Recently, I went to a meeting for a local Artist Foundation in my hometown. They were trying to put on an art auction. This Art Foundation is dedicated to helping fellow artists and giving the opportunity of an art education to all. As I sat listening to the preliminary meeting for the silent auction, I started to see the commonalities between the art-world and the nonprofit-world.
Both the art-world and the nonprofit-world have a very unique and dynamic community. The most interesting commonality between these worlds, however, is seen through how both are centered on a purpose and pull together to do fulfill that purpose. The art-world seems to grasp key concepts that, unfortunately, too many nonprofits don’t seem understand at their core. Here are the three ways the nonprofit community can learn from the art community:
1) Artists surround themselves with people who appreciate their art.
Some people have an appreciation for the arts. Some people do not. An artist who tries to get anyone and everyone to buy their specific artwork, which is a specific subject matter and artistic style, is going to exert a lot of time and energy into marketing and selling. After all, not every person likes the same genre of subject matter and artistic style.
To put it shortly, there is a market for everyone. And artists, who intrinsically have a different style then their competitor, know this well. Artists stay within their circles of people who appreciate their kind of art. A traditional portrait artist would not go brave the world of abstract painting to get more clients.
How does this translate for nonprofits?
In the same way, there are hundreds of thousands of nonprofits. Not one of them is the same. Throwing all of your nonprofit’s efforts to the masses may seem like the best strategy at the time (more people, more donations, right?), but it cannot be your only strategy. Focus on your following that supports you who appreciates what you do at the very core, and who, most likely, has likeminded friends.
2) Artists have a desire to help one another.
Many artists have a desire to help educate – to pass on the information they received from their teachers. Why? Artists have an appreciation for role of The Teacher because of what The Teacher has done for them – The Teacher poured out his or her knowledge onto the student when the student had very little to offer.
Why does this matter to nonprofits? It matters because the artist community has shared a common struggle and has received a common gift – and they want to support each other and give that gift to the next generation. In the same way, a nonprofit’s most faithful supporters will be those who are connected to their cause on a personal level.
Nonprofits are made up of two teams: the administrative team (the staff) and the support team (the donors). Focus on creating a support team that wants success as much as your administrative team.
We tend to gravitate to what we know and have experienced for ourselves. Even in our desire to give. The person who struggled for their education may appreciate it more and be more likely to help someone else have an opportunity at an education. The person who has personally faced or had a loved one face a medical need is more likely to help another family through that process.
3) Artists can see unity in diversity
Artists create. If you think about it, creating is a broad spectrum of skill: everything from abstract art to traditional art, from music to basket weaving. There is an infinite amount of diversity in art, and yet, all artists have the same unifying goal – to create and express something beautiful. This common goal creates a community that self-propels and excels. At this art auction meeting I attended, there was a jewelry maker, an abstract artist, a musician, and a traditional portrait artist who all could contribute to the auction.
It’s rare to see nonprofits utilizing all the different ways their donors could be contributing. Think outside of the box and brainstorm the different ways your faithful donors can contribute their skills and experience as well as their time and money.