As director of a not-for-profit organization, I am always interested in any information that leads us to create new initiatives to improve the bottom line. Lately, and it seems more than ever, each time I open my email, read the paper, or listen to the news, there are new and alarming speculations on trends in philanthropy. Of course, no one can predict the future and even expert analysts and forecasters rarely agree on what the future holds. There are always those who say the sky is falling, while others claim the future looks brighter than ever. But recently, and in addition to an expected lack of consensus in what I was seeing and hearing, I began noticing a heightened degree of desperation in message after message. Some examples:
“Americans donated a record $373 billion to charity—an all-time high…”
“Tax reform will cap the charitable deductions leading to fewer donations to charities…”
“A rising economy will likely increase charitable giving…”
“The widening disparity between the wealthy and the less fortunate will have an effect on museum programming…”
“Funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, will be cut…”
“Corporate philanthropy is showing signs of decline…”
“Foundations are changing their strategies for charitable giving…”
Nevertheless, things are going well for the FIA… so far. I believe this is due to continuing support from a broad base of primarily local individuals, corporations, and foundations. We are currently at $4.5 million toward our endowment campaign goal of $6 million, $9 million toward our capital campaign goal of $9.6 million, and we have a modest surplus in our operating budget. We do not receive tax dollars, except in the form of occasional small federal, state, and local grants; so, if there are cuts to granting agencies, they will not have a significant effect on our operations. Foundation support of the FIA has increased (thanks in large part to the C. S. Mott Foundation) despite reports of a decreasing trend nationally, and corporate and business support of the FIA is at an all-time high. The completion of the new contemporary craft wing and glass blowing studio later this year will surely boost visitation and lead to increases in contributions at the door, admission income, membership, studio tuition, and retail sales in the FIA Museum Shop and Café.
So, where am I going with this? To you, actually—to thank you and other FIA members for your continuing generosity. Your support proves what we have known all along: that the financial security of your museum and art school is essential to the health and vitality of our community regardless of these uncertain times.