Small Ship, Big Sails: Asset-based Storytelling

Dear Friends,

We’re here. The end of 2019 is upon us. While we at Red Olive are working with almost 15 groups across the country to tell their organization’s story in order to garner financial support for the arts & culture we so love, I want to take this moment to hold space for the administrators who make it all possible. Make the work seen. 

Because Red Olive’s mission is to be a critical fundraising expert firm to small arts & culture organizations, it never ceases to fascinate me the lengths to which the administrators—interim & permanent executive directors, the editors-in-chief, the all-volunteer staff with no official title or compensations, the board members who step in during times of critical transition, etc—put the needs of artists before their own. 

But shouldn’t art be the focus & get the bulk of the resources? Yes, and—. I think this question & positioning is a by-product of a dated philanthropic investment philosophy whose mathematical evaluation for a “successful” (read: “worth funding”) organization was one that did not spend more than 20% on administrative or “overhead” costs. So we’re trained into this mode of thinking that one must deny the self (or the armature on which good art is made!) in order that the art shines through. Imagine that. 

Last week I had the chance to view the HBO documentary The Apollo at a friend’s house. Present in the screening room were three generations of diverse folk. & maybe all of us were arts administrators in our own way: theater, visual arts, literature, communications specialists and editors, executive directors, producers, & then me. We bopped to the archival music. We cried. We smiled. We shared in critical community & space-holding after, well into the night. 

Of the Apollo Theater’s importance, Patti LaBelle said, it was a place that made artists feel like they were worth it, “not because we weren’t worth it, but because we weren’t allowed to be worth it [before the Apollo].” (emphasis mine) That stayed with me. From multiple entry points, it’s how I come to the work of Red Olive, of Black Art Futures Fund.

Also last week, with that statement echoing in my ear, I asked an unpaid arts administrator in our 1:1 coaching call what it would look like if they had adjusted the budget to include both the stated raises for artistic contributors, and maybe a stipend, at least, for the other folks like herself who make all of this possible: the creation of a space that made writers feel like they were allowed to be worth it. The call went silent for some time as she sat with it. While it was considered what it meant—to be allowed to feel like the unseen efforts of the administrators are worth investment, a budget line, a fundraising effort. 

One of the other pieces from The Apollo that stuck with us—all 3 generations—was that we had no idea that there was a time for which The Apollo went dark. Closed its doors. After a few false starts and short ownership, it went from a for-profit entertainment venue, to the space that is closer to being what we know today. But the message: our spaces we love and need so much could close. & what would it look like if we took care of them? 

What a world we could live in then! If the orgs we love remain sufficiently resourced, then the art we so care about can, too, be sufficiently resourced & nurtured & brought forth for generations to come. 

Our artistic futures are worth that investment & dreaming. 

In solidarity,


Finding Solice in Local

Dear Friends, 

Last September, when my father died, I had been in South Carolina for two months and stayed for a third month to be with my mother and continue to tend to his affairs. He had died two weeks before my 5th wedding anniversary, and by the time we got around to that my husband and I were too exhausted and paralyzed by decision fatigue to know how to mark the occasion. 

Once a ritual when I lived in Columbia, I grabbed a Free Times circular—Columbia, SC’s local newspaper of arts + culture happenings—and almost instantly we had an itinerary: Rosewood Arts + Music Festival, Palmetto Peanut Boil, Soda City Market, and, later that night, the season opener of the SC Philharmonic, a presentation of Dazzling Debussy, which as a flautist I especially enjoyed. 

From my 11 years in NYC, I admit, it was the first time that I had seen my city differently, taken seriously the potential of my hometown local arts scene, its possibilities. I still sometimes marvel about the ease with which I cracked open a briny, earthy peanut shell to reveal to my husband its rich delicacy, and then hummed along to Debussy’s masterworks in the acoustic halls of the Koger Center. 

