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Peer Sessions: Guilds and Membership Organizations
Moderators: Mary Lacer, American Association of Wood Turners
                    Dana Singer, Society of North American Goldsmiths

June 2, 2006

Topic: “Today’s Challenge’s”

How do we successfully market our organizations, both internally to grow our artist membership as well as externally to educate the public about who we are?

Several members shared that their organization seemed to have saturated the market advertising in craft magazines and questioned whether there was much benefit to these traditional forms of advertising. Alternatives to traditional advertising were offered:

  • Launching a website gained many new members.
  • Tapping into local organizations (other guilds, city governments, etc.).
  • Partnering with other guilds.

Applications and jurying process may intimidate new or potential members:

  • Offer “Prepare to qualify workshops”, makes application user-friendly.
  • Critique’s available at yearly conference for new members.
  • “Pre-jury” session in different parts of the state each year.

Other ideas to broaden membership:

  • “Why Join” flyer
  • Open membership to collectors and buyers
  • Maintain database of buyer/collectors from exhibitions and organization events
  • Have different levels of membership

Exhibiting member artists

Non-exhibiting member artists

Patrons (buyer/collectors/supporters)

Educate as part of mission statement: educate members and the public, and experienced members become mentors  

Membership requirements

  • All organizations represented reported a system of fees, with patrons paying more than artists.  Artist memberships ranged from $20 to $100 yearly, and patron memberships - ranging from $50 to $1000.
  • Patron memberships were usually given some perks like free tickets to events.  One group had their patrons pay a smaller fee but requires volunteer work.  While everyone agreed that artist members grumble about the fees, it is better to make incremental fee increases every year or two rather than bump it up substantially after several years.
  • Some groups require members to participate in educational demonstrations.
  • Require photos/images as part of membership.  This helps the member to be more professional and gives the organization a body of digital images to use for publications.  Offer a photo workshop at low cost to help members or have organization pay for 1 shot from each member by a pro. photographer.
  • All agreed that it is important to promote membership as a means to support the crafts culture. Often people want to join in order to access the exhibitions and shows, this can be a negative influence on the organization as it can promotes a “what does it do for me?” environment. Focusing on education, mentoring and socializing are important focuses.

How to educate the public about who we are?

Press Releases

  • Press releases are free, keeps your org. name out in the public
  • Know the contact person, cultivate relationship with editors
  • Send them out for any event, or news regarding your organization
  • Send them out to announce new board members too.
  • Local, State and National press releases are all good
  • These help educate the public
  • Services are available that will send press releases to all magazines ($75 yearly)
  • Some media are only accepting hardcopies through the mail, check with them
  • They were getting inundated with emailed press releases
  • Emailed versions can be considered “not targeted”
  • Make downloadable versions of p.r.’s on your website

Educational postcards:  Glass Bead blowers sent out a pdf file of a postcard that illustrates the difference between hand-made and mass produced. Recipients could print it out and make available to their audience (libraries, galleries, other guilds, etc.)

Artist’s stories:  Articles to publish in local media can be a way to also promote your organization           

Modern communications require multiple communication styles 

To reach all age levels of your membership or the public, you may need to have multiple forms styles

  • Newsletters (hardcopy, emailed, websited and podcasted)
  • “Yahoo Groups” replaced print newsletters some members don’t have internet
  • “Constant Contact”
          good economical email resource
          has sign-out option (important legal consideration)
  • “Skype”
          voice over internet system (free phone)
          good for conference calling

Does the difference between artists who do functional work and artists who are creating “fine craft” create issues within your organizations? 

Similarly, are there issues regarding the mix of amateur artists vs. professionals creating art as their main source of income? How do we balance serving the needs of these two groups? 

