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Michael Kaiser

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My Trip to Madrid

Posted: 07/16/2012 8:24 am

Every year, the Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts (KCICA), a group of donors who provide major support for our international festivals and arts management programs, holds a summit in a foreign city. The meeting offers the committee members to immerse themselves in the culture of another country, to meet arts managers and government ministers, and to honor great artists from the host country.

This year's summit was in Madrid, Spain. Our members toured the city and also visited Toledo and Granada. They visited museums and historic sites and honored five great Spanish artists (Pedro Almodóvar, Sara Baras, Plácido Domingo, Paco Peña, Tamara Rojo) at an event hosted by the King and Queen of Spain. The summit also afforded the committee members an opportunity to watch me teach over 300 Spanish arts managers. It is always rewarding for me to be able to show these important donors the fruits of their generosity; they make it possible for me and my staff to teach arts management across the globe. They were able to witness a large group of arts managers, who are facing great challenges, grapple with the concepts of raising private funds and building a family of donors.

Fundraising, especially from individuals, is a new concept in Spain; like most European countries, the government has been, by far, the major underwriter of arts programming. But also as in other European countries, the major fiscal challenges facing the nation have forced the government to make substantial cuts to arts funding. There is increasing pressure to find new sources of funding and a law allowing partial tax-deductibility of contributions is likely to pass shortly.

Several students in the class have successfully raised private funds. One enterprising arts manager told of her efforts to raise money by starting a membership program. She has already enrolled 100 members and funded an entire production with their gifts.

Her experience made the skeptics in the class rethink their pessimism about the potential for fundraising in Spain. If this small theater company can raise funds from Spaniards, why can't they? The presence of my KCICA members in class also helped to convince the students that they should not dismiss this new funding source out of hand -- because the members of my committee are not all Americans; KCICA includes members from England, France, Russia, Japan and even Spain!

If the Kennedy Center can raise major funds from citizens of these countries, there is no reason that Spanish organizations cannot do so as well.

I look forward to returning to Spain to continue teaching; there is a vibrancy to the arts scene there that must not be lost because of economic difficulties. In fact, my discussions with several government leaders during my stay made it very clear that the government appreciates that the arts are critical to tourism and that tourism is one bright hope for the future rebound of the national economy. I believe that these same ministers came away from my class with the recognition that they must provide technical support to arts managers if they are going to become successful fundraisers; simply changing tax laws is not enough.

Our trip to Spain accomplished everything I had hoped it would: my donors had many wonderful experiences and left Madrid convinced that their donations were supporting important work, my students left the class with new ideas about the way they do business and government officials have a better sense of how they can help them do just that.

 
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