Lets talk about a secret about historical properties or museums. Shhhhhh, it takes money. In my childhood I thought that museums were magical places that existed because God created them on the 8th day. It seems that this is not the truth. In order to keep a museum or historical site running, it costs money- and you have to go find it. Think back to your teenage years when you would work 17 hours re-staining a backyard fence for $30.00- same concept. There seems to be a disconnect to the amount of effort and the reward, but in the end it is worth it.
Working with the lovely group at the SS Nenana I have gotten my first real taste of fundraising and the headaches and rewards that come with it. Now, I walked into this project like a boss because I have spent the last 5 years of my life going to college to become a wannabe historian. I will have to admit, the articles and journals that I have read about raising money did not fully explain the misery of hearing 'No, I don't want to donate to your cause', or worse when your ignored completely. However, it didn't also explain the joy when you get that email that says- 'Yes, I would like to be involved!' Oh the happy dance that happens is J-Lo worthy. So I thought that I would go over some tips, do's and don'ts of fundraising for museums and historical properties that I have come across or experienced myself. Even if you don't work for either- pay attention still, this is a life lesson!
1- Define the Vision and Create a goal. Seems simple enough. However, you have 5-30 different personalities all working together, everyone wanting to be the boss and having a different vision of the 5-20 years plan. In my experience, have the hard conversations, have the disagreements, do not get your feelings hurt when someone disagrees with you- and create a goal one step at a time. I have found taking cookies and coffee is a great way to start these meetings. Know this, it may not happen on that first meeting, or fourth- but it will happen. Start with your overall goal and work backwards so that you don't forget a step. And don't forget the coffee!
2- Staff the group correctly. This ladies and gentlemen is harder than the first step! Nevertheless, it is paramount for a properly functioning group! Everyone has strengths and weakness. Own up to both, acknowledge them, and understand your role. Not everyone can be the President/Director/Manager, what ever you want to call it. Someone will need to be the back stage manager- it is okay. Not everyone will have their name in the newspaper article, meeting the City Manager, or even acknowledge- this does not diminish your contributions! Be proud of what you are doing for the entirety of the project- if you need praise- run for President. I hear the position if opening up soon.
Side not, this is not the time to revert back to high school and start talking behind peoples backs or undermining those in leadership positions. I have found having a cup of coffee and cookies available when this conversation occurs is most helpful.
3. Develop a budget. I still don't have a budget for my household expenses and I am the mother of teenagers and almost 40- but I know how to budget for a restoration project! Have only one or two people work on this part. You don't know how many times I have heard, 'oh, I know someone and they will donate time/materials', and it never comes through. Or 40 people arguing over the cost of wood and paint- you will never leave the meeting with your sanity if the whole group has to be involved. Just have it prepared for review, present it confidently and concisely, and it will work out (hopefully).
Plan for the worst case- that you have to pay out of pocket for everything. Having the budget is only one part- how do you intend to raise that money? Here we go! This is where we have to get our feet wet, put on those award winning smiles, bake more cookies and brew more coffee- we are going out into the public and fundraising!
Hit the internet! Send out those messages about what your doing through Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat- what ever you are on. Society spends more time hitting the links button then they do reading emails or handouts. I am using my 16 years 345 followers on Twitter to help create awareness- it also helps that he is friendly with everyone so I have convinced him with Starbucks to invite his friends to my next fundraising event. I feel cool, they do hard labor for me, and it draws more people into the historical site. Win- win! If you don't have teenagers, that is fine- you can borrow mine for a small donation to the SS Nenana.ey are money. I think its because if they see you working for your goal, sweating over the details, they feel like they are contributing more. That and normal businesses do not have a wad a cash laying around to hand out to everyone who asks. I know, I tried.
Door to door works only if your 9 and selling cookies or popcorn. I know, I tried. Your lovely neighbors will look at you funny when you start showing up on their front porch with your hand held out. Cheat the system- have a party! Not a fundraising party per say, but a friendly get together and get the word out. Start talking about the project, make jokes, tell funny stories, tell interesting stories about the project- do not under any circumstance start speaking post-gradate level (unless that is your audience). People want to hear the stories, they want to know about the lives of our forefathers, they want the gossip good and bad. You have to sell the project as though your museum or historical site is still living!!!!! And have cookies and coffee available with the fancy creamer. This always helps.
Hit the internet! Send out those messages about what your doing through Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat- what ever you are on. Society spends more time hitting the links button then they do reading emails or handouts. I am using my 16 years 345 followers on Twitter to help create awareness- it also helps that he is friendly with everyone so I have convienced him with Starbucks to invite his friends to my next fundraising event. I feel cool, they do hard labor for me, and it draws more people into the historical site. Win- win! If you don't have teenagers, that is fine- you can borrow mine for a small donation to the SS Nenana.
I am sure that I could go on for hours more- but I will end this here. I am currently fundraising for the repairs to the SS Nenana if you want to donate!