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Sunday, 18 January 2015 22:00

Q&A: Gina Schulz, Grand Rapids Public Museum

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Gina Schulz, Grand Rapids Public Museum Gina Schulz, Grand Rapids Public Museum COURTESY PHOTO

Gina Schulz recently took on duties as vice president of development at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. She came to the organization with more than 10 years of experience in the nonprofit field. Previously, she held positions as the director of the West Michigan region for the American Diabetes Association and director of development at March of Dimes West Michigan. Schulz says her new position at the museum lets her get more involved in the community and gives her more opportunities for hands-on experience. She spoke with MiBiz about her new role and what she’s looking forward to in 2015.

Why did you want to switch gears from health care organizations to a community nonprofit?

Both of the organizations I worked for were national health organization nonprofits and this is a local nonprofit. That was one of the things I was really excited about and why I wanted to come work here at the museum. You get that hands-on experience here every day. There are schools that come in and you get to see kids learning and families walking through the museum. It’s so educational. I really like that aspect of a local nonprofit, having that hands-on approach.

How does your new position at the museum differ from your previous nonprofit experience?

Before, I really was focused on development. I was meeting with people and raising donations for the national nonprofits. Here, one week, I went to the collections committees meeting. They talked about the things that were being donated and the spirit of Grand Rapids. … It is completely different. Before, I didn’t go to a collections meeting or marketing meetings. Here, there’s such a huge staff compared to what I was used to before in smaller offices. There’s a lot more for me to learn.

Are there any similarities?

Some of it is exactly the same: building relationships, working with committees, having a board of directors, seeking sponsors for the events. There are quite a few similarities.

What do you plan to do to increase donor engagement and/or outreach to the business community?

Through our board of trustees and volunteers at the museum. With the support of the Grand Rapids Public Museum Board, we will be able to continue to build relationships in the community and strengthen our donor base. These volunteers are a valuable resource to increase support for the museum and further our mission.

How might the museum look to attract a younger donor base? Who is the typical donor?

The museum has done a great job positioning itself to attract younger donors. We plan to continue this by offering reasonably priced family memberships with benefits for all ages and using social media as a platform to engage younger donors. I look forward to attracting additional younger supporters by offering hands-on experiences and the opportunity to serve on committees at the  museum. Young donors want to see their donations at work, and we need to demonstrate how their donation is being used at the museum. The museum is fortunate to have a diverse donor base.

What have been some challenges in your new position so far?

The Grand Rapids Public Museum faces the same fundraising challenges as most nonprofits. These challenges include competing with other nonprofits for the same dollars available and working with tighter budgets, all while balancing the increased need for their mission. We continue to work to overcome the challenges in fundraising by focusing on telling the story of the Grand Rapids Public Museum — a place where learners of all ages can be curious — and by sharing all of the positive impacts our education, history, science and cultural programming has on the community in West Michigan.

In terms of fundraising and development, what does 2015 look like to you?

We’re very excited. There is such a diversity of programs that we’re offering here and people are able to sponsor. King Tut is coming. That is opening in May and we’re going to have an opening gala. We have our traditional events that we’ve always had, but I think that we’ve also got some new opportunities.

What’s the most crucial part in fundraising for an organization like the Grand Rapids Public Museum?

Building relationships is the most important. You build those relationships and people really want to make a difference and support your organization. 

In terms of fundraising, is there a time of the year that’s best to make a fundraising push?

We really do like diversity, so that way we’re not just focused on one thing. … We just got finished with our annual fund at the end of the year. And then we have different events that are scattered throughout the year. So we are seeking donations throughout the year and it’s a great way to reach people.

In what ways through your programming are you using diversity to reach new members and donors?

Just the events we have here offer such diversity. If someone is interested in a gala event, they can come to the gala event. If they are interested in a membership, they can buy a membership. If they’re interested in the King Tut exhibit, they can sponsor the King Tut exhibit. We have such a variety of events and it offers the public a wide range to be involved.

How does the nonprofit think or act entrepreneurially?

The museum is fortunate to offer the public a variety of programs — including Maker Faire. … The Grand Rapids Public Museum is forward thinking [and] embraces the collaborative spirit of West Michigan by partnering with other organizations, offering unique opportunities and continuing to expand its reach.

What do you look forward to this year?

We are very excited about the Grand Rapids Public Museum School that will open in the fall of 2015 in partnership with Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kendall College of Art and Design, GVSU College of Education, the City of Grand Rapids, and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

Interview conducted and condensed by Lindsay Patton-Carson.

Read 2278 times Last modified on Sunday, 18 January 2015 22:39

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