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[Innovation Series] An Interview with Scott Provancher, President of the Arts and Science Council (Part 2)

IWS-Fund Development 2

Scott Provancher, President, Arts & Science Council
Scott-ProvancherMarking his fourth year as ASC President this coming summer, Scott came to Charlotte from the Fine Arts Fund (now ArtsWave) in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was vice president and campaign director for the oldest and largest united arts and culture fundraising organization in the country.  Scott has been described as “one of the brightest and most creative young minds and leaders in the national arts industry.” During his tenure, the ASC launched Power2Give, a new fundraising platform that was recently spun off to support arts, science, history and heritage projects via online giving in cities across the United States.

**Link to the First Part of the Interview**


When you think about fundraising innovation in Charlotte, Power2Give is the standout.  How has it changed ASC, and how has it changed your perception of donor motivation?

The development of Power2Give came out of donor trends that we were seeing, both locally and nationally, regarding our more modest donors – or any donors for that matter – wanting to have more transparency and a better understanding of the direct impact of their gift.  And the fact that some of the traditional fundraising models – and ASC is a great example with its workplace giving – were effective at reaching a certain segment of the donor population, but completely ignoring a huge opportunity to engage people on a more intimate and passionate level.

Leon Levine tells a great story about what made him successful in building Family Dollar. One is that he was a great negotiator, but the second was fairly simple: “I figured out what my customers want and I gave it to them.”  In the nonprofit sector, again, we are trying to preserve models of connecting with individuals that are no longer relevant to the people we’re trying to reach.  And until we start understanding that, and building new tools, we will continue to only attract a very small segment of the population, particularly as new donors.

Some of the charities like religious organizations that receive the biggest percentage of giving, have the benefit of being able to see people face-to-face on an ongoing basis, there is regularity and that is a great vehicle if you have it. But the other 99.99% of nonprofits in the world don’t have that built-in engagement. And even if they do, there are other ways that people want to interact.

What is your outlook on philanthropy in the next decade?

I think the coming decade is going to be a really amazing one for philanthropy. I’m hugely bullish on generosity.  Some of the things written about this generation bode well for that continued philosophy. The other thing that is going to spur investment in philanthropy is going to be the government not having the ability to solve, through taxes, a lot of the challenges people want to have solved in society.  There is going to have to be another solution, and I think mission-based organizations are going to be the conduit for that solution.

The organizations that are going to do the most good in the world are the ones that are listening to who is giving [the support] and figuring out the best way to get them engaged to accomplish their missions, rather than force them into a structure that is most convenient for them or provides them the most decision-making ability as an organization.

How does restricted support fit in to that model? If we’re not seeing the government meet our needs through our tax dollars, does that make us less likely to provide general support?  Restricted support seems to be the centerpiece of Power2Give.

It is easier at the major donor level to know your impact and feel connected to an organization.  You’ll be taken to lunch and provided a tour of the facility, and there are more traditional ways in which major donors know they are “doing good.”  They know the CEO of the organization.  When they give to ASC, they know me for the most part, or they know someone on the board, or are being provided access.

For the modest donor, the less you give and the larger the organization, the more likely it is that you will be disconnected and feel like your dollar doesn’t make a difference. Project-based giving and restricted giving is focused on accomplishing specific, tangible goals, allowing modest donors to feel connected to something.

If I give $25 to buy an $800 snake for Discovery Place, the next time I’m there, I can show my child the impact of our giving.  By comparison, you can’t gather the family around the ol’ annual fund mailing and say, “look kids, we’re giving $25 to the general fund.” If there is an intimacy to that process, it can serve as a teaching tool to the next generation.

Is this the blue ocean strategy?  Is this where organizations can establish new support out of latent connectivity?

I think it is ridiculous that we haven’t adjusted our organizations– and believe me, we are at the beginning of this too, so we’re in the same boat as most – to break down what we do into bite sized pieces, to be able to communicate to  our patrons about how they can get involved as potential donors.

This is an additive strategy, not something to do instead of seeking major gift support. It has to be – acquiring new donors is often expensive, and we have to understand that there is always going to be a cost to doing things a new way. The pay off in the long run, though, makes it something we must do.