When I returned to South Carolina this past September (as I do now, monthly) to mark the occasion of a year without my father, I turned again to the Free Times for solace, maybe distraction, community. I discovered this time a whole new world: The Color of Music festival, a Black classical music festival at Allen University, a historically Black university in town. In addition to hearing the ‘traditional’ Western operatic standards, we were invited to tune in a little deeper to Black traditions in the operatic mode, our heads nodding in unison as the soloist, Laquita Mitchell, tapped her feet and lifted her eyes to the heavens for the Negro Spirituals that closed out the one-hour set, testifying: “My soul is anchored in the Lord!” 

This year, again on our anniversary but back in NYC, the artist Chloe Bass celebrated her first solo exhibition, “Wayfinding” with the Studio Museum’s inHarlem series. We ventured to St. Nicholas Park, my old stomping grounds where I loved, and lived, and lost and found myself years ago.

What is all this other than an account of my arts + culture calendar in NYC and SC? I keep thinking of one of Chloe’s statements from the exhibition: 

The part of you that says, “I can share myself with another.”

-Chloe Bass

And I think this might be a long way to describe the weaving in and out of our lives, the work of culture. How, even in sorrow, it can offer solace, comfort. As we begin to turn more inward for the coming seasons, as the days get shorter (and, if you’re like me you might want to stay inside more) let’s find bright moments for art⁠—and here I argue of course and always for Black art⁠—to warm us through the cold, sometimes heartsick, nights. 

In solidarity,  

Support the Generational Power of Black Cultural Spaces

DEAR FRIENDS,

I finally made it to witness the Toni Morrison documentary The Pieces I Am this month while visiting Pittsburgh, PA. By the time I saw it, she was gone from us, so seeing her living & breathing on screen was bittersweet.

As I left the screening, I couldn’t help but think about one of the emergent stories in the film, that of the public library and its role in gifting to the world the Toni Morrison we so loved. Truly, the power of the cultural & artistic space of public libraries & of course the books that filled them created a space where words gave her purpose and journey.

After growing up visiting & working in the library, Ms. Morrison used her position as an editor to begin to pepper the “mainstream” archive with the voices and lives of our heroes of the Civil Rights & Black Arts Movements. She created a library of Black voices that was to be everlasting. She gave us Muhammad Ali & Angela Davis biographies. She gave us Lucille Clifton. Collections of work by Huey P. Newton & James Baldwin. She was a friend of our minds.

This is the generational work of small arts & cultural spaces I talk about when I argue for our deep & personal investment in small & Black arts organizations. This is the work I’m heralding when I ask for collective contributions to vehicles like the Black Art Futures Fund. 

Since May 2018, individual supporters of BAFF have read 89 applications from small and community-based Black arts organizations from 21 states across the US. Over two cycles, 20 volunteers have helped us get to 9 grantees and a total of $36,000 in grants.

All over the country there have been movements of everyday folks imagining a different future for Black arts & artistry & truly learning the value & impact of collective action by starting their own individual funds. We’ve seen regional models like ours from Baltimore to St. Louis to Chicago.  

Black Art Futures invites you to join us in shaping the Blackest artistic future possible with a gift to the Fund. Every dollar builds the grants.

With gratitude,

Shape the future of Black art with a gift to the Black Art Futures Fund. Since 2017, we have granted $36,000 to small Black arts organizations across the country. Help us give more.

The Art of Storytelling: Crafting your Nonprofit Narrative

Prospective clients come to me with an idea of what they want to accomplish with our time together. In a perfect scenario, we’d have all the time in the world and resources would be boundless (though I guess they would not need me!).

 

I’ve found, though, that my first job—before I can get to the work they think they want me to do—is to investigate their STORY.

 

Let me explain. Fundraising gets a bad rap because when it’s “hard” or unknown or not timed right, it can feel like “begging people for money.” This becomes especially true for staffers of  arts and culture organizations who feel like their work isn’t “making a difference” in the way that a soup kitchen or Planned Parenthood or similar places do..

