Tuesday, September 18

Smithsonian exceeds fundraising goal by more than 20 percent

The Smithsonian Institution surprised some skeptics on Monday by announcing they received about $140 million in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 - up from $132 million last year and about $25 million over its goal of $115 million.

Acting Secretary Cristian Samper said it was welcome news after a year when the Smithsonian saw lots of embarrassing coverage over the resignation of former Secretary Lawrence Small over questionable spending and excessive compensation.

I wish more nonprofits held public board meetings. Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said the board expects to start holding at least one open meeting each year to hear from the public.

...but were the fundraisers surprised? Not really.

No matter how serious the problems were at the Smithsonian, I think most direct mail consultants would tell you that the press from a story like this has a negligible impact on low dollar donors. Workplace giving and special events probably went on as planned.

Scandals are not likely to impact the death rate of your donors - so planned giving was probably safe. In fact, I think any major donor fundraiser worth his/her salt should be able to use the scandal to their advantage.

I guess institutional giving from foundations and corporates could be vulnerable fundraising programs for other groups that experience such turmoil, but with the caliber of exhibitions at the Smithsonian they probably did fine as well.

Let's see if we can encourage someone from the Development staff at the Smithsonian to weigh in on our comment section below on why they were so damn successful. Maybe their goal was too low...?

6 comments:

Bloomberg reader said...

In addition to private donations, the Smithsonian receives money from the federal government -- $727 million in 2006.

Anonymous said...

I read some additional information in the Bloomberg article you linked to:

The Smithsonian board must fill two key posts in addition to the top job of secretary.

Sheila Burke, the deputy secretary, is resigning at the end of this month. The Bowsher report was critical of the number of workdays Burke spent on non-Smithsonian activities.

Also, Gary Beer, head of the Smithsonian unit that runs museum shops, theaters and restaurants, was forced out last month after a report accused him of unauthorized expenditures.

Mike H. said...

I had such a positive touring the museum when I was in elementary school that I will most likely always donate whenever they ask me.

Sam Davis said...

I wonder if the Smithsonian would do even better if they were divorced from government funding.

Likely, the average American could not tell you what the Smithsonian is nor why it should be funded by their tax money.

My recommendation to the Smithsonian is to (quickly) study the idea of becoming totally independent by raising all their funding from the private sector.

My bet is the response would be overwhelmingly positive and the entire budget could be met that way every year.

a fundraiser said...

I doubt it Sam... the article says that they raised almost 7 times as much from the govt as they raised in donations:

The $140 million estimate covers donations through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Last year the Smithsonian raised $131.2 million in donations, and Samper said the goal for this year was $115 million. In addition to private donations, the Smithsonian receives money from the federal government -- $727 million in 2006.

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