Looking at the local events calendar for nonprofit institutions, you may be surprised. Black-tie galas have made way for museum happy hours and library beer tastings. As traditional supporters get older and attracting the digital generation becomes more important, area organizations are trying to have a little more fun.
“Every institution is looking for ways to engage younger donors,” says Pratt Contemporaries chair Kate Rawson Powell, pictured, center, with fellow Contemporaries Jacob Hodes, left, and Ramal Moreland, right. “It’s important for them to know you don’t have to be a millionaire to give back.”
The Pratt Contemporaries formed at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in 2006 as a way to increase interest from younger patrons and gain financial support. The group uses a membership model and hosts a variety of events, like happy hours, trivia nights, and the Black and White party (on January 26). “All of our events are after work hours, and all of them are promoted electronically,” Powell says. “We have to think about our audience.”
Following that group’s lead, The Walters Art Museum started its own sub-group, the Walters Enthusiasts, this past June. So far, the group has hosted a private exhibit tour and wine tasting, a brunch and a beer tasting/film screening. “The traditional supporters are certainly much older,” says Noah Opitz, the staff liaison for the volunteer-run Walters Enthusiasts. “You can’t just simply ask younger people to support you. You have to cater to their needs and interests.”
Similarly, The Baltimore Museum of Art recently hosted a late-night dance party and music performance to coincide with the opening of its new Contemporary Wing.
“We don’t just want people to write a check,” Powell says. “We want to create a community that connects people to the city’s greatest gems.”