 

When we think this way, it comes from an external driver of our narrative story like “hunger” or “ïnsufficient access to birth control”;someone else, some political climate has presented us with an antagonist and then we say the nonprofit and the work that they do is the solution. To address the needs of the hungry, ABC soup kitchen exists. And so on.

 

For culture, we don’t necessarily have as explicit an antagonist. The external drivers of our narratives continue to posit that culture/art is a luxury and that there is no real villain or problem to be solved through art. Sometimes we make the connections more loudly than others. Without telling the right story, but in an effort to fit into the matrix set up that “justifies” asking for charitable contributions, we’ll make an easy reach, say our work is about “social justice,” or use the funders’ language to show an understanding and possible best-fit match for investment.

 

When we do that, we— culture workers—lose the agency of our own story to ignite collaborators to join us in our mission. We are telling them the story, “the solution’’, we think they want to hear. For those organizations who reach an impasse and whose methodologies of raising funds has stalled while expenses have grown, we turn to the model of protagonist vs. antagonist. Too often we move to a model of institutional storytelling that is an avoidable scenario: culture’s villain becomes “cash flow,” and we ask donors to be the solution and save us by making a gift. The story becomes something that is not at all focused on the mission of the organization but on the organization’s conflict with its inability to tell its story at the right time, to the right people, in a way that invoices co-conspirators at every stage of the journey.

 

Those organizations have lost the ability to tell the truth of their story. Cash flow difficulty is certainly a truth, especially in what we understand to be a disinvested and underfunded field for organizations of color. I don’t want to argue that. But cash flow is NOT the whole truth of the organization and the work it’s up to.

 

We need to work better to frame our story in the truth, the values, the services of our institutions. A truth that is rooted in great vision will lead the way for an exceptional story to highlight your much-needed programs, community, and art-and-culture-centered work.

 

Let’s work together! Red Olive’s Classroom will launch our first course next month, and we want you—or someone you think needs to work on their story—to be there!

On July 8 & 9 from 7PM – 9PM I want to gather virtually with folks who want to better tell the truth and vision of their organizations in order to invite more donors, co-conspirators, and collaborators on this journey to funding the organizations that need to exist for the present and the future.

Fundraising: Thinking about the End of Year?

July 30, 2018

(updated from July 2018 post)

A friend on Facebook (she’s in my hometown of Columbia, SC) posted this picture at the end of July. It was at a local grocery store, who was clearly trying to take advantage of those who plan ahead.

In truth, yes, It was July 30, and Halloween is Oct 31, and there’s still 90 days between the two–still more Summer for some (though I’ve learned my friend in NC, her kindergartner has ALREADY GONE BACK TO SCHOOL!), still Labor Day to celebrate, etc.  But the sad reality is: it’s not really that long ago. Let’s look back. Does May seem a century away?

While I like to daydream into the future, and imagine what my life will look like 1 year from now, 5 years from now, and so on, before I transitioned to working in Fundraising for Non-Profits, I never thought  that I’d be someone who consistently looked 6 to 8 months ahead and planned towards that, while also doing the day-to-day things that are required of me.

I like to say that in fundraising, what you do today shows up (or conversely, what you don’t do today) months down the line. You’ll get to that day, and wish so much that you had: 1) sent in that grant, or 2) got to know that major donor who you think funds projects like yours but you kept putting it off and now she’s listed on the front page of Philanthropy Today for giving a major gift to another project or organization.

Months down the line you’ll wish that you had sat down and thought: the end of the year isn’t that far away. What can I do today to set myself up for success? 

So I’m here to tell you. The end of the year isn’t that far away! 

Why should you even care about the end of the year? Oh, let me tell you.:

Did you know that people (not grants) make up almost 75% of charitable dollars contributed every year to non-profit organizations?

The majority of those dollars are given in the last quarter of the calendar year, with express focus on November and December.

