Monday, 7 February 2011


Issue: Encouraging Philanthropy or Schmoozin' the Rich

Convener(s): Olga Petrakova

Participants: Josh Neicho, Antonio Ferrara, Clara Giraud, Tanja Raaste, Ed Bartram, Lisa Turner, Sue Frumin, Jean Paul Dal Monte

The meeting was suggested during a previous session held by Daniel Goldman: "Big Plays. Big Casts. Where have they gone?", when I raised a question if/how it is possible to attract an Impresario to support an artistic endeavor of larger casts.

This was one of the harder meetings to have as it seemed that we all had limited experience in communications with the privileged class or in finding ways to attract them, excite them with our projects or gain their support. This is due to the sheer fact that we generally don't have a direct access to them, being artists.There is an art to this type of communication, if we happen to be talking to the wealthy dude/ettes. When putting this report together, I came across a good article by Michael Owen Hill (St. Paul, Minnesota), called Stroking the Ego: Fine Art of Schmooze and lucky for us, it actually does highlight a number of issues that we raised. I will contribute some of Michael's thoughts to this documented exploration at the bottom of the page.

Some questions that were raised were:

*What would the title of the wealthy supporter be? Benefactor, Philanthropist, Impresario.
*We decided to distinguish between investing vs. donation. Investing would need a whole other meeting and it has a number of legal issues to consider.
*In the UK, unlike US, charitable donations are not tax-deductible. Something that hopefully will change, as that is a perk for the wealthy to support the projects they are attracted to, and it seems to work well in America. On the other hand, it does release government from providing a sustaining support for the arts, so that is the other side of the coin to keep in mind.
*How can we attract a wealthy person to become a Benefactor?
One suggestion was to look for those who want to be knighted.
If we are touring internationally, we can look for our countrymen conducting businesses in the foreign territories to encourage them to support projects from their homeland.
Entice them to become theatre visionaries. Use examples of people they might already know, who are visionaries in other fields: music, dance, art, etc.
* How do we come across wealthy people in our daily artistic lives, when we are immersed in rehearsals and such? Put ourselves out there more.
Offer private theatre services for their parties, events: dance shows, commedia dell'arte events, theatre with music. Become entertaining provocateurs, subverters of the expected, daily, banal, overly social. Learn from the past, when jesters were part of the court.
Create Imaginative Fundraising Events, that are unusual and attractive on their own accord. Part of them can be special silent auctions.
Hire PR person, as this is part of their job. They are professional schmoozers. Or learn how to do your own PR ( by yourself or with your company's members.
Pursue government agencies concerned with real estate development to request from developers support for local theatre - to provide space for us to create in. Rent is the highest fixed expense for any theatre company.

*Image is something wealthy people/organization are generally concerned with.
Banks are an example. While having a poor reputation they are recovering fast. Supporting a larger project or a festival may offer bank an opportunity to clean their image.
Wealthy people, who are pursuing government positions may be interested in supporting non-profit arts projects to boost their image.

*When we finally meet with wealthy folks, how do we interact with them?
We may want to share with them what it is we are doing, not who we are....
Be ourselves. We are interesting, weird people.
We should have wacky cool stories to share.
Have confidence/Intelligence/sincerity to share, do not be needy.

Supplement from some research Olya' did:

Mark Owen Hill (
"The one trait all successful schmoozers share is an ability to manufacture genuine curiosity. I’m not talking about mindless “rah rah” or groupieism, but genuine curiosity on a peer-to-peer level...
This leads me to point number one: Suckups tell you how great you are. Schmoozers show interest in you, your ideas and opinions. Suckups speak well about you. Schmoozers listen to you, and listen well. You get the point."
"Gratitude is another powerful tool of the successful schmoozer, but it can be a two-edged sword. Too much gratitude or thanks that are misplaced can quickly signal to the sophisticated person that there is serious suckupery at play. Make sure you thank people for things that are deserving of thanks. If you spend some time thinking about the other person — instead of focusing on the ego-stroking tactics you might employ to get what you want — obvious opportunities for honest gratitude will present themselves."
"Authenticity is key, but here is a little trick I learned from my years in... fundraising for arts and animal welfare nonprofits: In any written communication longer than a quick e-mail to a colleague — and certainly any communication to clients, potential employers or anyone whom it is your job to serve — begin and end with a thank you. Make the first thank you very specific, and follow it with a statement that shows you are actually thinking about the reader."
"Schmoozing is not about fooling people or finding the right “line.” Schmoozing is about creating a social or emotional space in which the other person can honestly feel good about themselves, and by reflection, you."

A few Key Points from Guy Kawasaki. They actually reflect some of what we arrived on our own. Read the blog to get the full take on each Key Point. (Guy Kawasaki's "How to change the world" Blog/The Art of Schmoozing,

Understand the goal. Darcy Rezac “Discover what you can do for someone else.”
Get out.
Ask good questions, then shut up.
Unveil your passions.
Read voraciously.
Follow up.
Make it easy to get in touch.
Give favors.
Ask for the return of favors.

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