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.

The Case for *Representational* Art + Culture

Now, as always, we need representational arts and culture in our lives, and we need the spaces, the safe ones, in times like these.

What I am talking about when I’m talking about representational arts and culture is art that centers the Black (and brown and other and in between) figure/story/history in its conversations, its actions, its figurations, its staged plays, its buildings, its permanent collections, etc etc etc.

Here’s a quote that ushered me into 2017, and at the end of it, I decided that I needed it to ground me for as long as I live.

“OF COURSE, I HOPE SOMEDAY THAT IT CAN BE SAID THAT I SHOWED ANOTHER WAY TO THE SUMMIT OF ACHIEVEMENT IN PAINTING. TO BE SURE, THE MODE OF BLACK FIGURE REPRESENTATION I EMPLOY IS A CLAEAR DEPARTURE FROM MOST POPULAR TREATMENTS OF THE BLACK BODY. I AM TRYING TO ESTABLISH A PHENOMENAL PRESENCE THAT IS UNEQUIVOCALLY BLACK AND BEAUTIFUL. IT IS MY CONVICTION THAT THE MOST INSTRUMENTAL, INSURGENT, PAINTING FOR THIS MOMENT MUST BE OF FIGURES, AND THOSE FIGURES MUST BE BLACK, UNAPOLOGETICALLY SO.”

This does two things: for the viewer/participant of the representational arts + culture, it gives one a sense of belonging, a mirror, a communal space for experiencing beauty. See the photo above. On a Monday in January in New York City, at The Met, I was standing next to more Black and brown folks I had ever seen before, who had gathered to experience the exceptional and breath taking and beautiful works of Kerry James Marshell.

It was my second time. The first time I saw the works, it was during the opening of the exhibit, in a private VIP thing, which means, there were very few people who looked like me, who looked like the paintings–the floor to ceiling paintings–in the space. I couldn’t linger with some of the art in the ways that I wanted to. Behind me were people who were passing through the exhibit quickly, catching up on what other exhibits they were working on or funding or or. But I knew, when I saw some of the pieces, that I had to come back, and bring my husband, and we had to spend as much time as we wanted, in order to see, to feel, to be affirmed.

That is what I think these spaces can give us at a time like this. After the events in Charlottesville, VA transpired this weekend, I saw friends post art works, poems, song lyrics, by Black artists and we were sending messages to each other through the social media atmosphere: here is some healing for you, here is some healing for me. Here is the hard truth for others. But at the heart of it: we are hurting. Here is some art.

So here’s the thing: there are so many creators and artists and makers of representative safe spaces for culture and art that are struggling to literally keep their lights on. But that’s not why I want to direct your attention there. I want to direct your attention to spaces that were created out of the necessity for refuge and that were created out of a systematic approach to exclusion of a diversity of perspectives and voices that rather than not exist at all, they exist at least to be a place we can go to when literally there are men with torches of fire standing outside our door threatening our very lives.

Here’s some organizations that have centered the Black or Other figure/voice/history/story through arts and culture and that–if you’re thinking about what you can do–can use a shoring up of resources (read: $$$$ or, you showing up to some events) as they face a Monday/a new week/ the same regime with yet again a country set on destroying all things that are not white.

Of course, I have committed my life to the stabilization of spaces like these, and others. There’s some exciting news on the horizon for that, but if you want to be an integral part of my journey to invest and impact the field of representational arts + culture, I invite you to join me. 

 

 

 

You don’t have to do it alone

You don’t have to manage, $fund$, program, execute, market your creative project alone.

I fully believe that success is letting the experts make the expert decisions/plans/programs for me where I am decidedly not the expert. 

For example: when I trained for the New York City Marathon in 2014, I started out all alone. I scoured the internet for training plans that matched my woeful inexperience, and tried to map out how many days I *felt like* running. At the same time, I scoured the internet for weightloss plans, because I knew I had to lose some weight if I were to try and conquer running 26.2 miles, and began to eat a diet of salads, light breakfasts, no snacks, etc.

It’s no surprise I got injured. I was literally running all over the place, running myself and my body into the ground. Part of my internet scouring though, was that I found a blog of someone who documented their first NYC Marathon and I was hooked to their writing style, and read through her months of training, and noticed something starkly different between her experience and my experience: she had hired an expert–a running coach.  I thought, “how cute.” And kept reading, trying to figure out how to have my first experience be as great as hers. It took a few weeks (I’m very lucky it only took that long!) for me to realize that I could have a similar success story!

I could hire someone to take the weight off of trying to figure out something I know nothing about (or certainly not enough–I had run several half marathons, double-digit 10k’s before I decided to take on the marathon).