For over one-third of non-profit organizations, the year-end push for contributions can make up almost 50% of a full year’s worth of revenue! 

Think about that. Most organizations haven’t even earned all the money they are going to earn, and they won’t do it until the end of the year. Certainly, for those organizations, I’m sure that the end of the year seems lightyears away.

Bottom line:

There’s money out there for your cause! Make sure you and your project are ready for the end of year giving push! That means, putting your Jack-o-Lanterns out in July. That means, getting your ducks in a row, and preparing your piggy bank to take those pennies!

Red Olive can help with that too! We think it’s just the right time to be thinking about the end of the year, and we’ve mapped many of the steps out for you, so that you can sail smoothly to November and December. We’ll be with you every step of the way.

Don’t think about how far away it is. Let’s get started just after Labor Day, which is, of course just around the corner. 

Interested? Click below to earn more, and contact me at delana@redoliveconsulting.com

2018 End of Year Fundraising Program

Three Consulting Commandments

July 14, 2018

As a consultant, defining for myself my personal and business philosophies has been liberating. I get to choose what I stand for / against. I get to define for my business where our boundaries and ethics are drawn in the sand. I want to share my business philosophies; It’s almost like the 10 Commandments:

  1. First, do no harm [to the organization].
  2. Leave the organization better than you found it.
  3. Offer counsel every step of the way, even if they are not yet (or will not be) a client.

Okay, so maybe 3 Commandments. Let me explain:

First, do no harm [to the organization].

I know what it’s like to be at the organization when you look to the bank account and see a 0 or even a negative number, and a payroll is looming. I’ve been at the leadership table when this has happened at both small  “white” institutions and small “POC” institutions (I will continue to use these terms without quotations). The cash flow problem is not necessarily a raced issue, but what happens, and after, necessarily is. From my experience, for the white institution, there is usually someone or someones (plural) who can write a check to provide a cushion to the zero-balance bank account. That person could be on the board, but just hasn’t been engaged enough to know this was coming. That person could be on the staff (true story). That person could be in the orbit of the organization that the leadership can call on to write the check. SURELY getting to that point suggests a different kind of mismanagement (of time, fundraising activities, fundraising priorities, expense priorities, etc), but, it’s resolved rather quickly and payrolls happen! For the POC institution, very rarely do they have someone in their orbit that can mobilize a hefty amount of funds in a short amount of time. So payrolls get missed.

So you can imagine how important literally every penny is for the organizations I want to work with. I know this coming into the engagement, and I am small enough as a business to provide Development Director level support, strategy, and plans for a fraction of the costs.

Twice now in my tenure as a full-time consultant, I have listened to the woes of my client re: payroll and cash flow. Twice, I have offered that perhaps we should re-scope my agreement, put it on pause, or terminate it all together.

Yes, ultimately this means something to my bottom line. I’m not going to lie. Yes, I could hold the client to the original contract and be a stickler (more on this!) about it. But that would be first, doing harm. So I lean almost always on a lesson from my Swahili teacher in college: “If you try to win now, you’ll lose later.” So I take the “loss” and every time that income has been replaced.

Leave the organization better than you found it.

I know one and two look like the same thing, and maybe they are, but I want to separate them.  Let me tell you a story (it is a continuation from number 1): once, I joined an organization who had already contracted (before hiring me) a consultant who professed to be a one-stop-shop (also: lesson! specialize!) for fundraising, especially fundraising events. I fully believe that organizations under $1M should not have anything that is called a “Gala” but I roll with clients, too. Meet them where they are, and such.

Anyways, this consultant charged an astronomical amount JUST FOR THE PLANNING of the event, which meant that we (the client) would pay for subcontractors, vendors, etc etc. This is not unusual. What is unusual is the amount the consultant charged, and the amount the organization agreed to pay, and then hired someone who effectively made the consultant superfluous, and then refused to back out of the consultant contract.

