The Arts Appeal: To thine own self be true

In this new series, we shine a spotlight on the craft of fundraising for the arts. Today, we explore the important role an arts organization’s mission statement plays in any fundraising initiative.


While Shakespeare’s character Polonius (Hamlet) may have excelled in offering eloquent words of wisdom, he generally failed in their application. His renowned phrase of counsel, “to thine own self be true” was suggested as his advice “above all else” and yet Polonius lacked the insight to put it to practice, which inadvertently led to his own demise.


PoloniusAs avid fans of Shakespeare at LMPR, we love drawing lines of inspiration from his work to ours. How does the character of Polonius and his oft hashtagged phrase #tothineownselfbetrue relate to the world of fundraising?


At the cornerstone of any successful fundraising initiative, you’ll find an arts group’s stewardship of meaningful and authentic relationships with individuals, funders and corporate donors. No surprise there, but not always an easy thing to do unless we see those relationships founded on trust that is built on a consistent and well-communicated delivery of an organization’s mission statement.


The mission statement is an organization’s promise to its patrons and donors that it will remain true to its “own self”.


It’s much easier to make a case for support when your organization or company has established a good track record of delivering on its mission.

Here are two important questions you can ask of your organization to ensure it’s on task and earning your patrons’ and donors’ trust:


1. Does your mission statement reflect the programming and/or services it offers today?


If not, it could either be time for a rewrite or an opportunity to take a hard look at your activities to get them back on track.  Unintentional “mission drift” happens to the best of us. But when it happens, it’s best to deal with it quickly as it can cause important stakeholders to lose trust in your organization.


2.     Are you communicating your mission clearly and consistently?


While you may know your mission statement inside out, not everyone will. It’s important to ensure your fundraising activities – whether it be your yearly direct mail piece or a speech at your gala – reiterate your mission and demonstrate how it’s being effectively delivered. Is this happening at your organization?


When we solicit funds for – or donate to – an arts organization, we are often motivated by their mission and believe in the work they are doing. While Polonius lacked the gumption to live by his words, arts organization’s will be served well to put them to practice: To thine own self be true.


To see Polonius in action, you can catch Hamlet at Bard on the Beach this summer until September 14, 2013. 


Categories: MPMG