Philly Phundraising Phollies
I wrote museum Director John S. Carter, and offered to raise money and help acquire members on a pro bono basis. At the very least, I suggested, he might like to see what other museums around the country were mailing so that his people were not reinventing the wheel.
A couple of weeks later, a large envelope from the Seaport Museum arrived. No letter acknowledged my letter. It was the annual report showing an endowment of $47 million.
The message from Carter was clear: "We do not need members, we do not need money, and above all, we do not need you, chum. We're rich."
Peggy and I joined the Union League and I recounted this sour experience to my sponsor, one of the grand doyennes of the League.
"That's not how things are done in Philadelphia," she explained. "You need an introduction. I know John S. Carter and would be happy to write a letter in your behalf."
A couple of years later, The Philadelphia Inquirer published a grand exposé on the utter chaos and gross mismanagement of the Seaport Museum. Among the juicy revelations:
- Carter's salary was $220,416 per annum, well above what directors of far larger museums make.
- Carter lives in a house that the museum bought for $665,000 and then spent an additional $800,000 to expand and another $210,000 to furnish.
- The museum is losing its shirt on a 1935 vintage motor yacht that it restored and spent $2.4 million in
attempts to charter her.
- A catastrophic loss in the endowment.
A Letter to the Editor
I wrote a letter recounting my Seaport Museum experience to the Inquirer and it ran on the op-ed page, whereupon I got a call from the development director of a very old and revered Philly institution, The Academy of Natural Sciences. He told me that the organization needed members and money.