Summer Breakthrough

Megan Fredericks
I don’t think I had a flashing revelation with fireworks towards my thesis, but I definitely experienced more of a summer-long improvement period. Before the summer started, I felt like I had been working towards a thesis subject all year that I didn’t even really understand yet. I knew I wanted to write about planned giving in art museums, and my confidence in the matter ended there. I had somehow managed to patch together a thesis proposal that apparently made sense to others but not to me! Being away from school and forced to continue our thesis work even more independently was extremely valuable in allowing me to further refine and refocus my research, and what I wanted to accomplish. Conducting my own research and interviews made me realize more and more how undervalued and underutilized planned giving really is across nonprofit art museums, and allowed me to understand the bigger planned giving picture. The few people I interviewed as extremely knowledgeable in the planned giving field; I am extremely lucky to work with David Blackman, our Director of Planned Giving, who was able to reassure me that the professionals I interviewed were credible resources.
After interviewing these experts, I came to more fully realize why planned giving isn’t popular among small museums but why it is so successful among colleges and universities, which is something I never thought of addressing in my thesis. My interviewees were kind in advising various other literature and resources to further investigate, and from there I was able to put together a survey to send to additional art museums.
The survey responses not only provided me with precious information to bolster my argument, but they provided a platform in which I could start formulating the suggestions museums might need to develop and grow their program. The surveys showed similarities in challenges and staff size and offered solid potential proposals that I would like to make for museums.

Some of my surveyed museums have planned giving societies while others do not; implementing a society similar to the PMA’s Fiske Kimball Society is one of my primary suggestions that I plan to detail in my thesis.

In short, having to trudge forward through our thesis research this summer ultimately helped my thesis subject narrow and become more defined. I don’t think I was be able to visually picture where my thesis was headed without this period of independent study and this realization was, for me, my summer breakthrough.