Last week, the John S. and Marlene J. Brinzo Center for Entrepreneurship at Kent State hosted its annual Idea Pitch Competition. It’s similar to the spring competition I’ve written about previously, but on a smaller scale. This event is a lot of work to host and the Center is fortunate to have a passionate team of faculty, mentors, support staff, and students to assist. Even more impactful to this competition is the involvement of a growing network of donors—and since many artists rely on a vibrant donor base, it prompted me to write this blog post.
I enjoy getting to know donors, and I consider some of them friends. It’s inspiring to hear firsthand why they are giving their time and talents to support causes and programs that are important to them. It’s a great privilege for universities and artists to receive donations, be they financial or time or services, as all are helpful.
At the pitch competition I observed a generous couple who financially supports a variety of arts organizations in the region, freely give of themselves in a variety of ways. While they have a thriving business in a non-arts field, they are at the stage of their careers where they can have others look after their business to allow them time for philanthropy. They were speaking with students and encouraging them to follow their passions, and they used their vast list of contacts to connect students with professionals in their related fields. Prior to the competition this couple spent hours mentoring students and critiquing their pitches and slide decks so they could confidently give polished presentations.
While financial support is vitally important to artists, if we don’t know people with the capacity to help financially, we should think of other ways to more deeply engage our champions. Perhaps there are accountants or attorneys who would provide you with pro bono services? Other professionals could help you with marketing, social media, introductions, and so on. Even unskilled help can be beneficial, e.g. friends and family helping to move musical equipment, ushering dance events, or assisting with art installations. Money is fungible, so start to identify ways in which you could use donated human capital to free up money and resources for other purposes.
Since donations are important in the arts, Andy and I have been speaking with arts benefactors about coming on the podcast to discuss topics such as how they determine which artists and organizations to support, avoiding donor fatigue, and how artists can differentiate themselves in a crowded field. We’re hopeful we’ll have at least one such episode in 2024.
Thanks for reading,
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