Sculpting Lessons for Donor Recognition

July 23rd, 2015

Sculpting donor images for application onto a donor recognition display can be daunting. At Robin E. Williams Incorporated, we have managed close to a hundred artists in the process over the years. It isn’t cheap to do, nor is it a breeze to manage donor and fundraisers’ expectation. But no matter how tough, if handled with care, the donor will feel well stewarded throughout the process.

Some go well. Some are a nightmare. Some donor faces and profiles are easier than others, but mostly it is the talent and empathy of the artist that matters most.

Here I want to talk about a specific challenge.

CSU Schwob Music Endowments

CSU Schwob Music Endowments

The display here is for Endowment Giving at Columbus State University, in Georgia. The gift being honored is for at least $1,000,000.

In this case, a dual bas relief is required. Turns out, the man’s image was easier to accomplish than his wife’s. She’s a beautiful woman with voluminous, wavy hair, wide and expressive eyes and a brilliant smile. We knew going in that translating her into bronze might be tough. I had no idea how difficult.

Pezold edit

 

We started with the most economical approach: using the casting manufacturer’s in-hour artists. $900. After nearly 4 months of back and forth, this is where we stood.

casting artist714

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For nearly $2000 more, the client approved use of another sculptor with whom we had had success before to “fix the wife”. From October 2014 to April 2015, we endured 7 rounds with this artist, including work on site with the donor at the table. Here are those renditions!

2nd artist rd2 2nd atrtis last rd 4 15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2nd atrtis last rd 4 15

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things were NOT improving! As can happen, sculpting worsens as tries multiply. And then there is the empathy part. When the artist said to me: “I just don’t do ‘pretty’!” I knew this was a road to nowhere for the client in his quest to honor his donors.  I asked that I be allowed to find a new artist, and fast.

The client, whom I have known for many years, is always committed to having the donors well served. In some ways, his persistence in getting this right has meant an even happier outcome than if the sculpting effort had gone well the first time (and sometimes it does!). That commitment to the donors led to our search for a prominent artist in our southeast US region, which I found: Wesley Wofford. I met with him, showed him our past efforts with the endowment display and also the history of these donors and their disappointments to date.

He bravely took on the assignment and achieved success within one round of submittals! What a joy he was to work with and what joy he brought to the donors: she told our client, “I can honestly say I’m very pleased.”  So set your budgets wisely and choose your artists with care.Wofford 1 and done 715 copy

Written by Robin E. Williams

Donor Recognition: 7 Strategies

April 3rd, 2015

Donor Recognition is simply under-utilized as a tool for building a culture of philanthropy for a non-profit organization. Donor recognition is to be plaques, parties,  personal conversations and perpetual. thinking-cap

It simply begins with your own unique, strategic and focused thinking about thanking. It’s usefulness is bought to bear by your attention to and application of its potential as a proactive partner in all efforts toward enhanced and broadened giving for your organization. Continue reading »

Hell-o, I am Grateful!

April 1st, 2015

HelloIamGratefulThis message of gratitude I am simply compelled to present to you today.

Gratitude.  Every day. Scroll on….

 

 

 

 

Continue reading »

Make “13” YOUR Lucky Number

March 10th, 2015

LUCKY 13Free Advice. Donor Retention? Want guaranteed, proven results? Easy. Improve your donor communications. Jerry Huntsinger (the very best guide you’ll find) lists 13 of the strongest words in the English Language. Continue reading »

Insights for Successful Campaigns from Barrett Carson

December 18th, 2014

BarrettBarrett Carson, now Vice President of Development at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), was the speaker at this week’s Atlanta AFP Breakfast meeting . Having led many campaigns in his tenure at higher education institutions, he has had particular success at Georgia Tech (GT). He was asked to share some insights with those gathered there.

I took notes and they follow here. I present them here as he did, as “food for thought”. His experience is palpable so he just shared the keys he seemed to think would be most helpful to the rest of us. Am sure everyone took away pieces and parts they found useful and so I share my notes here.

Since joining GT in 1997, his first campaign was set for $300 million but ended with $715 million. Currently having exceeded $1.5 billion for this state university, he expressed his dismay that their fundraising organization is now ranked 53 in the world!

  • Define the campaign’s scope: Comprehensive or just Capital needs. For him, Comprehensive refers to wall-to-wall needs. It’s the type of effort he has focused on while at Georgia Tech.
  • Establish metrics that make sense for the organization from the outset to track progress
  • Diligence, discipline and reporting are easy words to list but key to achieving success
  • A campaign, by definition, elevates the sights of an institution. To that end he urged the audience to make the commitment never to revert to the staff or energy levels found during  pre-campaign status
  • Specifically, don’t gear up just to lay-off.
  • He is careful annually throughout the life of a campaign to add staff positions, which had been taken on for campaign purposes,  to become part of his annual budget. The idea is that by end of campaign those extra dollars allotted to new staff are by then part of his annual budget, allowing all new hires to be permanent members of the team. He never wants to step back to pre-campaign thinking or performance
  • When choosing staff choose who can be self-sustaining. Pay more to get better folks and then expect more of them. And demand that they do so without close supervision
  • Hire for collegiality not for rainmaking. Think long-term relationships with staff as well as donors. Their average tenure of staff at GT Development is 15 years
  • Define the Case for Support based on your organization’s aspirations. Temper each with reality and then set priorities and goals accordingly
  • Be diligent about accounting. Use accepted methodologies such as those set forth by CASE or CAE; make your own decisions as to how to “count” different gift types, like planned gifts, and then stick to it. Report each accordingly. Don’t deviate from your methodology
  • Outside fundraising counsel can be extremely valuable to leadership as an external source of legitimacy. As he explained it, his counsel often functioned as a sounding board for leadership’s new ideas. But be sure to hire the person, not the firm. You’ll be working with the person, not the firm.
  • Perhaps the most useful, not-to-be-overlooked statement to fundraisers was his view that Development is not to be evaluated for its cost center to an organization, but rather they are to be viewed as a Revenue Center. If management agrees, the organization will succeed because the fundraisers are then seen as respected, well-paid achievers/revenue producers