Sensing that I knew how to run events, and because I slashed and burned some of the expensive suggestions for the event to bring the costs down, the consultant effectively turned into a really expensive administrative assistant: performing data entry, scheduling calls. All of the things that they had promised to the organization they would deliver had not been delivered and in my estimation would not be (lesson: don’t promise what is impossible to deliver, even if you think you need to say it to win the client! It’s not worth it. Don’t try to win now!).

After the event, the consultant apologized, as he should, for not delivering on what he promised, and when I suggested that he forego the final installment because continuing to move forward with him even when he knew it was doing harm to the organization put us further into the hole, and he could have stepped away, suggested a change of course, or something. He agreed, apologized. He then insisted we still pay the last payment, and then suggested he would do a future event for free. You can BET I’m not calling nor referring him again!

Another short story: I’ve had the pleasure of being the consultant behind a bigger consulting firm at a few organizations. This firm does a better job of making the client feel good about the investment, and finishes the contract with everyone in smiles and ready to go! Then the organizations summarily slides the strategic plans, the spreadsheets, the meeting agendas, the analysis etc into the file cabinet and reverts back to the organization they were before. You might say: Oh! But they didn’t leave it worse than they found it. But they did! The organization could have used those thousands of dollars to invest in staff. Instead of paper plans, the consultant could have helped the organization move to actionable steps and goals. For example instead of saying “recruit 5 board members by Q3” on a list of goals the organization now supposedly had the “skills” to complete, the consultant could have walked them through it, and helped secure 1-2 board members, and left “recruit 3 more board members”.

Stacks of paper that will be filed away and forgotten or told to the next consultant “we did that already” is not leaving the organization better than you found it.

Offer counsel every step of the way, even if they are not yet (or will not be) a client.

Even as I was transitioning out of the contract with the organizations from #1, I still offered suggestions and counsel as if I were still a contracted consultant. It’s true, working with cultural organizations is truly my heart-work, and I guess you could say I happen to get paid part of the time for it :). It feeds into my #2, leaving the organization better than I found it. And, I just find that if folks listen to the one or two little nuggets, they’ll feel good about me, and maybe we’ll one day work together. Even if not, I’m still trying to make sure they win. We desperately need culture to win more these days, you know?

 

Do I need a Development Director?

I’ve been thinking about ways to talk about some of the real-life client examples that I think could benefit a bigger audience. One of the ways I’ve characterized my work is by flagging a FB post “ONE GRANT TO LIVE.”

Going forward, I’ll post some scenarios under this moniker, and hope they’ll be helpful to you as you journey towards a sustainable organizational future!

Today, as the fiscal year winds down, I’ve been fielding no fewer than three requests this week for support for folks looking for a development director for their small shops. I firmly believe that each case is different, and I do handle each call with a certain level of individuality, however, I believe I have come to a stance: Do not just hire one person for a department. Hire two.  Why hire one when you can make room for two?

Do I need a Development Director?

In my years in the non-profit field, I have accepted “Director” or “Associate Director” (with no Director in place) level programmatic of fundraising positions four times. Two of those four times I was understaffed, which is to say: I was the only paid person in my department.

Solo journey

As Programs Director for a youth development organization, I had a caseload of approximately 174 individuals upon hiring, with an understanding that, because they were Alumni of the organization (though college students–it was confusing), my caseload would grow exponentially. Every summer I’d add to my roster the new list of 20-30 college-aged students to my program, and would have to scale up my services.

Before I could argue my case (under completely new organizational leadership) that I needed another paid position on my team at the minimum, I worked into my model ways to scale my programmatic offerings by utilizing a mentorship model. I would train mentors to go out into the field and have a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio to younger students. They would do check-ins and report to me, and we’d trouble shoot for how the organization might support. When I left the caseload was something like almost 260 students. It was the only way I could feasibly hit my benchmarks if the organization was not going to invest in personnel. I would go on to transition to Associate Director of Development, with some team members, and then later out of youth development programs all together, but that lesson came with me.

