VAM 2020 Conference

Presenting at the conference with Dalton Olson and Juliana Grassia.

Last month, I attended the VAM Conference in Northern Virginia with museum professionals from across the Commonwealth. The event was a lot of fun and it was great to meet new people and see familiar faces. There were so many great presentations on a variety of topics. On Sunday during the event, I was part of a session with my friends, Dalton from the Fairfield Foundation and Juliana from the Menokin Foundation. We prepared a presentation on using fundraising to maximize your organization’s mission. I covered networking in your community, Dalton reviewed volunteer programs, and Juliana shared tips with social media. Our presentation went well and we enjoyed chatting with others on using these elements at your site to help drive your mission and development plan.

During the conference, I was able to mingle with conference attendees in the Exhibit Hall to share more about my fellowship. Fellows prepared posters to update everyone on our progress. It was great to chat with more people on fundraising and get feedback on my project.

I highly recommend the VAM conference. It’s a great event that highlights museums across the state, plus you get to meet so many people that are working to advance museums in Virginia. I encourage everyone to get involved, present, and attend a future VAM conference!

Virginia Museum Advocacy Day 2020

Meeting fellow museum professionals in the Virginia State Capitol rotunda in Richmond, VA. We are posing with Jean-Antoine Houdon’s marble statue of President George Washington.

Last week, I joined museum professionals from organizations across the state for Virginia Museum Advocacy Day at the State Capitol in Richmond. Museum Advocacy Day helps the VAM community share its message about how museums are essential to the Commonwealth. Museum Advocacy Day is a great opportunity to share stories, statistics, and educational services with state representatives on how museums benefit the communities we serve.

Visiting the House Chamber.

During the event, we split up and visited the House and Senate Chambers while they were in session. I went with the group to visit the House of Delegates. Both of our teams were introduced and recognized by a delegate or state senator. During the introductions, we all stood and were recognized for coming to Richmond to celebrate Museum Advocacy Day.

Two rows of museums professionals in the House of Delegates public gallery for viewing the Virginia General Assembly while in session.

After the introductions, we toured the building and the old House and Senate chambers. I had the chance to chat more with Kim Robinson, curator at Arlington House, Robert E. Lee Memorial. Kim is also a VAM Leadership and Advocacy fellow. Kim’s project will focus on investigating the issues and challenges related to museum boards and leadership diversity and inclusiveness.Check out her fellowship blog for more info!

VAM 2019 Fellows – Kim Robinson and Rebecca Guest

After lunch, we broke into teams to meet with delegates and senators. During each visit, we distributed packets filled with information on museums. Members from our group shared stats and stories about how museums benefited students and how they contribute to the economy. It was fun sharing these resources and highlighting all the good work going on at museums across Virginia.

Visiting the new Virginia Women’s Monument on Capitol Square.

VAM Museum Advocacy Day is a lot of fun. If you have never attended the event before, I encourage everyone to participate the next time it is offered. It’s a great way to meet fellow museum peers and promote resources offered at your organization. For more information and resources on VAM Museum Advocacy Day, visit

Thanks, Langley FCU!

Visiting the Langley FCU branch in Norfolk’s Wards Corner.

VAM’s Leadership and Advocacy Fellowship is sponsored by Langley Federal Credit Union. Langley FCU has served the entire Hampton Roads community since 1936. It is one of the 100 largest credit unions in the United States. Langley FCU partners with a number of charitable organizations in Virginia, and has an incorporated charitable foundation; the Langley for Families Foundation.

Thanks to Langley, VAM fellows receive a $1,000 award to conduct research on current issues and trends in the museum field. I’m grateful to receive financial support to assist with my project. With the money, I’ve been able to purchase new technology, books, and I plan to use the stipend toward professional fees and travel expenses related to the fellowship.

I’m proud to share that my Air Force family has banked with Langley FCU for over 30 years. I opened my first bank account at the Hayes branch in my hometown community of Gloucester County. Its longtime staff knows and calls customers by their first name. Thank you, Langley FCU, for your continued support of the Virginia Association of Museums and its Leadership and Advocacy Fellowship program!

Year-End Giving, Appeals, & Tax Reform…

2019 year-end mailings requesting support for nonprofits across Virginia’s Tidewater region.

With 2019 coming to a close, nonprofit professionals across all sectors are connecting with supporters to secure vital fundraising dollars for their organizations. Starting in November (or earlier), organizations send out bulk mailings, call and schedule meetings with donors, and tailor messages on websites and social media platforms to engage the general public with its mission and fundraising campaigns. In recent years, Giving Tuesday has been a great global movement to help kick off the charitable giving season. Thirty percent of annual giving happens in the month of December, and 10% of donations are given within the last three days of the year.

How does your organization prepare for year-end giving to meet fundraising goals? At the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, we engaged supporters this past month with our Act for Wildlife! Conservation Fund. We sent out letters, posted about the fund online and in email blasts, and we even partnered with text-to-give platform, Harness, to give guests the option of texting and setting up recurring donations through their mobile device. With the assistance of the Zoo’s marketing team, we have posters hanging around our campus with keywords for guests to text-to-give in support of conservation. Additionally, the Zoo’s frontline staff has been a big help motivating donations from visitors for the Conservation Fund. We have donation boxes placed at registers and cashiers are asking guests to round-up change and add $1.00 (or more) when they checkout. It is inspiring seeing both our constituents and staff members support wildlife, nature, and conservation efforts both at home and around the world.

The Virginia Zoo’s elf, Roary, texted RHINO to 435-06 to support the Conservation Fund. He engaged followers on Instagram with our donation box located in the Zoo’s gift shop.

In 2017, lawmakers passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Act took effect on January 1, 2018. One of its major changes includes an increased standard deduction for taxpayers. Fewer people now collect enough itemized tax deductions to surpass the new standard deduction. Fewer donors are receiving tax benefits for charitable giving. Due to tax reform, donors are examining their charitable giving choices. It is estimated that over the next few years the new tax code will affect middle and lower-class donors the most. With changes to itemized deductions, this group won’t see their donations count like before. Tax reform has been influential for high-end donors. These taxpayers made adjustments to their charitable giving through changing their donation levels, giving to a donor-advised fund, or “bunching” several years’ worth of gifts into a single year. With these adjustments, donors can maximize their contributions and tax savings.

How has tax reform affected fundraising at your organization? Is the new law changing the giving culture at your institution? As I continue to study philanthropy trends, I’m curious how tax reform is influencing either an increase or decrease in giving across different generations of donors. Every year, I personally strive to increase my charitable giving over the previous year. I like receiving year-end mailings and I even save several of these letters as examples for future reference. I also like seeing how creative organizations are with year-end marketing through emails and social media. I save copies of these examples, as well. With one more week to go in 2019, I hope all nonprofits receive a big return from year-end mailings to support active campaigns. I also hope everyone takes a moment to support their favorite charity within the last three days of the year. I look forward to seeing all the giving data and reports for 2019. Happy giving!

Do you have feedback on this topic or want to share your organization’s approach to year-end giving, appeals, and tax form? Feel free to leave a comment on this post or send me an email at I would love to hear from you!

VAM, Me, & Your Questions…

2014 Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts nominees.

Welcome to my blog! I look forward to sharing all my research and experiences as a 2019/20 VAM Leadership and Advocacy Fellow with the VAM professional community. I’m no stranger to VAM. In 2014, I served as its student intern on Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program. After I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2015, I was hired to assist VAM and its partners with IMLS grant project Museums United Phase Two. I later took on the role as VAM’s Membership Coordinator until 2017. Since then, I have worked in finance and development roles in higher education and with museums/nonprofits in the Tidewater region.

Scenes from my visit to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN.

So, why philanthropy? I think I’ve always been a fundraiser. I previously worked in the retail industry, where I enjoyed working in customer service and sales. Every holiday season, most merchants collect donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In 2008, the retailer I worked at participated in the St. Jude Give Thanks Campaign. My co-workers and I went above and beyond to raise funds for this campaign by asking for donations and encouraging customers to round-up their change at registers. My store was recognized as one of the top locations in the country to receive donations for St. Jude that year. I was selected by my peers to visit the hospital and its patients the following Spring. It was an experience I will never forget. I learned that I enjoy motivating others to give toward a good cause. When I graduated from VCU, my goal was to work with collections and cultural resources. I started working with museums, but when my employers discovered I was comfortable engaging the public and raising money, I was assigned membership/development roles. I tell everyone my development career chose me.

Teaching students in Gloucester County how to wash artifacts with the Fairfield Foundation.

To anyone reading this blog, I need your help! I’m curious, what philanthropy topics are you interested in? Is there an area of development that you want to learn more about, but you’re not sure where to start? Feel free to leave a reply below or email me at I plan to highlight your topics and questions in my posts.

As I continue to climb the VAM membership ladder of success, I hope to connect with new museum peers and share resources that will benefit both seasoned and emerging development professionals. I also want to work with donors. I look forward to hearing your stories and feedback along the way, too. Stay tuned and thanks for visiting!