Creating Touchstones: Cultural Alliance Workshop with Karen Singer

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On March 22, a group of 10 fundraisers met at the workshop of Karen Singer Tileworks for a mini-retreat. The group talked about the pressures of fundraising and why they got into it in the first place. They toured Karen’s workshop, learned some basic techniques for working with clay and created a “touchstone” tile, something to sit on their desk that reminds them of the heart of their work.

For some time now, the Cultural Alliance has been strategically working to support the work of fundraisers at our member organizations. In the spring of 2018, we released Beyond the Check: A Roadmap for Engaging Individual Donors to help nonprofit arts organizations develop methods for engaging new donors.

We have also been hosting an affinity group of development managers, in partnership with Key Elements Group, looking at issues of turnover and retention in fundraising departments. This emerged from a research study referenced in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which showed that fundraisers won 6 more major gifts for each additional year at their organization. That was eye-opening! If our members can retain their fundraisers longer, that could have a tremendous impact on their bottom lines. But how can we be competitive with the “eds and meds” who offer better pay and greater success rates?

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One way, we realized, was to help fundraisers in arts and culture remember why they are doing the work they’re doing. To get back to their roots and remember that it’s really about the art and access to it. But our fundraisers are often burdened with donor meetings, deadlines and bottom lines and are unable to reconnect with their love of art. So, the Cultural Alliance decided to help a group of fundraisers do just that.

Here’s a photo of the group’s (nearly) finished touchstones:

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This workshop is about so many things. It’s about supporting the people who do the important work in nonprofit arts organizations. It’s about keeping good people in an important sector. It’s about keeping Philadelphia’s nonprofit arts and culture community vibrant and healthy.

If you’d be interested in participating in future opportunities like this, please email Associate Director of Development and Board Liaison, Taja Jones at