2019: Deep Listening, Intentional Building

Dear Friends,

In June, I decided to take my own advice. For years, I’d hear Red Olive Clients and Black Art Futures Fund (BAFF) grantees speak about capacity and their organizational limitations. I’d say something to the effect of, “You don’t have to do it alone,” and we’d explore ways to invite support to help them achieve their mission-based programs and fundraising goals.

But what would that look like in my own everyday practice?

I tested what it would mean to invest in team DéLana R.A. Dameron (Red Olive & BAFF) in order to grow & work with more organizations who need support most.

Here was my hypothesis: adding team members could change the way I (now we) work for the better. It turns out—the changes would be exponential.

Part of my work as a consultant, and even with BAFF grantee learning calls, is deep listening for the “real problem.” Often there is a stated need (“we need to raise more money!”) but, with a little digging, we uncover the deeper need (“we need more people who think like fundraisers on our team”). For myself, that inquiry was similar: I needed to streamline the processes for BAFF in order to raise more funds to grant to small Black arts organizations, and I needed to figure out a way that I could better address or support the real needs of my clients. That meant that I needed more folks who thought like fundraisers and exceptional arts administrators on my team. This year we welcomed seven Advisory Board members to the Black Art Futures Fund team, and already their contribution and energy has allowed us to skyrocket more than halfway towards our ambitious $50,000 Cycle III goal.

As someone whose work experience started in the educational space, I lean towards mentorship. I brought on several team members for project-based and long-term support. In total, six women worked with me to support small arts in the second half of 2019! What was most exciting is that half of them had not thought about arts administration or fundraising as a work thing they could do, let alone something that, if done with the organizations we so love, could be work that could bring them so much joy.

Being a team that is distributed across projects (Red Olive & BAFF) and states (New York City, South Carolina, Virginia) meant thinking differently about work. It also meant thinking differently about the ways we can support our organizations.

We listened more deeply and heard the “capacity” need rise up, and began to test the idea of what it might mean to lend capacity to an arts organization in the areas of fundraising and development, especially when an organization is going through a deep transition. We began working with two clients as their Interim Development Agency, managing their grant proposal and reporting portfolio, executing cultivation events, and supporting their end of year fundraising efforts.

I continue to look for more ways to leverage our growing knowledge base for arts administration, especially in developing and employing arts fundraisers of color in 2020 and beyond. Thanks for journeying with us, and I hope we can continue to build together for the artistic future we all need, especially now.

In solidarity,


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