Saturday, August 18, 2012

SFMOMA: Major Gifts Fundraising Analysis

As an art history geek, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is one of my favorite Nonprofit Organization to case study.  Founded in 1935, the SFMOMA is one of the first museums on the West Coast dedicated to modern and contemporary art.  Today, 77 years since its founding, the museum is still strong with almost 400 employees, 267 volunteers, 40,357 members, and over 28,666 works in their collection (  In their 2009 IRS 990 form, they reported over $41 million received in contributions and grants, doubling that of competing art museums in San Francisco, such as the Asian Art Museum (

The website is visually appealing and accessible through a mobile and main site, users can easily to navigate through their content and find information on exhibitions, programs, projects, and events. is actually one of the first museums websites launched in 1995. 

Assessing their website, I was impressed by all the content provided.  For example, their Annual Report is readily available in their about section, and there is even an iPad application for those who wish to download it onto their tablet (

For individuals wishing to donate to the museum, there is a get involved link that directs users to support SFMOMA, from there users can gain information on their various levels and methods of giving.  I was a little disappointed that there is not a convenient donate now link, instead users have to create an account with SFMOMA. While they might lose a few impatient users because of this, having users create an online account is an excellent way to keep track of donors for future solicitation.

Consistent with Kim Klein’s chapter on Building Major Gifts Programs, the SFMOMA’s major gifts program is determined by the size of the gift (Klein 279-292).  There are two donor support levels: Artist’s Circle and Director’s circle.  The Artist’s Circle is comprised of gifts ranging from $1,500-14,999.
The benefits of joining the Artist’s Circle include:

Meeting with artists
After hours exhibition tours
Travel opportunities with curators to places such as Chicago, New York, and DC
Visiting private bay area collections
Those interested in joining the Artist’s Circle must contact Alexis Miller, Assistant Director of Individual Giving.
Individuals who want to give more than $14,999 can join the Director’s Circle.  Members of the Director’s Circle enjoy benefits such as:

Recognition on the donor’s wall
Unlimited free admission
Priority consideration for facilities rentals
Catalogs for major exhibitions
Behind the scenes tours of private art collections
Annual black-tie dinner
Exclusive travel opportunities to places such as China, France, Japan, and Venice
Conversation and Cocktails with the Museum Director, Neal Benezra
Priority invitations to  select museum events including, annual artist salon, lecture series, galas, and Bay Area Treasure Award luncheon

Individuals interested in becoming part of the Director’s Circle must contact Jonathan Peterson, Director of Development.  Peterson has been SFMOMA’s Director of Development since January 2011.  His experience in Nonprofit Arts Development is extensive, previously serving as Deputy Director for the San Francisco Opera, Vice President of Development and Community Engagement for the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Associate  Director of Development for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Annual Fund Manager for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.  At the SFMOMA, he is responsible for the annual support from individuals, corporations, and foundations, while also providing strategic leadership in developing philanthropic relationships throughout the bay area (
The Asian Art Museum is another San Francisco-based art museum that competes with the SFMOMA.  Their website layout is similar to and provides users with a lot of information on how to make a donation.  In their support section, I enjoyed their summary chart provided prospective donors with a list donor’s goals, methods of donations, and benefits received from their donation.  Regrettably, I did not find their Annual Report anywhere on the website (
Unlike the SFMOMA, their major gifts program is comprised of donors who contribute $3,000 or more annually.  There are two donor support levels: Jade Circle and Avery Brundage Circle.  The Jade Circle’s gifts range from $3,000-24,999.  Benefits of joining the Jade Circle include:

Invitations to special openings, lectures, and programs
Consular Corps receptions
National and International travel opportunities
Access to the Peterson Room (a private lounge)
For individuals making contributions of $25,000 or more, there is the Avery Brundage Circle, named in honor of the museum’s founding benefactor.  Benefits of being in the Avery Brundage Circle include:

($25,000-49,999 contributions)
Recognition as an exhibition sponsor
Copies of selected exhibition catalogs
Invitation to Avery Brundage Circle dinner and receptions
($50,000-99,999 contributions)
Lunch with the Director
Access to facilities to host private receptions
Private exhibition previews
($100,000+ contributions)
Customized  benefits

Individuals interested in joining the Jade or Avery Brundage Circle must contact Liz Bacchetti, Deputy Development Director for Individual Gifts.  Bacchetti has been involved in development for 25 years, as Deputy Development Director, she is responsible for museum membership, special events, information systems, and planned giving.  Before working with the Asian Art Museum, she was Associate Director at Colorado Association of Nonprofit Organizations, and Director at High Museum at Georgia Pacific Center.
Compared to the Asian Arts Museum, the SFMOMA’s vision is of a much larger scale.  In May 2010, they revealed an Expansion Project that will increase their exhibition facilities by 120,000 square feet and hold three times more work.  Their projected budget for this plan is $555 million, and so far they raised $437 million in pledges and $100 million in endowments.  Their ability to raise over $500 million in 2 years is impressive.  Consistent with Kim Klein’s section on Apportionment of Gifts (Klein 282), their 2010 Annual Report reveals that they have a smaller number, 18 donors, with gifts of $100,000 or more, the majority of their gifts are $1,500-2,499 with 300 donors ( As a Bay Area resident, I look forward to seeing SFMOMA’s groundbreaking in 2013, and their opening in 2016, hopefully by then I will be somehow directly involved with this great institution.

Works Cited
Asian Art Museum website
Guidestar website
Klein, Kim.  (2011).  Fundraising for Social Change.  6th Edition, Jossey Bass.
SFMOMA website

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