Reflections on an Interview with Dina Solomon, fundraiser for CalPerformances
Dina Solomon works as a fundraiser for Cal Performances and has experience with institutional fundraising for other non-profits including Carnegie Hall.
Dina Solomon has worked as a fundraiser for various organizations and non-profits to raise money through institutional giving from private and government organizations. She explains that setting up or being involved with a non-profit is advantageous because of the tax benefits for donors. Fiscal sponsorship is a great alternative to getting a non-profit status- Dina explained that she has worked with Fractured Atlas which is an organization that fiscally sponsors artists and acts as a middle-man when dealing with donations.
Getting donors can involve foundations as well as individual giving. There is also an option of getting funds from the government but this option is often more tedious and has limited opportunities. The only opportunity to get government money in Berkeley is through the City of Berkeley Civic Arts Program. When applying for funding, you can’t change yourself and your program to fit the giving guidelines of the grant- it is best to see what their focus is and spin what you are doing so you can make it work for you. Another important aspect of fundraising is establishing a relationship with the funders of the organizations you are working with.
There are three types of foundations: family foundations which are run by families as a vehicle for donations, private foundations run by a staff and board of directors, and community foundations localized in the East Bay, San Francisco, and Silicone Valley. A great way to make initial contact with these sorts of foundations is with a cover letter in addition to regular application materials. If the initial response might be a “no”, ask to add these organizations to your distribution list so they can receive info from you in the future, ask about their next grant cycle, and be proactive!
Dina’s advice continued as such: find people who are doing things similar to you to gain access to information about their donors and grant money. It is also helpful to find other organizations who know how to help get funding for the arts in the place where your work is actually being done. When it comes to proposal writing, give them what they want and follow the guidelines as closely as possible. Proposal writing is like sales, and these organizations like to support worthwhile projects. The timeline for funding often depends on when board meetings occur so it is best to get proposals in way before these meetings occur.
An excellent resource for arts funding is The Foundation Center, which is a bank of information about organizations that provide financial support for the arts. They have a San Francisco office that provides seminars and workshops, as well as a library of periodicals with listings about arts organizations. The Foundation Center also has an online database of every registered private and family donor in the United States. This database allows you to search the organizations by grantee, donor, etc. and is listed as the Foundation Directory.