Arch Street Meeting House, a Quaker place of worship, was built in 1804 upon the 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 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.
As a new organization, Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust began by approving a five-year strategic plan in 2015, which recommended developing a number of successive plans, including the resource development plan written by Schultz & Williams in August 2016, an interpretive plan approved in October 2017, a marketing and communications plan, approved in May 2018, and a master space plan, which was completed in late 2019. In 2020, the Trust will complete an exhibit areas plan and will then undertake a fundraising campaign to overhaul the interpretive experience at the site. These plans were supported by a three-year capacity building grant from the SNAVE Foundation, which was awarded in 2016. The Trust has recently applied for several grants to serve as a launch pad for this interpretive overhaul, including to the Shoemaker Foundation, the Douty Foundation, Rhoads Family Foundation and the McLean Contributionship.
- The Trust implemented a bi-annual mail and email appeal, which has consistently brought in over between $15,000 and $20,000 annually. The success of these appeal campaigns demonstrates that Arch Street Meeting House has a donor base to build upon.
- The Trust pivoted from a yearly gala to a strategy including smaller events and major donor cultivation. Since that time, a number of targeted events have been held, both at Arch Street Meeting House and at partner sites such as Carpenter’s Hall. Major donor cultivation efforts have resulted in several multi-year gifts.
- Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust has been successful in attracting institutional support from the Connelly Foundation, PEW, Tyson Memorial Fund, the PA Historic and Museum Commission, the PA Department of Community and Economic Development, The Philadelphia Cultural Fund and IMLS in partnership with the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.
- The Trust has expanded its board to include non-Quaker trustees and 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.
- Schultz & Williams provided development staffing to the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust from 2017-2019, which helped lay the foundation for a robust and sustainable development program for the organization. In May 2020, the Trust hired a new executive director, who has successfully expanded organizational fundraising efforts.
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.
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, S&W was hired to provide interim development staff in 2017. Consultant Rebecca Schultz created a one-year plan that called for:
- developing a prospect list of foundations and grants calendar
- implementing a spring and fall appeal
- hosting donor appreciation events and fundraisers
- laying the foundation for a major gifts program
- 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 a donor database, as well as addressing gaps in procedures for managing gifts processing and accounting with Philadelphia Yearly Meeting 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 two-years were needed in order to solidify the fundraising program and raise the funds to support a staff position. Therefore, S&W was engaged for an additional two-years, 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.