Power Case Studies

You inherited a few million bucks. How do you make a splash in the arts community?

1. Hit the events.

Network at the openings and the parties — and keep your checkbook handy — but remember not to be a pompous ass. So use the parties as an opportunity to ask questions and get to know the people you may be deeply involved with for years.

2. Know thyself.

Do you want to be a board member who gamely collaborates with the staff or just an anonymous writer of checks? Consider taking the Business on Board program at the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston, which trains people to be better arts board members.

3. Do the legwork.

Bylaws often limit the size of arts boards, so you’ll need to find one with an opening. The New England Foundation for the Arts and Massachusetts Cultural Council can help, or you can seek out former BRA executive director Harry Collings, an insider who knows everyone in the city.

4. Make contact.

Have your people call the institution’s development people, and take the executive director out to lunch. Most organizations want to know if your goals mesh with their core missions, and how you would work with them — Malcolm Rogers may not be impressed with your dream of a wing devoted to puppies playing poker.

5. Stay connected.

Generosity comes with negotiations, which means coming to an agreement on how your money is used: Will it buy sexy things like naming rights on a gallery or a violinist chair, or just-as-vital basics as the endowment and capital improvements? And, instead of committing to a one-time cash dump, donate money strategically over a number of years, which will earn you a broader legacy. (We know that’s what you’re really after). — Matthew Reed Baker