations. Studying them together could prove highly valuable.

Engage!

Doug

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