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Case Studies: Using Printed Materials to Raise Funds in an Uncertain Economy

April 6, 2011 By Del Williams

In the economic downturn and slow recovery, nonprofits of all sizes are especially hard-pressed as they pursue essential funding with fewer donors and fewer dollars to go around.

Many nonprofits find themselves struggling with severe cuts and even closure, as donations are scarce and competition for donors is fierce. At smaller nonprofits in particular, staffs are being charged with selecting and running efforts that must generate significant amounts of money with no room for error. Even successful fundraisers that generated income in the past are now expected to generate more this time around.

One of the most lucrative methods of fundraising that nonprofits can turn to in these circumstances is printing items such as donor-recognition pieces, calendars, booklets, posters and greeting cards. With minimal investment, these items can generate thousands in fundraising revenue, with the added benefit of active community involvement and lasting good will. But they have to be done right. As in many fields, proactive nonprofits are at the forefront of innovative fundraising and awareness.

Developing talent and donors in New York

When the Art Students League of New York, a 135-year-old independent nonprofit art school with campuses in Manhattan and Rockland County, N.Y., sought to raise funds and support its brand, it wanted a printed piece that reflected its goals, successes and traditions.

Established by artists for artists in 1875, the Art Students League (ASL) has been instrumental in shaping America’s legacy in the fine arts. ASL offers affordable tuition for studio art classes, immersing students in the practices of drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking and assemblage. It also offers an artist-in-residence program.

“We wanted to showcase the success stories of some of our students, members and programs while recognizing the donors and foundations who make this possible,” says Ken Park, ASL’s director of communications and institutional fundraising.

Park worked with an online print specialist to put together a four-color "Special Donor Recognition Issue" of ASL's newsletter. This included about a dozen pieces of art, along with the success stories and images of various emerging artists at the Art Students League.

The special donor-recognition issue tells the story of students like figurative painter Clarissa Payne Uvegi, who overcame some self-doubt to return to painting and get one of her large self-portraits displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

 

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