I could hire someone to do the tough thinking about how far to run, and when. That meant all I had to do was “simply” put on my shoes and show up to the run.

And most importantly: I had someone to talk to about successes and failures, and someone could adjust the plan based on where I was on any particular day. This was huge. Part of the injury happened because I didn’t know that I shouldn’t go from 0 to 5 miles in a week. But I did because I knew that on Saturday my internet-prescribed run called for 5 miles. My running coach incremented my runs at a healthier pace, and when I told her that I was still recovering from X long run, she would dial it down for a few days.

Eventually, I took this momentum of having a running coach, and hired a nutritionist. I was on a roll. I didn’t have to do any of this alone, even though most believe running is a solitary sport. Just like we believe starting “our own” business, or creative project must be done alone. The nutritionist told me that I was actually restricting my diet too much, and that I could eat more and still lose weight (WHO KNEW??) so I decided of course, she knew better than I, and I enjoyed adding in foods, the right kind of foods to fuel my 16, and 18, and 20 mile runs. And get this: she had run the marathon, too! So that meant, I got expert, expert advice and we’d pull out the map of the route, and I’d learn when to take in the # of electrolytes or how much water or how much calories to keep me from hitting THE WALL (which is the point in which your body says: no more. we can’t take no more. and most people hit it at 20 miles and struggle to the end of the marathon).

I’m happy to report I did not hit THE WALL. I made my way to the finish line with a little sprint at the end. With my team behind me.

You can sprint to the finish line of some of your personal creative projects’ goals by putting the right people on your team.

It’s with this energy that Red Olive Creative Consulting launched the Monthly Mentor program. We want to be on your team!  Let us help you $fund$ your creative project or get your organization to new $fundraising$ heights.

Build a team!

Thinking About the End of the Year?

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 Creative Consulting 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 by Labor Day, which is, of course just around the corner. 

Interested? Click below to earn more.

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Penny Campaigns + People-powered fundraisers

 

When I was younger, my family liked to take yearly vacations. Most often to Florida. Daddy would bring home a big jug or two with small mouths–or anything that was easy to put something in, less easy to pull it out!–and encourage us to put our loose change into the jug.

I watched and watched the loose change fill up the jugs until it was time to break them open and count. I remember the work, late nights, sitting in my booster chair rolling pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters. We’d roll and roll. For my efforts, I’d get one or two roll of dimes to convert to dollars and spend on my vacation.

We went to Disney World three times, Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Washington DC, Daytona Beach, Tampa Beach, Busch Gardens, and and and—all from rolling and saving those pennies!

Whenever I have a big financial goal, I start throwing any of my disposable income into a coffee can, or an envelope in my desk drawer. I know it’s only a drop in the bucket, but I also know that eventually, it will continue to grow and grow!

Imagine if you had access to folks’ pennies on a regular basis to contribute to your artistic goals? Think of what you could accomplish.

One of my favorite places in Brooklyn is the Weeksville Heritage Center.

I had the privilege of working there, and through my current work as a non-profit fundraising consultant, who primarily works for arts organizations of color, I’ve encountered even in that small niche of a world so many people who have passed through Weeksville’s doors as well. Such such a small world.

I tell this story often, but, when the Historic Hunterfly Road Houses were rediscovered in 1968 by James Hurley, and he then brought in educator, activist, and artist Joan Maynard to be the founding Executive Director, Joan changed–or else started the game of fundraising for Black Arts and culture in NYC, and taught a community how to Save the Memories of Self by launching, in the early 1970’s by urging middle school students to start a fundraising campaign: “Pennies for Weeksville.” The students raised the first $800 towards the large project of renovating the 19th century houses. The students, young, black, Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant residents, went door to door, collecting spare change, telling folks about the project, and launched a community’s awareness about one of the most important landmarks in Black Brooklyn History. They were Brooklyn’s young, black fundraisers. They were Brooklyn’s young, black philanthropists.

Even a penny made a difference to the future of the organization. Even a penny put together with others, made a larger gift.

So many times we think about the big fundraising goals for our creative projects, and think: unless a big, magical grant comes through, there’s no way we’ll have the money to do what we dream.

But we forget the pennies, added up, can equal that big grant.

We forget–or maybe we don’t know?–that over 3/4 of charitable giving every year comes from people, not foundations or corporations.

And in truth, individual giving is only one part of the fundraising strategy, or, what I call revenue pie. But it’s a very important one. And it’s one, if cared for and cultivated and watered like a garden, will be the sole remaining force to ensuring your creative cause is stable, and continues on for years to come.

Lifting each other as we climb,

DéLana

Want support getting started with an individual giving plan, so all of the pennies can add up to $$$? Jumpstart your Creative Fundraising with me! 

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