Finding a Fundraiser Under Your Own Roof

Recipient: Chicago a Cappella
Challenge: How to grow before you have the resources to grow
Solution: Uncover in-hand staff assets and redraw the organizational chart to allow the executive director to focus on fundraising
Results: Streamlined multiple fundraising processes; increased individual giving by 70% in two years; launched a multi-year pledge program with over $100,000 pledged to date
Impact: Now, even during the busy production season, the executive director can stay focused on fundraising, applying the kind of constancy that leads to more and larger gifts
AWF Support Three grants totaling $37,000

The Project:

Sometimes a necessary but not-so-exciting task – learning how to be better fundraisers – ends up being a real game changer. Chicago a cappella, the professional choral ensemble renowned for its concerts, studio recordings, broadcasting and educational programs, knew that it needed to step up its fundraising. But with just one full-time and three-part time staff, it was not sure where or how to begin.

With an Arts Work Fund grant, Chicago a cappella hired a consultant who conducted a thorough staffing assessment and prepared a report with detailed recommendations and an 18-month implementation budget.

We weren’t doing anything wrong per se,” executive director Matthew Greenberg recalled, “but there was a great deal that we weren’t doing yet.” Having step-by-step recommendations that grew from in-depth interviews and close financial analysis helped make Chicago a cappella’s situation clear to everyone in the organization.

“Our consultant spent time to figure out who we were first, so when she recommended some major changes, we listened,” Greenberg recalled. “In the end it triggered huge systemic change. It shifted our organizational chart and took enough other work off my desk that I could really focus on fundraising.” The results so far are impressive, including a 70 percent jump in individual giving over two years.

Over time, Greenberg’s new-found focus has raised the consciousness of the board: hearing in-person reports and recommendations has put fundraising front and center at every board meeting.

This work also uncovered the need to upgrade Chicago a cappella’s data management system – something the group was able to accomplish in 2013 with another Arts Work Fund grant. Taken together, these projects have saved hundreds of staff hours, by streamlining Chicago a cappella’s fundraising and communications processes, including a new multi-year pledge program that to date has raised over $100,000 in commitments.

The Takeaways

Chicago a cappella was pleasantly surprised to find that the solution to a common challenge – how to grow before it had resources to grow – was literally under its own roof: its Concert Manager had a background and interest in bookkeeping. However, it took in-depth conversations with staff and the analysis of an outside consultant to surface this information and connect it to the organization’s needs.

Greenberg stresses the importance of time and stick-to-itiveness: he reports that it took six to eight months to feel comfortable in his new fundraising role. “It is totally psychological; it is about how you look at it. If you enter into fundraising with fear, then you bring that fear into the conversation with the donor. But if you can find honest, positive ways to engage with them, it feels good and from there, you find the joy of fundraising.”

The Arts Work Fund invests in the financial sustainability, management, governance and growth capacities of small arts and cultural organizations located in the Chicago metropolitan region.

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Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development
P.O. Box 577309
Chicago, IL 60657-7309
773.296.2601 PHONE
773.435.6532 FAX

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