5 ways to support arts and culture organizations in Calgary
By Karina Zapata, Layout Editor
As a fourth year journalism student and the latest arts editor of the Reflector, it’s only fitting that my summer internship was at none other than an arts and culture non-profit organization, the National Music Centre. I was recruited to be the development and marketing assistant at the charitable organization, meaning my position was split between two departments. Going into the summer, I had absolutely no idea what to expect; I swore against marketing in previous years as I watched all my journalism peers take it as a minor, and I barely even knew what development meant or what the department did.
Now, 12 weeks later, I have gained so much respect for both departments at arts and culture organizations. A lot of my position was focused on gaining sales (marketing) and gaining donations (development), which are such separate systems that are simultaneously completely intertwined. If there is one thing that I took away from my internship, it is that acquiring money — whether it be through sales in marketing or donations in development — is really, really hard at arts and culture organizations in Calgary. Not only is it extremely difficult to get Calgarians to understand the importance of arts and culture in our city, but it is extremely difficult to acquire funds to stay afloat.
Arts and culture organizations simply cannot use empathetic tactics like most other non-profit organizations across the world. They cannot pull people in by promising to feed starving children or reducing poverty rates across the country — instead, they must prove that their organization is contributing to building a more vibrant, dynamic city.
That being said, I will move onto what I came here for: Supporting the arts! It is impossible for arts and culture organizations to run without the support of the people in their city. If you are like me before I started my internship and loved to support the arts but didn’t know where to start, I’m here to help!
1. Compile a list of arts and culture organizations that you love
I am a huge art geek. I will find ways to stand in art galleries for hours at a time, both because I love art and because I love the calming, inquisitive environment in galleries. There are dozens of arts and culture organizations in Calgary, so find your favourite ones and dedicate your time, energy and money to them!
2. Attend those spaces
As a supporter, the best thing you can do is go to those chosen spaces! It goes hand-in-hand with saying you’ll buy something from a small, local business and actually buying it. The more you attend these spaces, the more you’ll learn about them, which means you’ll be better equipped to spread the word. Make it a date, take your family from out of town, and bring your parents over the weekend as a bonding experience! There is so much opportunity to take the organizations you love and support them in creative ways, but ultimately, it starts with attending the spaces.
3. Share the love on social media
I don’t know about you, but when I visit the places I love, I can’t help but take a ton of photos — even when I’ve been there dozens of times. If you are like me, this gives you the perfect opportunity to share the love on social media! Over the summer, I ran a few social media accounts, including some of the National Music Centre’s social accounts. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that it takes a LOT of time and energy to run a good and engaging social media channel — like, a lot more than I ever thought it could. When you post photos of the building or work, it doesn’t only prove that you appreciate the work that the organization is doing, but it opens up a world of opportunity for the people following you. Spreading the word about the organization on social media is the fastest, easiest way of helping them gain awareness and supporters.
4. Consider becoming a member
Becoming a member of an organization seems like a prestigious thing that only retired seniors do, but that is truly a myth. Over my 12 week internship, I learned a lot about how organizations work to ensure that the benefits outweigh the price. The truth is that most memberships across the city are extremely affordable, especially for students! For example, the Glenbow Museum has an annual student membership for $20 that includes unlimited general admission, an exhibition guide delivered to your doorstep and reciprocal access to 10 select museums and galleries across the country. If you get a non-student adult membership to the Glenbow (which goes for $55), you also receive guest admission passes so you can bring along some friends for free!
5. Give small monthly or annual donations
Believe it or not, small and frequent donations are often what keep non-profit organizations afloat. I always believed it was the million dollar donations from major donors that do the trick, but they aren’t sustainable like small and frequent donations. Even just $10 a month makes a huge difference, both financially and knowing that the organization is doing work that is impressive enough to have regular donors. Additionally, as a donor, you will receive the recognition you deserve, likely flowered with compliments about how the organization wouldn’t exist without you (true) and possible acknowledgement on their website (which is pretty cool).
6. Donate your time and volunteer
Volunteers are truly the backbone of non-profit organizations. Having that group of people who are willing to donate their time and volunteer solely because they support the organization is truly an incredible resource. Volunteering is a great opportunity for students who are low on money and are looking to build their resumes. Not only will you be supporting the organizations that you truly care about, but you’ll learn more about how their system works and be even better equipped to spread the word about the organization. You will also meet people who share the same interests as you, creating a more vibrant, dynamic city together!