Published in Nonprofits

Muskegon Museum of Art director: Generational differences require nonprofits to shift tactics

BY Sunday, December 22, 2019 03:56pm

Like many cultural arts nonprofits, the Muskegon Museum of Art has been experimenting with ways to engage new audience members, especially younger people. For instance, that’s led to the museum holding events focused on craft beer or a particular type of imagery popular with that demographic, said Executive Director Kirk Hallman. However, those events are just the tip of the iceberg in reaching and getting donations from the next generation of donors. 

What does 2020 look like for the nonprofit sector?

As long as the economy stays steady, I don’t really see anything that might have a major impact, unless we have a big downturn in the economy. But, even a mild recession doesn’t affect our sector too much because we have worked to build strong relationships. I think we’re going to be steady on. … The nice thing we have going for us is that we’re really diversified with support from individuals and the corporate community. We’re not beholden to just banks or corporate sponsors. There’s always someone to step in and underwrite and get gifts from. 

Executive Director Kirk Hallman COURTESY PHOTO

Over the decades the Muskegon Museum of Art has been a really responsible institution that takes a look ahead. Just like an investment portfolio, you have to spread it out wide and spread out the risk. It’s all about what you’re doing for the community and what you’re bringing to the region at the cultural and educational level. 

How will the 2020 presidential election affect nonprofits?

The election itself doesn’t; it’s the tax laws. The itemization did hit some organizations harder than most. Because of the threshold change, some people are waiting for two to three years to give a bigger gift. … I think it will be more about whatever administration gets in and what changes, if any, they make to tax laws. I was bracing for bigger impact when the tax laws changed.

Is there any legislation you’d like to see enacted to benefit the nonprofit sector?

We don’t get a lot financially from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs or the National Endowment for the Arts. We do get some and it represents a small amount of our budget. Knowing the state Legislature supports them is good for the climate in the nonprofit sector. It’s always great to see a trend where you’re getting a little more in allocations. Those statewide allocations are huge for some organizations, but they’re not a big part of our budget. We get about 1 or 2 percent. We are pretty heavy on donations. We have a $1.5 million budget and we have to ask for donations from individuals and organizations for about $700,000 of that. About 50 percent of our budget is donations.

How do you ensure Muskegon Museum of Art remains reactive to donors’ needs? 

We have a diversified donor base and we’re usually trying to match their interests with something they’re funding, whether it be funding for school buses to bring students here or a certain exhibition that a company might have something to do with material-wise. We can make a really easy case for the amount of people we engage here and the minds we can change in the community. When you convince someone and they’re all in for what you’re doing, it’s easier to bring other people in. You can have a real measurable impact for them such as how much their logo gets pushed out.

What are some major changes that you see continuing to happen in 2020? 

The things that shift for us is our basic audience. Society changes. Thirty or 40 years ago, people came in and they’re not coming in now and you worry about a graying donor base. We are working on ways to engage 20- and 30-year-olds because in the future, they will become our next generation of donors. We’re looking at how we engage that next generation of donors and how we get them involved. We also are focusing on donors who have fallen by the wayside. We’re always pushing these little rocks up the hill all the time.

What takeaways should our readers have for 2020? 

Keep patronizing cultural institutions, especially if you’ve been on the fence about it. Open yourself up to what an organization does for your community. Give it a try and start asking questions. … There’s not a better return on investment because we have our fingers in everything, including programs for our guests with Alzheimer’s and school children with buses bringing them in on a regular basis. People don’t realize how far we are into the fabric of society.

The majority of our guests are from Muskegon, but we get quite a few from Ottawa and Kent County. We really are a regional art museum. We’re always thinking about how we can stay relevant, especially since we have such a great urban community. 

Read 3746 times Last modified on Friday, 20 December 2019 09:17