The other time I was a sole person in a department was also the first time I was a full Director of Development for a cultural institution. In order to pay me what I felt I deserved, the organization stretched its limits, and we could argue paid me what I asked for. But I would be alone. Again. I felt so sure in the move, and they had given me what I asked for, that I agreed and took the job.

Immediately I understood that the job was bigger than one person alone, and leadership needed more support than usual in general and individual fundraising. I leaned on my model of creating volunteer opportunities and inviting individuals to get closer to the mission through service to the organization. I started a working young patron’s group, which was a melding of traditional giving groups and alumni-type working models. The group, if they paid their yearly dues, had ownership over four events a year, and I had, once the group got up to 20 or so individuals from across sectors and backgrounds, 20 microphones to amplify events!

Additionally, I made a plea to my network for an intern and the universe sent me someone who was a few months out of college, but not quite sure what she wanted to do. My own mentorship gene is strong, and when she came to interview I knew we’d hit it off. I now had someone to help with data entry, start grants, coordinate some cultivation events, and more. I was not alone, even though, I was alone.

Help! My Director of Development just left!

Let’s assume you got away with paying your Development Director less than $60K, (I hear you small orgs! I do!) but it’s a new world and anyone looking to be a Development Director in this environment is junior themselves, probably at a larger institution, and probably in a specific track. What I mean is they are probably an Institutional Giving Manager, or an Individual Giving Manager, and want so badly to have Director in the title, and a few more coins that they would give up being a part of a team for it. I did it. I know.

When clients come to me and feel as though they are just now ready to invest in a development position, or as a result of a single-person department no longer has an organizational fundraising mechanism, I speak from experience when I strongly advise them to split whatever it was they were going to pay for one person, and pay two junior people.

I’ll say it again: If you have $60,000 for what you paid your Development Director, and he or she just left, add a little more to the pot (because Development Directors should and do cost more than that!), and let’s call it $70,000 you were going to try and squeeze out of your current budget or else make an assumption that the Director would “raise their salary,” for what the kids are asking for in salaries these days, and split it into two positions.

Get you a Development Department!

Fundraising is a team effort. When I was solo in my positions, somehow, because my title was “Director” that signaled, I think, to leadership (ED and Board) that there was someone to do the fundraising. That they could step back. They had someone who would (supposedly) write the grants, plan the cultivations, send the appeals, write the emails, set up the major gifts meetings, and maybe all they had to do was show up, maybe. How many times was I asked “Do I need to be here” by people in positions higher than me?! Foolishly, and because I wanted to seem capable, I said no, I could handle it. Only to find the donor wanted face time with the Executive Director. No major decision was ever made with me and me alone.

Hiring two people, say, a grant writer, and a development assistant, means that for small-shop organizations you have “specializations” similar to the big shops. You have people focusing in on a specialty, and minimally—because you probably can’t pay two full time salaries, but you could pay strong part-time salaries—pushing towards a few important benchmarks. This distributes the stress of the department between two people instead of one. I still advocate for some of the volunteer models, too! So just imagine how many people you can have moving the fundraising goals of the organization further down the field?

But who will do the fundraising, DéLana?

Glad you asked! By taking away the “Director” title, that requires the Executive Director to lean in a bit more, and by nature, ask his or her board for support. “Hey, can you meet with xyz major donor if [new development assistant] sets it up?” That type of thing.

If you are a leader who’s come through the ranks up to ED through programs (or for another client, a curator all her life and now has to think about fundraising! Or for another client, a programs coordinator / director and never had to think about from whence the money came), and you feel like you need to hire a Development Director because you need guidance, and an expertise on your team, well, let’s talk

I have two clients using this model now, and I am coaching and supporting everyone towards the organizations’ fundraising goals, and the organization has a team, and the ED understands her role in fundraising (“I can focus like 75% of my time on Fundraising!” If you could have heard the little squeal my heart made when she said this), and she can also, from a place of knowing and understanding, call on her board to step up and step in. And we are growing a development team that fits the needs of the organization. And each week the team reports on how much more work they have been able to accomplish. 

