Stephen Yasko

Can You Name Your Impact?

The arts can sometimes be hard to quantify. After all, it is art! The Arts are personal, subjective, ephemeral. But you need to be able to articulate your value in just a few short sentences when you're asking for financial support.

Most donors want to know why your organization is important. What impact do you have on the community. Don't worry if you can't do it off the top of your head right now, it took me a very long time to narrow down WTMD's impact sentence.

Think about the financial impact you make. How many performances did you do last year, how much did you charge per ticket? What's the total amount of art did you sell? How many artists sold work through your gallery?

Then think about what those transactions did for the people who attended or made a purchase. How did it affect them?

One day I was fundraising on a Saturday Morning at WTMD. One of the most effective pitches I used was to picture my adult listeners taking their children to music lessons or marching band practice. Every parent knows that music education and experiences helps give their children a well rounded education. We want them to explore everything, weather they have talent or not.

I would come to a part of the pitch where I appealed to their inner most dreams. Something they wouldn't ever say to a friend and rarely allowed themselves to think. "What if my kid does have talent? What if they could make it as a musician?" You know you thought about that when you heard them strum Smoke On The Waters' iconic chords for the first time. But you may not know how to help them turn that talent into fame.

WTMD is central to the Baltimore Music Scene. The station plays Baltimore music nearly every hour of every day. There are events featuring Baltimore musicians and even a Baltimore Music Coordinator on staff. WTMD is there for them.

And that's when WTMD's impact statement hit me. "WTMD helps the musicians living in our city realize their dreams. When you support us financially, you're ensuring we're here to make the next talented kid a success."

Sounds simple and kind of trite huh? So I tried it out on some parents and at first the looked at me kind of funny. But then they got it. They understood it in the context of their own lives. That's the other thing about impact statements; they change slightly depending on the person you're talking to. Obviously this statement doesn't work with younger listeners and you have to have these short conversation starters stacked like a deck of cards.

So why should I give you money? I'm looking forward to your answer.

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