Museum Studies at Tufts University

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Tag: development (page 2 of 2)

The Foundation Center

Remember our post a while back about skills every museo should have?

Well, one of them was grant writing. In that spirit, we’ll be talking about a few ways to educate yourself about writing grants. They may not be the flashiest, quickest way to fundraise, but they are an important piece of the puzzle. Being able to point to your resume and say “yes, I wrote and secured that grant to fund that program/conservation/collection assessment” is a great big plus for anyone seeking a job.

First up is The Foundation Center. This is a HUGE website and resource, and primarily exists to connect grantmakers with grant writers across the nonprofit field, not just museums. At its heart, the Foundation Center is a searchable database of all places you can find funding. It’s really so much more than that, though. The Center also provides research reports on all aspects of fundraising, and extensive training opportunities for those interested in learning more.

There are a few ways to get that training.

1) The Grantseeker Training Institute is the Center’s most comprehensive overview of how to set about finding, writing, and administering grants. It comes highly recommended. It’s a bit pricey, at $795 for a week of training, and is only offered in certain locations.

2) One-Day Training Sessions. These run about $195 per session, and are more tightly focused than the Training Institute. They’re also offered more widely – there are several coming up in Boston this spring.

3) Last, but most certainly not least: free webinars. Lots and LOTS of them, on all sorts of interesting and useful subjects. They’re 60 minutes each, and if you watch even a handful you will be well on your way to understanding all sorts of issues with grants, foundations, fundraising, and nonprofit management.

Hancock Shaker Village Receives $1M Grant from Kresge Foundation

The AAM Facebook feed just congratulated Hancock Shaker Village on receiving a $1 million grant from the Kresge Foundation.

Read the original article. There are some really, really interesting things going on in there amidst all the business-speak.

“[The grant] recognizes the living history museum’s work as a visionary organization pursuing transformational projects designed to shift its business model and to serve as a field-wide example of leadership.”

Here’s what I see when I read that: grantmakers, and those who are interested in helping museums with money and resources, don’t want to see museums rest on their laurels. The museum is “visionary,” “transformational,” and a “field-wide example,” and that’s why it just got a check for a  million dollars.

“Appropriate levels of capitalization that allow an organization to grow or reinvent itself is standard in the for-profit sector, but has not routinely been considered best practice in the nonprofit sector. Kresge wishes to reverse this trend by supporting cultural organizations that have completed the thoughtful, exploratory process to reinvent their business models. ” – Alice Carle, program director at the Kresge Foundation

Venture capital firms exist to throw cash at good ideas that need a push. (The hope is then that the good idea will take off and offer a substantial return on the initial investment.) I love that the Kresge Foundation is looking at nonprofit funding in the same way. Too often really brilliant ideas – that may succeed or they may flop – are implemented on a shoestring budget that practically guarantees their failure. When a great idea fails, is it because it was a bad idea or because it wasn’t supported in the right way? Maybe one. Maybe the other. You never know unless you analyze its failure honestly.

“The Village will use half of the Kresge grant to seed its Building Reserve Fund and half to research and launch promising new business initiatives. “We are taking steps to move away from the outmoded museum business model of dependence upon admission and gift shop revenue,” said [Ellen] Spear, [President and CEO of Hancock Shaker Village].”

In this and other sections of the article, the museum’s programs, outreach, and education efforts are clearly outlined in business terms. They’re business models, initiatives, and product development. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Maybe both. Depending on admission and gift shop revenue isn’t a long-term sustainable economic model for a museum. But does it somehow violate the spirit of a museum to engage directly in naked capitalism?

In the end, though, huge congratulations to Hancock Shaker Village. Receiving a grant of this magnitude is a big vote of confidence. They know what they want, they know how to get there, and now they have the resources to take that path.

A Guide to Guidestar

With the advent of the internet age, we all have a LOT more tools in our hands to begin to learn about specific organizations – and particularly specific museums. Whether you’re doing some research into a museum you’d like to work for, trying to get a good picture for how a museum of a certain size operates, or considering donating to a museum, there are some great tools out there that are promoting transparency and openness for nonprofit organizations.

Today, we’re highlighting Guidestar.

Guidestar is essentially a database of all sorts of nonprofit information. Organizations can establish their profiles and post information – financial statements, programs and events, staff listings, and recent news items. There’s also a section in which the organization can advertise its current funding needs.

Guidestar’s mission is: “to revolutionize philanthropy by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving.”

To access the full capabilities of Guidestar, you’ll need to register. It’s easy and free, and they send a minimum of email. So, start here.

Once you’ve registered, you can navigate the site by searching for a specific organization, or try a more advanced search for organizations in a particular area or focus. Doing a general search on “museum” brings up some of the heavy hitters on the first page:

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museum of Modern Art

American Museum of Natural History

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Field Museum of Natural History

Organizations are responsible for updating their own information, so what you see is what the museum gives you. The Met, for example, hasn’t put up their budget numbers, but they have linked to their 2007-2009 990 tax forms and their 2010 Annual Report. (Watch this space for a guide to interpreting museum annual reports, by the way.) They don’t have a lot under staff or programs, either.

The American Museum of Natural History offers some different information. It lists all its board members, and gives a programs overview that includes its budget: almost $149 million. The MFA Houston also has all its board members and programs information, though no budget.

After quite a bit of searching and clicking, the best museum profile I found belonged to our local USS Constitution Museum. They have background statements, staff information, financial information, programs information, and they’ve even put up some of their funding goals. Bravo to them. (You’ll notice that a Guidestar user has also given the museum an enthusiastic five star review!)

Most museums put a bare minimum of information in Guidestar, which is a shame – it’s a powerful tool that’s quick and simple to update. Administrative and financial transparency is a hot topic in the nonprofit world right now – check out the Christian Science Monitor’s Guide to Giving for recent articles about that very subject.

Think about it: if you’re trying to figure out where to donate your hard-earned money, do you give to the organization that’s tight-fisted and secretive about how it’s going to use that money, or do you want an organization who opens its books and says “here, here’s how your $20 made a substantive difference in the way we do our work”?

Guidestar also offers other tools for nonprofit professionals, including a series of webinars about development, community outreach, and other important topics.

Connecting to Collections: A Call to Action

The IMLS is running a series of free webinars about caring for collections.

Per their description:

Using the content of the Connecting to Collections Bookshelf, Forums, and Workshops, these highly interactive webinars will connect you with experts and colleagues to discuss issues of common concern.  The series has a dual focus:  four webinars will help you learn how to conduct outreach to the media, the public, and funders on behalf of collections, and two webinars will help you derive maximum benefit from the Connecting to Collections Bookshelf.

Past webinars will be archived so you can view them on your own time.

Check it out!

Resources for Weathering the Financial Storm from AASLH

At a panel at NEMA focused on emerging museum directors and professionals, one of the topics that the audience felt they had trouble finding resources about was finances.

I’ve just discovered that the American Association for State & Local History has put together a really excellent guide for museums and other nonprofits during our current difficult economic times.

Check it out: Resources for Weathering the Financial Storm

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