Leveraging Digital Fundraising to Support Local Artists

Art Enables is an art gallery and vocational arts program in Washington D.C. dedicated to creating opportunities for artists with disabilities and mental health challenges to make, market, and earn income from their artwork.

In addition, artists build the skills, relationships, and experience necessary for a successful career in the arts and forge meaningful connections with our staff and one another. Art Enables offer our artists the creative space, materials, and marketing support they need to develop and succeed as professionals.

In March 2020, COVID-19 upended the way Art Enables carried out its mission, but didn’t close for a minute. When Art Enables shut their literal doors, the gallery pivoted to a virtual support model, in which artists receive a personalized kit of materials, weekly prompts, 1:1 coaching sessions, Zoom meetings, and online exhibitions. 

None of these new remote services had funding from government partners, and Art Enables needed their small but mighty donor community to step up.

The Challenge

When Art Enables shifted to a remote model, critical grant funding dried up. Art Enables needed to rely more heavily on individuals to make up the gap.

For the first time, Art Enables launched a matching gift challenge over email, organic social media, paid media, and a homepage lightbox. The size of their email list would demand strong response rates and a carefully calibrated email calendar to avoid overloading a limited audience.

The Strategy

The year-end giving season was a time for Art Enables to return to the bread and butter of their mission, while emphasizing the new urgency 2020 has brought to their work — and the reasons donor support became even more important.  Our campaign centered around four cornerstone messaging themes:

The Problem: Art Enables’ artists have been stuck at home during this pandemic like the rest of us. But for those we serve, the stakes are often even higher. Art Enables is a personal and professional lifeline for our 40 resident artists, many of whom live in group homes, lacking adequate space and materials to create and make their art.  

The Solution: To ensure ongoing artistic support, Art Enables pivoted to a virtual support model, in which artists receive a personalized kit of materials, weekly prompts, 1:1 coaching sessions, Zoom meetings, and online exhibitions. We never closed, and with your help, we never will. 

Why now:  Pandemic restrictions have severely impacted our funding. Key government funding that once funded half our programs has been slashed by nearly three-quarters, and if we’re going to maintain our virtual services, we need your support, right now. 

Donor as Hero: Our 40 resident artists, who find solace, meaning, and a professional identity through their artwork are relying on you, our supporters, to keep Art-Enables alive. Our virtual programs receive no government funding, which means they rest in your hands.

300%

YoY increase in the number of online gifts

35%

YoY Increase in average gift size

23.9%

Average Email Appeal Open Rate

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