Evolving is hard in any sector but when it comes to fundraising practices in a nonprofit setting ,“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is often substituted for critical evaluations of success.
For years Living Arts’ primary fundraising event was a breakfast. You know the one: food, inspiration, and an ask all packed into a tight one hour program. This model just didn’t feel right anymore. We needed more time to fully steep our supporters in an understanding of what arts-infused education means. Not to us as staff and trustees, but to the student empowered to rhyme their reality, the teacher forever infused with a creative approach, and the teaching artist learning daily from the pure creativity of their very own students. Building a discerning appreciation for our work would be an enormous victory for Living Arts.
Thirteen months ago we began exploring how much impact those single-hour events had created for our supporters and organization. After reviewing several years of successes, challenges, feedback, dollars raised, and staff hours spent, it became clear we had to make a change.
In order for our supporters to internalize how and why creativity is so critical to the minds of young people, we needed to afford them time and space in which to have the experience. Just a few weeks ago we put our theory to the test. This year’s Spark the Imagination event took place in the evening. Set in the majesty of Detroit’s Masonic Temple with drinks and hors d'oeuvres, we invited patrons to experience the breadth of our work through a more robust program.
We witnessed dancers bound for a national championship, precocious kindergarten animators, tales of personal growth, and rhymes fit for platinum. Every bit flowed from the souls of Detroit youth. Our very own teaching artists complemented the youth presence as they sang, played, danced and spoke with unrivaled clarity and passion. Each anecdote walked us into a school-based residency or an out-of-school classroom where we experienced what it felt like to encounter the changes and growth that take place in those spaces.
As the great Mahogany Jones ushered us towards the ask, the lights came up on a chapel full of palpable emotion. We had done it. Our patrons left that night with a true understanding of who Living Arts is and what this vibrant organization means for the City of Detroit.
The arts are imperative to the success of our culture and economy. We need creative institutions, creative thinkers and creative leaders. We need engineers, politicians, social workers, artists, and scientists with the creative foundation and ingenuity to lead us into territory uncharted by previous generations.
Educating, inspiring, and facilitating creativity in the minds of our most valuable and vulnerable members of society is an ultimate investment in the future of our world, our city, and our communities.