IMMA– DeVos Programme Learning
Director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Sarah Glennie, reflects on their one year involvement with the DeVos Programme and how its learnings have contributed to a shift in their fundraising approach and knowledge building. | Interview by Margarita Vásquez Cárdenas
Established in 1991 the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is a national institution dedicated to the presentation and collection of modern and contemporary art. With a diverse programme of changing exhibitions and activities, it attracts over 400,000 national and international visitors year round. With its galleries reopened after refurbishment at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in October 2013, IMMA continues to be a main contributor to the development and understanding of modern and contemporary art in Ireland.
While IMMA’s involvement in the DeVos programme coincided with the reopening of its galleries and several staff changes, Director Sarah Glennie comments that focusing on their objectives and fundraising has been instrumental during the past year. “We had lots of useful conversations at the beginning to help us shape the resources that we needed to put in place.” The DeVos programme assisted in shaping the best approach for their objectives and how to prioritise that approach in every level of the organisation.
Primarily, Sarah notes that fundraising has been looked at in a much broader sense. “It’s not about targeting a few individuals that can contribute at a higher income level, but it is about building a wider relationship with a larger group of individual across all levels.” Realising that shifting their fundraising perspectives from a single ask for a singular project to multiple asks with a handful of people and companies have altered their fundraising base. With this new understanding IMMA timed the relaunching of their membership and patron scheme with the building’s reopening. From October on they have been broadening their patron and corporate supporter base and are currently over the 500 mark. They will be celebrating this increase in family members with a BBQ during the month of July as well as other special events throughout the year.
Building and engaging an institution’s family, as learned through the DeVos programme, is not solely about connecting with audiences and patrons. In the case of IMMA they are focusing their efforts on engaging their Government-appointed Board in the evaluation and execution of a Strategic Plan. These efforts hope to include the varied expertise of its Board within the institution and ultimately feed into their mission and programming as the institution reaches its 25th year.
Recent months have seen IMMA host a high profile variety of exhibitions from Irish and international artists. Likewise, they are continuing to enhance their impact and visibility by hosting lectures, symposiums, gallery talks, continuing with their residency programme and even a ‘90s club night. The use of Institutional Marketing and its goal of heightening awareness surrounding the organisation are in full force this Summer with an array of bold and exciting events and partnerships that will allow IMMA to increase not only their audiences but their sustainability.
Focusing on DeVos, Sarah highlights that the strength of the programme is that individuals like Brett Egan and Michael Kaiser are people with real experience. “Too often these kinds of programmes are delivered in the abstract.” Particularly in the area of fundraising, Sarah has attended programmes where the theory surrounding this topic is studied as a way of solving a problem. “But this is not the case with DeVos. It is very useful to work with people who have actually come across the problems and obstacles we face, and be able to ask them really practical questions and get a very real answer based on experience, back.”
Sarah also mentions the high quality and well structured nature of the programme is bringing expertise to Ireland that is not coming from anywhere else. “There can be a tendency in Ireland that it’s just about having the right posts filled within the organisation with the right people, but this is not solely the case.” While there are other fundraising initiatives in Ireland that focus on these tendencies, their experience with the DeVos programme has showed IMMA that “it’s about how the organisation adapts and how priorities are set within each institution that makes a difference”.