Fundraising in the age of COVID-19 has seen lunches and dinners replaced with Zooms. Warm hugs and firm handshakes give way to social distancing. Friendly smiles hidden behind masks.
The personal touch eliminated.
None of this has helped non-profits connect more deeply with their supporters.
As municipal budgets devastated by COVID-19 reduced tax revenues shrink, the cultural sector often bears the brunt of shortfalls. In the U.S., unlike Europe where the government steps up, arts institutions are largely funded by private donors, philanthropic funds and money generated through what is known as “earned revenue.” Those are the dollars brought in by admission fees, the gift shop, on-site dining and renting spaces for events such as weddings.
All of those earned revenue streams have been greatly reduced, if not eliminated, as COVID-19 has decreased museum attendance nationwide and largely put a halt to the big, after-hours, social gatherings many institutions counted on for operating windfalls.
The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, FL is no exception. The museum is seeking to offer more free access to a wider community and a more robust schedule of programming against the reality of fundraising complications.
It has a not-so-secret weapon just out the back door its enlisting to inspire donor support: the gardens.
On November 18 from 6-9 PM, the Cummer will host “The Art of Nature: A Glamping Dinner Party” to support its mission of serving as Jacksonville’s premier cultural institution.
“This is the third rescheduled date (for the event) and we stayed in touch with our ticket holders each time we adjusted the date,” Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens Visitor Experience Director Cara Bowyer told me. “We continue to keep our visitors’ health and wellbeing as top priorities, and we will move forward continuing to monitor capacities.”
Spreading out over the historic gardens’ 2-plus acres fronting the St. John’s River allows the intimate event to mix low pressure socializing with the outdoors in a COVID-sensitive manner. All guests will enjoy food, beverages, hors d’oeuvres, live music, artful experiences and more. VIP guests will enjoy a private art tour with selections chosen to complement the event, along with a signature cocktail.
“The Gardens will be activated with a variety of fun activities. The décor will set the stage for a fancy, bohemian garden party, complete with furnished yurts, where guests can relax in style,” Bowyer explains. “In addition to live music by jazz band Junco Royals, guests will have the opportunity to try their hand at plein air painting with a miniature canvas painting station, enjoy a short cocktail class and learn to create an artful cocktail (or mocktail) with a Cummer Café mixologist, and get competitive with friends over a game of cornhole or other lawn games throughout the event.”
The garden and nature themes pair perfectly with the museum’s current presentation of Rebecca Louise Law’s stunning floral exhibition, “The Journey.”
VIP $250 (includes a private tour from 5:30 to 6 p.m.)
General Tickets | Members $150 | Non-Members $175
Young Professionals (40 and under) | Members $100, Non-Members $125