Arch Street Meeting House, a Quaker place of worship, was built in 1804 upon the city’s first burial ground in Old City, Philadelphia. The meetinghouse has been in continuous use since that time as a hub of Quaker and community activities, and has been open to the public in an education/tourism capacity since the 1920s. The building is still an active place of worship, a meeting place for Quakers and like-minded nonprofit organizations, and is open for rental events. The meetinghouse building and site have been owned by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) since the early 1960s. In 2011, the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust was established as a 509a(1) organization to establish this National Historic Landmark site as the preeminent destination for experiencing and learning about Quakers’ unique contributions to society throughout history.
Arch Street Meeting House attracts about 25,000 visitors per year, which includes 10,000 school-aged children. Visitors to Arch Street Meeting House can view the historic meeting room (the West Room) and the East Room, which houses an exhibit–A Revolutionary Place–that introduces visitors to the story of William Penn and the tradition of social activism in Quaker life through profiles of Quaker activists such as Lucretia Mott and Benjamin Lay. Arch Street Meeting House recently launched a program called “Ask a Quaker,” in which volunteers are available to answer questions about the Quaker faith and practice from a personal perspective.
School tours at Arch Street Meeting House explore the history of the site in the context of Quakers’ role in social change movements.
In 2015, Arch Street Meeting House created a five-year strategic plan, with the goal of doubling visitor attendance by 2020, overhauling interpretive and educational programming, and constructing new exhibits. The strategic plan recommended developing a number of successive plans, including the resource development plan written by Schultz & Williams in August 2016 and an interpretive plan approved in October 2017. A marketing and communications plan will be completed by May 2018, with a master space plan to follow.
The Trust implemented a bi-annual mail and email appeal, which brought in over $20,000 in donations in 2017. The success of these appeal campaigns demonstrated that Arch Street Meeting House has a donor base to build upon.
In 2016, the Arch Street Meeting House leadership had decided to stop holding a yearly gala event, which required more time and resources than the small organization could sustainably provide. Instead, the Trust held two small events in 2017. The first was a donor appreciation event and unveiling of the renovated William Penn exhibits in the East Room of the meetinghouse. The second, invited donors above $250 to attend a tour laying out the planned components of the new interpretive plan. Both events were well attended and laid the foundation for further events. Several major donors have come to the meetinghouse for individual tours of the space and to meet with leadership, which has become a nascent cultivation strategy.
In 2017, the Trust welcomed three new Board members, including the first non-Quaker Trustee. The Board has been increasingly active in supporting fundraising efforts by personalizing appeal letters, making thank you calls to donors, and talking to donors during events and walk-throughs. The Resource Development Committee is also providing strong support.
In late 2016, the Trust received a three-year capacity building grant from the SNAVE Foundation, and has developed a plan to raise the matching funds. In 2017, Arch Street Meeting House received a grant from the Shoemaker Foundation, and is taking decisive steps to maintain a strong grants pipeline that will increase foundation support.
Today, Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust is temporarily staffed by a Schultz & Williams development consultant who is filling a critical role—laying the foundation and paving the way for a robust and sustainable development program for the organization.
As a new organization charged with operating and interpreting a site that has been open to the public for almost a century, the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust faces the challenge of establishing itself as an important destination for heritage tourists, distinct from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. The Trust must also make the case for sharing the Quaker story with a broader audience without proselytizing, while addressing concerns amongst Quakers (who form the Trust’s donor base and Board) that information about Quaker faith and practice will not receive enough emphasis in the new interpretive programs.
These challenges are reflected in the Trust’s fundraising efforts. In order to build support amongst individual donors, Arch Street Meeting House must make the case to Quaker donors that the Trust is a unique and worthwhile organization to support, while respecting Quaker values around philanthropic giving. The second step will be to expand fundraising efforts to include non-Quakers, which will require developing a strategy that doesn’t conflict with existing messaging to Quaker donors.
Another key challenge for the Trust is that it is building its fundraising operations practically from scratch. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has pledged operating and capital support, with the intention of decreasing its contribution over five years while Arch Street Meeting House increases its earned and contributed income. There are currently no permanent development staff at the Trust; fundraising has been managed by the Director and the Board of Trustees.
In 2016, the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust engaged Schultz & Williams to write a resource development plan, as a road map for building a fundraising program for the new organization.
Based on the plan’s recommendations, Schultz & Williams was hired to provide interim development staff in January 2017. Consultant Rebecca Schultz created a one-year plan that called for:
- 1) developing a qualified prospect list of foundations and grants calendar;
- 2) implementing a spring and fall appeal;
- 3) hosting a series of donor appreciation events and small fundraisers;
- 4) laying the foundation for a major donor program; and
- 5) further engaging the Board and Trust director in fundraising.
Rebecca also supported the staff in organizing and streamlining donor lists and gifts-tracking leading up to the adoption of Salesforce, as well as helping address gaps in procedures for managing gifts processing and accounting with PYM staff.
Another component of the plan was to develop a job description and assist in recruitment for a permanent development director in 2018; however, the Trust’s leadership decided that an additional year was needed in order to solidify the fundraising program and raise the funds to support a staff position. Therefore, Schultz & Williams has been engaged for an additional year, with a focus on implementing the major donor program, increasing foundation grant submissions, providing Board training, and building upon the success of the first appeal campaigns.
Ready to create experiences?