Some organizations require juried memberships.  In addition, some also have non-juried members   Some non-professional artists pay for critique by a set of professional members 

One person asked “what is our responsibility to reach out to those not in “the club”?  This can create a wider base of support in community.  One group says they have “levels of membership” where one has to resubmit to be juried every 3 years for 9 years…after that they become “masters” and are no longer juried.  Funding can sometimes require that the group to outreach to all possible members.  Some funding requires minority representation, but demographics can make this difficult

Most agreed that friends and patrons need to be acknowledged as integral to membership

June 3, 2006

Topic: Successful Ideas That Have Made a Difference for Guilds/Membership Organizations

Plan to draw in young people by the American Association of Wood Turners:

  • Tools donated to conference/symposium (ex. Jet mini-lathes)
  • 10-17 year olds were allowed into conference free w/ registered adult
  • Drawing held for 20 complete set-ups for these young people
  • 2 half days of instruction during the yearly symposium
  • There was a waiting list for kids for this year

SNAG – minority outreach to high schools (initially this program was in urban areas):

  • Guest artist with local school
  • Half the program money went to the artist, half to the school
  • Hope was that the school would continue a metals program
  • Some schools went on to purchase exhibition cabinets
  • Program on hold, SNAG members wanted this to be offered to rural areas

Minneapolis Woodturner’s Association

  • Rockler donated 3 lathes to local schools
  • 6 kids were given 6 weeks of classes

Question posed: Why not use craft as a means to teach English as a second language?  State Arts Council, is a good resource for gaining access to teaching and promoting crafts in schools.  Demonstrations in Schools are a good way to get young people interested in a craft.  AAW, Education Grant can be used to buy tools for use in schools

Working with museums and galleries can help promote exhibitions and public interest 

Airports sometimes have exhibition opportunities.  Atlanta and San Francisco airports were both mentioned as good examples 

Use EBay for selling donated pieces

  • List in the fundraising/charity category
  • Tax right off possible, depending on organization’s status
  • Publicize auction in appropriate trade/craft magazines

Website optimizing

  • Buying keywords from Google, helps keep you high up on search engine
  • Check into “pay for click” service
  • Organization may need to hire a service to optimize their website

Professional Development

  • Important to mentor/support young artists with this
  • Craft Council regularly teaches professional development.  They found that this results in increased membership

Summer School

  • High School age “Fame & Fortune” talks and demonstrations
  • Demonstrates to kids the opportunities in the craft schools

Canadian Craft Council has noticed that the gap between finishing higher education and the graduate becoming a viable studio artist is becoming shorter  

It is important to educate the public about American crafts.  This insures continuation of interest and involvement in the crafts 

Promoting local crafts: one city buys local crafts for city gifts for special visitors

They also published a 13 page calendar with pictures of local crafts for city to sell to realtors.

Membership Fees

Most agreed that it is important to increase fees on a regular (yearly or so) basis, rather than wait for many years and then increase all at once 

Requirements for Membership

Groups found that certain requirements for their members helped to make the organization more successful:

  • a minimum of 1 meeting every 3 years
  • a minimum of 1 demonstration per year
  • a minimum of 1 piece for the gallery
  • a minimum of 1 professional photo for publicity purposes

Silent Auction, many groups use a “Silent Auction” at events to raise money, here are comments:

  • can be viewed as unfair competition to artists at the show
  • have artist set the minimum bid, they get that and the organization gets anything above
  • some organizations have the artist fully donate their piece
  • some organizations give the artist a percentage of the proceed, this can sometimes result in better pieces donated
  • “Draw Box” – visitors place a ticket in the box, whomever is drawn gets to buy the piece at the price indicated, this guarantees the required price to be paid
  • It was discussed that artists are always being asked to donate their work for charity, which results in “Artist Fatigue”. Allowing the artist to have a portion of the proceeds can help alleviate this.

For example, at a Founder’s Dinner (fundraiser) for a $500 couple’s price, they are then eligible to win a $500 donated piece.  This event would require as many pieces donated as tickets sold

Gift Certificates

  • Can be a good way to promote more sales
  • Usually not all certificates are redeemed, so this is good too.
  • Gift cards (like a credit card) would be applicable for this

Examples of Fundraising Events offered by various Guilds/ Organizations

  • Goblet Grab, Souper Bowl, Empty Bowl, Christmas Ornaments
  • Handmade items (goblets, bowls, cups, ornaments etc.)
  • People purchase tickets
  • Drawing of tickets gives people a chance to pick a piece

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