As I drove up to a series of nondescript warehouse buildings, I double checked the directions to make sure I was in the right place.
Inching slowly forward, I eventually spotted the sign I was looking for: Forbo Siegling, Inc. As I got out of my car, I wondered for a second if this donor relationship visit was a good use of my time.
We often say that relationships are the key to fundraising success. But more often than not, we catch ourselves spending most of our time only nurturing the relationships that we know will lead to significant donations. We forget that most people are not born as arts philanthropists and need to be inspired by an experience or a relationship that will turn them into arts lovers.
Well “corporations are people too,” to quote Mitt Romney.
Just like people, businesses need their own breakthrough moments that inspire them to become meaningful supporters of the arts. As stewards of our institutions and the arts community, we always need to be searching for partnerships with the business community that make these special experiences happen.
Forbo Siegling, Inc. is a modest donor to the Arts & Science Council and the reason for my visit that day was to meet with the North American CEO, Wayne Hoffman. After a tour of their facility, I learned that in addition to being one of the world’s largest manufacturers of conveyer belts (think U.S. Postal Service and airport baggage systems), they were owned by Forbo which is headquartered in Switzerland.
As I continued my meeting with Mr. Hoffman, I also learned that Forbo’s board of directors were planning to visit Charlotte in the coming months and were looking for a location to meet. Without hesitation, I said “You should have your board meeting at the Bechtler Museum.”
Charlotte recently completed the Levine Center for the Arts, home to Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Mint Museum, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture, and the Knight Theater. The connection for Forbo is that the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art was made possible with the gift of a $70 million art collection donated by Andreas Bechtler, son of Swiss art collectors Hans and Bessie Bechtler.
After additional conversations with Mr. Hoffman, Forbo hosted their board of directors at the Bechtler Museum and it was a huge success.
In Wayne’s words, “I couldn’t be happier. The weather supported us, the meeting venue was most appreciated, and the general outcome of the board meeting was positive for Forbo Siegling, LLC here. Further, the museum tour that was conducted was informative and interesting for all of them. Of course, they had various connections with both the artists and Andreas Bechtler so that became even more interesting as the day progressed.”
This rich cultural experience has left a lasting impression with Forbo’s leadership and forever strengthened the partnership with the arts community in Charlotte.
Though I wish that all of my corporate visits lead to unexpected partnerships between the arts and the business community, Forbo Siegling is a powerful reminder that breakthrough relationship moments are out there in least expected corners of our communities.
This blog was originally posted on ARTSblog.
*Photo of Bechtler Museum of Modern Art courtesy of the Arts & Science Council.