Fundraising Faux Pas
Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.
In This Issue

Is Your Museum Committing these Fundraising Faux Pas?  
Instructor Spotlight
Featured Course
September 2017 Online Courses
October 2017 Online Courses
Conferences and Meetings
Is Your Museum Committing these Fundraising Faux Pas?  
By Mary Baily Wieler
Your board has committed hours to creating the ideal vision for your museum. Your leaders are bursting with new and exciting ideas for programs and initiatives. But then the inevitable question arises--how are you going to pay for it?

Fundraising is increasingly a major source of revenue for museums, and museum administrators are working hard to put the philanthropy of their communities to good use. Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, sometimes gifts fall through the cracks. No museum is immune to the occasional mistake while fundraising, but getting it right can make a tremendous difference in your year-end results.

Many museums have just closed their fiscal-year-end books, so MTA thought this would be a good opportunity to provide strategies to avoid traps as 2018 budgets begin.

In the article below, learn about common faux pas made by even the most successful museums, and discover strategies for recovering from these errors as well as tips for avoiding them altogether.

Staff Oversight
In a perfect world, every staff member would have the training, resources and time they need to independently and accurately solicit, record and acknowledge each gift to your museum. In reality, administrators are human and can make mistakes. As frustrating as these errors may be, misspelled names, solicitations to donors who have passed and acknowledgements to the wrong giving entity will all happen at some point. Gracious and expedient corrections can help to reassure donors that mistakes will not be repeated.

It is, however, better to avoid these administrative errors altogether. Development committee oversight and personalized solicitations from museum leaders can help. While institutional databases are now charged with the challenge of keeping track of donors, members of the Board can use their connections to keep records up-to-date. Nonetheless, it is important to invest in good donor management software to ensure that giving entities are kept distinct: individuals, donor-advised funds, corporations and foundations can be linked when merited. Good software enables easy access to records. Additionally, providing thorough staff training can ensure administrators are well versed in the proper acknowledgment protocols for each type of gift.

One more tip: I have found that reviewing each solicitation before signing it is a good way to keep track of the giving trends of my high-level donors. Reviewing these appeals can be an opportunity to catch changes that my staff may not know about before mailings are sent, and sometimes are a way for me to keep up-to-date too. Finally, I often add a personal handwritten message to each donor.

Keep it Personal
Maintaining positive relationships with your donors is one of the most rewarding ways to secure gifts for the future. Building and sustaining relationships with individuals and foundations can mean a great deal of hard work, but alienating these donors through inaction often comes at a heavy cost. That personal connection should start from the first solicitation and continue long after the first gift.

With the increase and improvement of databases and communication methods, donors receive hundreds of requests every year. Do your research; does the donor have a history of giving to arts & cultural organizations? (Click HERE to read more about prospect research). Many of these asks are unsolicited, meaning that a successful request must stand out from the crowd. It is better to cold-call someone than to inundate them with impersonal mailings and emails. Better yet, ask a board member with or without a connection to a giving entity to pick up the phone. In either scenario, invite the prospect to your museum to see programs first hand before making the ask.

Once the initial gift is secured, fundraisers cannot become complacent. The development staff and committee may wrongfully assume that a major donor will give their standard annual gift without a personal solicitation, which can risk alienating a supporter. It is important to consistently demonstrate to donors how much you value their relationship. Invite them on a behind the scenes tour of the museum or to a lecture. Again, personalize these annual appeals and pick-up the phone and say THANK YOU.

Update your Donors
So the gift is secured. Your donor is excited about the museum's mission and has made a multi-year pledge to support your latest project.

Then, the unthinkable happens. Maybe there is a leadership change, or a maintenance emergency. Maybe the program just wasn't working. For whatever reason, the project is inevitably cancelled, and your relationship with that donor is put at risk.

It is often tempting to silence communications in times of uncertainty or crisis, but keeping quiet makes it increasingly likely that the donor will hear about the change from another source. A face-to-face meeting with the donor is the best approach here, and can provide reassurance at the solidity of the museum. No matter the cause of the change, appearing confident that the museum made the right decision, soliciting advice and feedback from the donor and being prepared with new ideas for use of their gift can reinforce faith in the museum leadership's ability to achieve its mission.

