You’ve nailed that elusive prestigious grant, funder, sponsor, or collector ready to make a significant investment in your work. Congrats! Now it’s important to remember the saying, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and ensure that you’re leaving supporters of your work with a favorable impression after their initial investment. Whether nailing a local grant of $1,500 or selling $150,000 worth of work to a private art collection, our tips give a general overview of the best ways to treat an investor so that they will feel confident in your practice and inspired to keep coming back for more!
From transparency to keeping track of your own career development, these tips of the trade are compiled here to give you an edge on maintaining funders and collectors, hopefully spurring them on to convert others to become avid fans!
Know Your Practice, Sell Your Strengths
Start off on the right foot with funders by knowing the strengths of your practice and having the ability to communicate these strengths coherently. What about your work shows critical engagement with contemporary art and theory? What sets your practice apart from countless other artists? How do you create your work and what has your experience to this point in your career taught you? What direction are you headed in with your work? You should be able to recount answers to these and similar relevant questions immediately, and similarly enough that if two of your donors meet at an event they will be able to hold a conversation on your practice and agree on themes and aims embedded within in it.
It’s not only enough to be able to articulate your practice, it needs to be at hand in writing. When you’ve had the good luck to cultivate a funder, odds are that more funders are headed your way. Keep a folder easily accessible where you can find files to email containing your CV, artist statement, headshot and a short bio. Having this information readily available shows you are prepared and reflects positively on those who refer you for future opportunities, as well. Of course, always thank those who have referred you to new opportunities to show your appreciation for their thoughtfulness. An email works fine, but the secret is that handwritten thank you notes still go a long way in showing your appreciation – especially when you’re thanking someone for advocating on your behalf.
Invite Patrons to an Upcoming Art Exhibition
You’ve received the confirmation that you’ve won the award, sold the work, or secured a sponsor: what’s next? For some opportunities, you can be one of dozens of award recipients. What is the best way to stand out from the pack? Aside from sending the necessary thank you email and making sure that you do your part in following up on necessary documents (sending along headshots, bios, etc.) in a timely manner, find ways to express gratitude to the individual or funding arts organizations. Give them a positive shout-out on social media, where appropriate. Mention your partnering arts organizations when you’re being featured in interviews or press articles, and add their logo (as appropriate) to your exhibition invitations. Shining a spotlight on their support is a win-win, as it shows your appreciation while also spreading the word to your audience that you have been singled out by this particular organization.
Other ways to keep the conversation going? Follow your awarding arts organizations by setting up a Google alert and share their good news on your social channels! This little step can go a long way toward building goodwill. By continuing to express your enthusiasm for your favorite arts organizations and their ongoing projects, you stand out as a supporter who is invested in building a strong and lasting relationship with the granting organization. It’s also a great practice for attracting new arts organizations to admire and invest in your work! Small gestures like this work, and little investments go a long way toward creating paths for future continued partnership.
Provide Reasons to Engage
Keep your donors informed on your work as new opportunities are created for you to exhibit, present and discuss your work. When you have press features and new art exhibition announcements to pass along, make sure to send along the information with a personal note. Make them aware that you cherish their support and that they have helped catapult you into success. You may even want to offer a preview of your art exhibition, or first pass at selecting a work for purchase.
Along with inviting those who have supported you to your art exhibition openings, make sure to also invite them one on one to industry events. Whether panels on art topics, artist talks or receptions, make a concerted effort to cultivate donors to attend with you. Make sure that you handle all the RSVPs and arrangements on their behalf, and if you can treat them to a drink after, do so to get a sense of their perspective! By getting to know those sponsoring your work more closely and finding out more about what sparks their interest in the arts, you can better tailor future outreach to these donors based on their preferences. This way, you can make sure you’re keeping funders in the know on topics they are invested in, whether its upcoming art exhibitions in the community or opportunities to learn more about critical art topics.
When appropriate, use your announcements as a chance to request an in-person meeting. Invite your donors to meet on a certain day to tour a new art exhibition together, or invite them over for a studio visit and/or a chat over a cup of coffee to catch up. There may be ways you can further partner that aren’t immediately apparent – perhaps a granting organization is launching a new program in an area you are knowledgeable in – and in-person meetings are often the perfect opportunity to tease out ways in which you can continue to support and engage one another.
The art world, like any other industry, is susceptible to change and disruption. Show your donors, arts organizations, and other supporters that you can stay ahead of the curve by adapting your practice and exhibitions to fit the times. Find ways to partner and be featured in online exhibitions, or participate in new conferences or events as appropriate. Link up with new and interesting artists and curators, or find ways to be featured in new online press outlets or social media opportunities. While the core of your practice should remain firmly rooted, show your funders that you are knowledgeable on current art trends and adapt your work to new trends while staying true to the core concepts apparent in your works. By demonstrating savvy in the art world and showing that you’ve extended your work in new ways, you’ll impress your current funders and ensure that you have more interest in your future endeavors!
Bottom line? Keep your funders and collectors informed, and let them know how much you appreciate their support, and they’ll continue to give back and pay it forward.