How To Establish Credibility in the Cultural Community

You want to run with the big dogs. You are a successful advisor, yet not an “A” lister, invited to all the right events. You have decided the most cost-effective way of transitioning into local HNW society is to get involved at the local museum. You paid your $100 or so to become a card-carrying member. What do you do next?

1. Do your prospect research. You have likely built a list of people within the wealthiest 3-5% of your local community. This includes professionals like accountants and lawyers. Established business owners like the owner of the car dealerships and property developers are on that list. Corporate executives from the public company headquartered nearby have not escaped your attention. Everyone on this list is an ideal prospect.

2. Cross the lists. Museums and cultural institutions issue annual reports, just like public companies do. These printed documents have names like “Report to the Community” and “Record of Philanthropy.” They list donors, major and minor, thoughtfully organized in tiers by giving level. Look at the board of trustees too. Compare the first list with the institution’s donor list. Focus on donors in the $1,000+ category. There should be plenty of overlap.

3. Attend every opening and event. Museums stage several major exhibitions each year. These are preceded by the members only reception. Go to them all, staying from start to finish. The organization will have at least one fundraising gala. They might have a couple of jazz nights or cocktail receptions during the year. Your objective is to circulate and meet people.

4. Try to meet six new faces at every event. This will take work because these are evening events and you have been working all day. You are prospecting on your feet, although you are not leading with business. In addition to meeting new people, say hello to people you met previously. You are raising your visibility and becoming a regular.

5. Meet the museum staff. Cultural institutions are big operations with big budgets. They have a role for volunteers, but also a paid group of professionals running the place. You might not have a lot to talk about with the curator or director of security, but you have a lot in common with the membership, development and event planning directors. These people raise money. They should assume people working in financial services are wealthy or will be soon. They are already thinking about how you can help them.

6. Ask for introductions to the people you want to meet. Those three people know everyone. They are in a position to walk you over to someone and do the introductions. Bear in mind, HNW social prospecting is like dating: Everyone knows what everyone else wants, but they don’t talk about it. You would not say: “That guy is rich and would be a great client for me! Would you introduce me?” This places them in an awkward position. There will be a reason this cannot happen. Suppose you say: “That guy does so much for the community. He is a great philanthropist! You cannot open the newspaper without reading about his endowing something! I would like to meet him and thank him for what he does for the community! Would you introduce me?” Now it’s “No problem! Follow me…” The right people know everyone and can make introductions.

7. Meet the PR director. This is fun. They will be busy, but always find time to remember their name and say hello. You will gradually become a familiar face. They either take the press publicity pictures themself or walk the press photographers around. If you dress well, you should find yourself in photos.

8. Find a way to get involved. There are roles for volunteers. Some help plan the gala. Others help raise money or act as ambassadors, telling the organization’s story in the community. Get into this role and deliver results over several months.

9. Let them “trade you up” in membership. Members and donors are two separate tracks, but they target the same people. Membership comes in tiers. There are $100/year members and $1,000/year members. The second group gets invited to more exclusive events! Your friend the membership director will ask you to step up to a higher tier. Say yes.

10. Prepare to meet the Executive Director. Every cultural institution has one. They report to the board of trustees and everyone on the payroll reports to them. They know all the big donors and are cultivating the next generation of donors. They get invited to many parties. Do not meet them early in your involvement with the organization. They have been approached too many times by people who obviously want to make money off of the connection. Give back enough through your involvement so your name comes up in conversations.

11. Ask for a meeting with the Executive Director. You have cultivated staff members. You are a known quantity. If you tell the membership director you want to meet the Executive Director, they should act as your intermediary. They will position you as someone who volunteers, writes checks and has potential. The Executive Director will have heard of you or can easily check you out internally. Now, they want to learn more about you. Your higher tier of membership, plus this new connection should get you more introductions to the people you want to meet. This often happens at events large and small.

You have used the cultural organization channel as your gateway into the HNW community. Now you are in. It is up to you to cultivate these relationships, seeing which social ones can bring in the business aspect too.

Related: Referrals To Encourage and Referrals To Avoid