It’s a cute set up. I encourage you to give it a try!

BLACK ART FUTURES — Applications are Open!

January 15, 2018

The Executive Board of Black Art Futures Fund is pleased to announce the inaugural application period for prospective grantees is open, and will close on March 1, 2018.  We hope to announce grant recipients by June 2018.

Grants
Grants will be approximately $2000 – $6000 of unrestricted general operating support (for Black Arts Organizations) or project support (for projects centering Black Art), and will include an additional stipend towards fundraising support with Red Olive Creative Consulting. Applicants and grantees may be invited to special networking and board matching events throughout 2018.

Eligibility
Black Art Non-Profit Organizations or Fiscally Sponsored projects with operating budgets below $1.5M, or organizations applying for a program or specific project that centers Black Art are eligible to apply.

Ready to Apply?
Please CLICK HERE for the application instructions.
Please CLICK HERE for the application form that should accompany your submission.

Questions? Feel free to contact DéLana at delana@redoliveconsulting.com.

Black Art Futures Fund — Investing in the Future of Black Art & Culture

November 28, 2017

Dear Friends,

Already It’s Giving Tuesday in Zurich and I am suffering from Jet Lag. SO here’s the deal:

2018 for me is going to be the year of BLACK ART.

Patron, donor, investor, consultant. ALL OF IT (check my 3-date itinerary for Ailey week of Dec 17 alone—it’s the ramp up).

I’ve put my own money where my mouth is, really and have been quietly working towards a thing: a privately/individually invested fund for Black arts and culture organizations called BLACK ART FUTURES FUND.

Joining me in the struggle, and too, investing in the FUTURE OF BLACK ART are the following Executive Board Members: Ope Bukola, chair; Ed Brockhoff, Rickey Laurentiis, and Jessica Lynne.

Combined we have contributed or pledged over $12,000 towards our $30,000 ambitious goal of individual support to be able to distribute GENERAL OPERATING GRANT DOLLARS to small Black arts orgs. We’ve partnered with Brooklyn Community Foundation to hold the money in a Donor Advised Fund/Giving Circle until we are ready to designate the investments to vetted organizations.

Emerging philanthropists will find in BLACK ART FUTURES a model that is social, educational, and impactful. There will be opportunities for board matching & training, VIP Black art access and more. Join our Steering Committee for exclusive access or donate any amount and be a part of the movement still. 

Black art orgs, and orgs centering Black arts and culture will have access to professional services in the areas of fundraising and stabilization in addition to the granted dollars with a contribution towards those services. Grant + Stipend! (Interested orgs, please send a note to support@redoliveconsulting.com).

We will distribute our first round of grants with grant amounts in the range of $2,000 to $6,000 in SPRING 2018. Additional grants and award amounts will be contingent on YOU and helping us spread the word and investing BIG in representational + transformational Black Art & Culture. 

Folks who give a minimum of $250.00 to the foundation and indicate Black Art Futures Fund and notify us before December 31 will receive a custom made Black Arts Calendar 2018 (image below).

We are the revolution. Lifting each other as we climb,

DéLana

The View from 40,000 ft.

Whenever I travel internationally, I never really utilize the back seat entertainment. If I’m not sleeping (I prefer overnight flights to Europe, and day flights back), or drinking free wine, or reading or journaling, or even–while all of those activities are happening, the back seat “entertainment” is 95% of the time logged into the flight map, specifically the birds eye view that looks down on the top of the plane as it follows the line from NYC to Frankfurt, Nicaragua, Amsterdam, Cuba, Paris, London, Zurich. 