Gifts of Objects
A donor has offered your museum a part of their collection. Your curator supports the gift, but your conservator realizes that there will be significant expense to prepare the objects for display. Meanwhile, the donor is used to seeing the objects in their home, and sees his or her gift as ready for installation. Months pass, and the donor is disappointed not to see their collection on view. Rather than leave the donor feeling like their gift was inadequate or underappreciated, the museum could have been honest in creating a reasonable timetable for display within the Conservation Department's existing budget, or asked for additional monetary support to conserve these objects.

Maintain a Paper Trail
We have all heard the maxim before: It isn't definite until it's in writing. I have heard from many museums with the following experience: the museum receives a verbal pledge from the donor, but fails to create a contract in writing. The donor passes away in the interim and the children have no record of the gift. Naturally, the best way to keep these situations from happening is to have the supporting data on hand. Unfortunately there isn't much to be done without that signed agreement, though your museum may have an opportunity to build a relationship with a new generation of potential donors. Instead of mourning the loss of the gift, turn lemons into lemonade by showing the children their parent's vision and passion.

The same rules apply when cultivating a new board member. Financial expectations need to be specifically addressed upfront during the cultivation process. Many successful museums share their Board Contract that enumerates these expectations with board candidates, so there is no misunderstanding down the road. With clear giving expectations, boards can avoid alienating their newest members at that crucial time.

Each new fiscal year presents new opportunities and challenges for museums across the Americas. Do you have any strategies for avoiding or recovering from Fundraising Faux Pas? Share them in the Museum Trustee Association website comment section after this article!
Reprinted with permission from the Museum Trustee Association. Posted: 7/20/2017. For more information on this and other topics visit the Museum Trustee Association website.

Instructor Spotlight:
Kimberly Kenney  

Kim Kenney  graduated summa cum laude from Wells College in Aurora, NY with a major in American history and minor in creative writing, where she became a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her Master of Arts degree in History Museum Studies at the Cooperstown Graduate Program. Kim served as Curator of Collections at the Historical Society of Rockland County in New City, NY before taking the position of Curator at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum in October 2001. She is the author of four books, Canton: A Journey Through Time, Canton's West Lawn Cemetery, Canton's Pioneers in Flight and Canton Entertainment. She has also published an exhibition review in The Public Historian, the journal of the National Council for Public History. Her work has appeared in The RepositoryThe Boston Globe and the literary magazine Mused.  She serves as editor of the Museum's website at, where she has authored several ebooks. The Association of Gravestone Studies recently awarded her the Oakley Certificate of Merit for her interpretive projects at West Lawn Cemetery, and she served as the Region 5 representative for the National Digital Newspaper Project in Ohio and is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Mount Union.

Kimberly Kenney teaches our MS101 Introduction to Museums (which starts September 4, 2017) and MS209 Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions (which starts October 2, 2017) courses.  Join Kim for one of these key courses for anyone who works in or wants to work in a museum. 
Early Bird Discounts Available for Full Length Courses
An Early Bird Discount is available for anyone who signs up for a full length course from 30 days prior to the start of that course.  
Sign up for a full length course up to 30 days prior to its start and save $100.00!
For our course list or to sign up:  
To take advantage of this discount, you must enter coupon code EARLYBIRD at checkout at

The Early Bird Discount deadline for October courses is September 2, 2017 
Featured Course: The Problem with Plastics (Short Course)

As we march boldly toward the 22nd century, artifact collecting includes that
most fragile of materials - plastic. Not only is it in our collections, but it is used to house our collections, too. What problems have you seen? What problems have others seen? What materials are best? What can we, as caretakers, do to minimize long-term damage? Join Diana in this mini-course for discussing care and deterioration of plastics. Bring any questions you have about plastics in your museum.

