Every year, university alumni receive an envelope in the mail, asking them to donate to their alma mater. Donors to a charity are sent heartfelt letters, asking for donations to support a worthy cause. While these correspondences are considered pesky by some, they are effective and ensure an organization keeps running. One question you might have as someone who receives these letters: how does an organization know who to contact for donations? With limited resources, how do they ensure their donor outreach is effective?
This is where AES Alum Melanie Pozdol comes in. As a Program Manager (Analytics) at Grenzebach Glier & Associates (GG+A) in Chicago, Melanie works with fundraising companies and analyzes their data to help them hone their fundraising strategy. She does so with the help of a program called DonorScape®, a software that assesses current (and potential) patrons and the optimal donation amounts to ask of them.
“Because of DonorScape® , institutions can filter who might not be able to give versus who might be able to,” Melanie explains. “Say if someone’s made a bunch of donations over the last five years, we can figure out how much money they might be able to give - maybe they have the capacity to give five million dollars, but not all at once, maybe over the course of five years.”
Melanie is also part of the support team with DonorScape®. “I help with everything from changing passwords to custom requests from clients," she laughs. “I also get to train new members. I love when you have someone who really wants to learn and goes through the training with the desire to learn."
Melanie clearly has a natural affinity for working with people, but she also cultivated that ability in her prior career as a professional performing artist. Before working at GG+A, Melanie was an oboist with the Great Falls Symphony in Montana. While at the symphony, Melanie explored her interest in arts management through various volunteer opportunities with the Great Falls Symphony board and administration. “All along, arts management had been an interest of mine, even from high school,” she explains. “Working with the symphony board and administration opened my eyes to the administrative side of an orchestra and I realized that I actually enjoyed the administrative work and board interactions more than performing."
“I was drawn to the Arts Extension Service program because I knew that having more education would be more valuable,” Melanie says. “I loved that you could take all of the courses for non-credit, which made them really affordable. Plus, you could take the courses 100% online,” She obtained her Core Certificate in Arts Management, taking Introduction to Arts Marketing, Financial Management in the Arts, Arts Fundraising, and Arts Marketing.
"Financial Management in the Arts was scary, but after taking it, I was much more confident discussing finances,” she explains, adding that she was playing full-time in the symphony during her enrollment in the program. “It was really good to take everything that I learned and apply it to the volunteer work I was doing with the symphony. I definitely felt like I could speak with authority whenever I was trying to suggest new ideas in my various volunteer roles within the symphony, rather than just being the 'meddlesome oboe player.'" Melanie was also able to take the things she’d learned in her courses and apply them specifically to the Chinook Winds, the symphony's resident wind ensemble. Melanie maintained the Chinook Winds website and social media platforms, and pitched marketing ideas to the administration for chamber music concerts.
The courses were also instrumental in helping Melanie get started at GG+A. "There was a huge learning curve in the beginning of my job,” she laughs. “But the courses helped give me a point of reference and understand what they were talking about! It’s also really fun to see that the things that were referenced in my textbooks are all real things used in the arts management world.” She would easily recommend AES courses to anyone looking to further their education. "They are great courses,” she says. “You can get as much as you want with affordable tuition and take the courses at your own leisure. It's a great way to get an arts management education."
Even after her AES courses, she’s still learning every day on the job. “I had to learn a basic level of coding and how to use systems like SQL [a programming language] on the job at GG+A. There’s learning to be done every day, you just have to be open to learning it.” Today, Melanie works with clients from across the non-profit sector to help organizations identify top philanthropic prospects (you can see a full list of clients that GG+A serves here).
Where does she see herself in ten years? “It’s hard for me to answer, because just two years ago, I was still an oboist,” Melanie explains. “I never expected to go back to Chicago.” Although, now she’s back, she doesn’t expect to go anywhere anytime soon. “A bigger apartment, definitely. I’ll have travelled the world more, too!”