On the way to London, my husband and I had the inside row seats (ugh) and just never really got comfortable. It was late, the plane was delayed. My adrenaline was raging because I had boarded the plane, set up to take a selfie, only to realize I left my glasses in the terminal. Luckily I had great flight attendants, and switched quickly enough into my southern girl and helpless voice that someone escorted me in order to retrieve them! (Thanks British Airways!!) so anyways, the weather sucked. Even just going down the runway was an ordeal. When the wheels left the earth we started very quickly into violent turbulence. 

It stayed that way out of Far Rockaway, over Long Island and the Long Island Sound, up the New England corridor until we reached Nova Scotia and, because I had this “view” this big picture view, I knew that we would be entering over water, which has been in my experience so far north where the turbulence levels out. 

Maybe there was weather between us and London. The flight view doesn’t show weather (it should!!) only the stats: how high in elevation, ground speed, current location time, place of departure time, destination time, temperature outside the window. You could change the view but the one where I could see the line connecting clearly the dot from New York JFK to London Heathrow Was my preferred view. Though our ground speed was almost 700mph, I felt, somehow, grounded.

After dinner, cabin lights out, Husband and I decide to try to figure out what we want to see in London since we couldn’t sleep. I look up for my 40,000 ft view, and note We were approaching Greenland. 

Then I focus in on the task. Holding the drinks while C lifts my tray to reach my bag for our LONELY PLANET LONDON tour book. C is rooting around underneath the chair when

The plane makes an unexpected and steep drop. 

The flight attendants were going through with the garbage and seemed, like us, completely caught by surprise. 

Including my own, there were several gasps. 

I was holding the drinks so they traveled with me, with the plane, when it dipped like so, but the ones on the trays, the drinks and food and things on the trays while people were locked into their individualized screens for entertainment went into the air and crashed back down. Our inside aisle seat mate spilled red wine all over herself. 

I looked at the elevation a few minutes later and we maintained 40,000 ft. Which is to say, the pilot was locked in and was not trying to go higher or lower for smoother sailing. I didn’t have *that view* that he had so I had to trust staying his course was the right way to go. 

You can imagine I didn’t sleep the rest of the flight, and I didn’t change my screen from the flight view the whole way there, so I can tell you that from Greenland on we had turbulence. And I don’t normally, but I clapped and released my held breath when we landed the next, London morning. 

What does this have to do with anything besides being a story about turbulence?

I am nearing three months freelance/consultant/business owner. In another life, I’d be preparing to asses if I’m off of probation. In this life, I counted going into the next six months with 6 clients. 

In a session today with a client, I mentioned that I’m able to help in a way that is unique: because my focus is art & culture organizations of color, and have been in this flight pattern (see where I’m going) for years, and because I am not locked into one organization, but, as I said, consulting with six of them right now, I have the advantage of a 40,000 ft view of the fundraising and development landscape. I have a line from “here” (last few years of fundraising for orgs of color) to “there” (the future of orgs of color) and can see clearer the bigger picture because I’m not sitting tunneled vision, not aware that I’m part of a machine moving, literally, 700mph and could at any point, unexpectedly, bottom out from me.

When I said that, our conversation opened up. My client realized she was trying to put me in a place she knew and was comfortable, and I was trying to explain that the funding world is turbulent, and we need to chart a clearer, better path. 

One of my mottos recently is “Let the experts expert.” 

I love that because it releases me from having to believe I have to do everything. As I’m stuck, head down In the weeds and looking at my personal finances being crazy, I say my motto and put out a call for a CPA. I trust that they will know the best path to my desired destination. 

As you think about where you want to take your organization in terms of fundraising and development, I encourage you to have a thought partner that is looking at the whole picture: months, years, in advance; diversification of revenue; strategy; developing a culture of philanthropy among your staff and board, and the list goes on. 

We don’t have to do it ourselves. We can’t do it ourselves. Me: I’m looking for the person who’s got a 40,000 ft view.