Diana Komejan for this interesting and very informative course  MS001 The Problem with Plastics beginning October 16, 2017.
September 2017 Courses
September 4 to 29, 2017
Instructor:  Kimberly Kenney
The United States has more than 17,000 museums, we can only guess at the world's total. While most people think of a museum as a well-staffed, professionally run institution, the vast majority of museums are started and run by people with little or no basic training in museum studies or preservation. Introduction to Museums is designed to change that. The course introduces basic concepts, terminology and the role of various staff members, including curators, registrars and directors. Introduction to Museums is aimed at staff members, board members, interns, volunteers, as well as anyone interested in becoming a museum professional or learning more about the profession.
September 4 to 29, 2017
Instructor:  Fiona Graham
The seasonal closure of a museum presents unique challenges and opportunities for collection preservation. This is an introductory-level conservation course exploring simple collection preservation methods for seasonal museums. The target Audience for the course is curators and other museum personnel, volunteers, site managers, maintenance personnel. No prior conservation training necessary. Participants will learn about the challenges and opportunities associated with caring for collections in seasonal facilities. They will learn about the risks to collections and how to mitigate them through closing and re-opening procedures, as well as throughout the winter season.
October 2017 Courses
October 2 to November 3, 2017
Instructor:  Sue Near
Sound business practices are critical for a museum to fulfill its mission. Sounds like vegetables, right? Museum management is complex. A museum exists to preserve collections and educate, but it is also an institution that must employ sound business practices while being accountable to the public as a non-profit organization. Instructor Sue Near teaches participants how to administer a successful museum efficiently and effectively. Participants will engage in discussions about the changing cultural climate and its effect on museum operations.
October 2 to November 10, 2017
Instructor:  Kimberly Kenney
Acquiring and holding collections impose specific legal, ethical and professional obligations. Museums must ensure proper management, preservation and use of their collections. A well-crafted collections management policy is key to collections stewardship. Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions helps participants develop policies that meet professional and legal standards for collections management. Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions teaches the practical skills and knowledge needed to write and implement such a policy. The course covers the essential components and issues a policy should address. It also highlights the role of the policy in carrying out a museum's mission and guiding stewardship decisions. Participants are expected to draft collections management policies.
October 2 to November 10, 2017
Instructor:  Tom Bennett
Sprucing up your exhibits with safe, effective, inexpensive mounts can be easier and more fun than you thought. With a few tools, good technique and a bit of practice, you will be well on the way to presenting your objects in their most interesting light, with an eye on long-term safety and security. Design and Construction of Exhibit Mounts presents the basics of mountmaking for the small to medium-sized museum including tools, techniques and materials. Be prepared to construct mounts during the course. Students will be sent a list of materials and tools to acquire before the course commences. Come along and exercise your creative side while doing the collection a world of good.
October 16 to November 10, 2017  NEW DATES! 
Instructor:  Victoria Montana Ryan
Caring for paintings requires some knowledge of the component structure of paintings and the reaction of those components to both natural and man-made environments. This course looks at the painting structure, the effects of damaging environments, and proposes simple steps for basic care. Topics include the structure of paintings, proper condition reporting with standard damage vocabulary, and basic care and handling including environments, storage, and transport. The course is intended to help those entrusted with the care of paintings in any environment.
October 16 to 20, 2017
Instructor:  Diana Komejan
As we march boldly toward the 22nd century, artifact collecting includes that most fragile of materials - plastic. Not only is it in our collections, but it is used to house our collections, too. What problems have you seen? What problems have others seen? What materials are best? What can we, as caretakers, do to minimize long-term damage? Join Diana in this mini-course for discussing care and deterioration of plastics. Bring any questions you have about plastics in your museum.
October 23 to 27, 2017
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
What do you do with collection objects that no longer belong in the scientific collection but are too good to throw out? What do you do with the donations that just don't quite 'fit?' Use them in education collections. Their value as educational objects for the public is immeasurable.
Conferences and Meetings
American Association for State and Local History, Austin, TX
September 6-9, 2017

Southeastern Museums Conference, 2017 Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA 
September 11-13, 2017  

International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection, New Haven, CT
September 17-20, 2017

Western Museums Association, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
September 20-23, 2017

Mountain-Plains Museums Association, Denver, CO
October 15-19, 2017

New England Museum Association, 2017 Annual Conference, North Falmouth, MA
October 25-27, 2017

Kansas Museums Association, Manhattan, KS
November 1-3, 2017

National Association for Interpretation, Spokane, Washington
November 14-18, 2017

California Association of Museums, Palm Springs, CA
February 5-7, 2018

Society of American Archivists, 2018 Annual Meeting, Washington, DC
August 12-18, 2018

Western Museums Association, Tacoma, WA
Dates TBA 
Southeastern Museums Conference, 2018 Annual Meeting, Jackson, MS
October 8-10, 2018
National Association for Interpretation,  
New Orleans, LA
November 27 - December 1, 2018
National Association for Interpretation, Denver, Colorado
November 12-16, 2019

National Association for Interpretation,
Saint Augustine, FL
November 10-14, 2020

Submissions and Comments
How to submit an article or upcoming workshops for inclusion in the Newsletter:  
If you would like to submit an article, notice of an organizational meeting or upcoming workshop for an upcoming Collections Caretaker Newsletter, send your submission to .  
We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month. 
Have a comment or suggestion?   
Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.
Helen Alten, Director
Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager