How Studio in a School NYC invested in their development program as a strategic priority

In 1977, when drastic budget cuts virtually eliminated the arts from New York City public schools, the founders of Studio in a School (Studio) devised a strategy to restore visual arts instruction by engaging professional artists to teach in public schools. Since then, Studio has served over one million students, most living in struggling communities, through partnerships with more than 1,000 public schools, community-based organizations, and cultural institutions in New York City and other cities nationwide.

Studio’s mission is to foster the creative and intellectual development of young people through quality visual arts programs directed by professional artists, and to collaborate with and enhance the capacity of those who provide and support arts programming for children and youth. This mission is realized through two organizational divisions: Studio NYC and Studio Institute, which operates in a number of cities nationwide.

The Opportunity

Studio in a School NYC engaged us in 2021 to partner in the recruitment of a new Director of Development. It was a moment of opportunity and shifting philanthropic culture for the organization. The year prior, Studio had named Alison Scott-Williams as its new President. She had previously held senior roles at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, as well as The Juilliard School in New York City. Under Alison’s direction; with the support of benefactors from the corporate, governmental, and private sectors (including Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, George Gund Foundation, Clark Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, and NYC Department of Education); and with the ongoing commitment of founder Agnes Gund, who remained a member of the Board, the organization was eager to grow its impact in visual arts education and leadership development for young people participating in their programs in NYC and beyond. They were seeking a well-rounded development professional, who could create and execute a comprehensive fundraising strategy and oversee a department responsible for raising at least $4 million annually.

The Results of Our Partnership

Key to the successful completion of the search was…

  • Partnering with Studio leadership to reimagine what philanthropy could mean for the organization – and the impact a strategic, experienced fundraiser could have.
    Historically, because Studio benefitted so greatly from strong corporate and foundation support, the development team had focused most intensively on grant writing. However, as Studio leadership had the opportunity to review and interview talented fundraisers with deep experience and success in individual and major giving, they began to embrace the transformational power of a more strategic and comprehensive development program. As a result, we were able to elevate the position so Alison, Studio Institute President Tom Cahill, and the Board of Directors would be welcoming a true philanthropic leader and partner.

The search concluded with the successful hiring of Tricia Blanchard. Tricia joined Studio in a School from Good Shepherd Services, where she served as the Director of External Affairs. In this role, Tricia launched and managed the successful execution of a $50M growth capital campaign, while managing external communications, public relations, and marketing.

Looking Forward

With its 50-year-anniversary only a few years away, Studio in a School NYC is well positioned to grow its philanthropic impact and further cement its role as a leader in arts education.

Working with Development Guild on our search for a Director of Development was a fabulous experience. The consultants consistently delivered the information, updates, and candidates my Board and I were seeking. Furthermore, the counsel they provided, which included analyzing our fundraising opportunities, in preparation for the search was invaluable. We are thrilled to welcome our new DOD, and I am grateful to Development Guild for not only helping us to recruit such an exceptional candidate, but also ensuring our expectations and goals were in alignment every step of the way.

- Alison Scott-Williams, President

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