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IMA searching for executive to lead big capital campaign

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The Indianapolis Museum of Art is gearing up for a major campaign and will create a senior management position in fundraising.
CEO Maxwell Anderson said the national search for a “chief development officer” coincides with strategic planning that will result in a capital campaign for a still-unspecified amount.

Max Anderson Anderson

The campaign will focus on building the museum’s endowment and supporting existing programs, rather than new construction, Anderson said. The IMA already has a development department—where the top job is vacant—but Anderson said he expects the new, high-level officer to play a more strategic role than past directors.

The fundraising push comes after the museum’s main source of income, a $315 million endowment, suffered heavy losses in late 2008 and 2009. That precipitated $7 million in budget cuts over the last 18 months.

Anderson said the IMA is realizing it needs to rely less on the hefty endowment.

“The fundraising functions haven’t been as assertive and front-and-center as with other institutions,” he said. “We need to be more resolute and hard-working in finding support for the museum.”

Anderson added that he, not the CDO, will be the rainmaker.

“Fundraising is my job,” he said. “It’s the job of our curators, our conservators.”

Future success in fundraising will depend on how well the new CDO clicks with Anderson, said Joyce Sommers, retired director of the Indianapolis Art Center. (Sommers built an oft-noted reputation for raising money in her 33 years at the helm of the community art center.)

“His profile is an asset for fundraising,” Sommers said of Anderson. “The person below him, they have to be really in tune. They have to be close.”

In the midst of the belt-tightening, the museum has lost two development directors and a top-donating board member. The latest departure is Kathy Nagler, a longtime arts fundraiser who was the development director until she took on a lesser role in March. Nagler said she stepped down as department head because she wanted to cut back her hours.

Nagler succeeded Fred Duncan, who left in August to become executive director of the cancer agency Little Red Door.

In addition to the staff departures, the board of governors lost its leading fundraiser, Wayne Zink, when he resigned in November. Zink had worked on two gala events. The museum’s 375-seat reception hall, the Deer-Zink Pavilion, is named for Zink and his partner, Randolph Deer.

Zink has declined to talk about why he left the IMA’s board.

“Fundraising is really hard right now. The IMA is no exception,” said Nagler, who is leaving the IMA to become the first development director at the Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis.

Anderson doesn’t think the turnover will hurt the museum’s chances of hitting its annual fundraising target, which is set about $500,000 higher for 2011, to $3.2 million.

“We don’t expect to see a setback,” he said.

The IMA twice revised its 2010 budget, finally to $21.8 million for the year ended June 30, partly because of lowered fundraising targets. The last revision in January required $2 million in across-the-board expense-cutting.

Anderson joined the IMA in 2006, the same year the museum completed a $74 million expansion. By the end of 2007, the endowment had swelled to $393 million, and the museum was drawing 8 percent to cover its operations.

The air rushed out of that cushion in late 2008, and the museum—like most cultural institutions—went through a series of painful adjustments. The fiscal 2011 budget that begins July 1 is $21.2 million, even lower than last year’s.

Annual donations will become more important as the IMA scales back its endowment draw rate, currently 7.3 percent for general operating revenue and 5.5 percent for other funds, Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Bartenbach said.

Expenses for the museum’s new sculpture park, as well as a 2008 acquisition, the Miller home in Columbus, Ind., are covered through separate operating endowments.

One focus of the capital campaign will be to set up endowment funds for key staff members, Anderson said. Indianapolis mall titan Melvin Simon, who died last fall, and his wife, Bren, endowed the CEO position in 2007 with a $10 million gift.

“That’s basically budget relief going forward,” Anderson said.

Sommers said it’s important for the IMA’s top managers to buy into Anderson’s vision.

“It’s gathering your team,” she said.

Anderson, former director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, has filled two other top spots with New Yorkers. Chief Operating Officer J. Nicholas Cameron joined the IMA in September after 30 years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Design arts curator R. Craig Miller came to the IMA from Denver, but also worked at the Met.

IMA board members hired Anderson to elevate the museum’s reputation. With this month’s opening of 100 Acres: the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, Chairman Steve Russell said, “We’re well en route to being one of the great museums in America.”•

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