Philly Phundraising Phollies
Founded in 1812, the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences is a major museum. For example, the library contains nearly 200,000 volumes, including every major scientific work ranging from the 1500s to the present.
Only the Library of Congress and the British Museum have equivalent collections.
Unfortunately this once marvelous institution, which has put on some world-class exhibitions, has been eclipsed. It is just down the Ben Franklin Parkway from the mammoth Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has one of the greatest collections in the world. Worse, it is literally in the shadow of the massive Franklin Institute that has just signed with the Cairo Museum to present in 2007 the dazzling "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pahraohs."
In short, the Academy of Natural Sciences is a poor little step-child of glitzy Philadelphia. It would be a very big deal in a slightly smaller city, and desperately needed some old fashioned TLC.
I invited the guy to lunch at the Union League. He was in his 40s, wore the de rigueur jacket and tie, and was presentable and affable.
The Academy had an operating budget of $15 million a year, an endowment and a small cadre of loyal members. But finances were dodgy; breakeven, he told me, was a sometime thing. Yes, they had done some mailings, but it was doubtful if any samples existed and certainly no one ever kept track of results. Very likely, no records existed of what outside lists were used. The renewal program was in disarray.
It turns out this fellow and his staff all had advanced degrees in the sciences. With no openings in their disciplines, they settled for jobs in development—hardly stellar credentials for generating money and members.
I offered to help, and he offered to pay me. I told him that when I wrote to The Inquirer I was not trolling for clients. If we worked together, I said, this would be pro bono. The only reason to pay me would be if his staff said, "Hey, we're not paying the guy anything, so his advice can't be worth anything." In that event, I suggested maybe we would work out some kind of a deal.