The Fun of Funding Raising for Mass Poetry

by Jacquelyn Malone

Brady Moore.jpg

Brady Moore, Mass Poetry’s new Development Director, believes the most important quality in a person raising funds for an organization is a strong belief in the organization itself. “You have to care about the project. It should be fun!” she says as she enumerates the reasons she feels strongly about Mass Poetry. First, the staff commitment is contagious. She says, “The staff and the volunteers care so much about what they are doing. And second, they are able to do a lot with very little because of their commitment to what they are doing. They believe in doing good things with what they have. And,” she adds, “they care so much for each other.”

Brady, who directs strategic fundraising at Liberty Square Group, has worked in development at Harvard University in two principal gift capacities, so she knows what she’s talking about when she says, “Mass Poetry runs a really neat organization on a low budget. If a donor contributes a thousand dollars, it’s easy to see exactly what that money is used for. It’s not lost in a sea of funds. And $10 per month can have a really big impact.”

“Our entire budget for 2014 was around $120,000. Half of that went to programs for students, schools, and state-accredited professional training for teachers, and about a fourth went to the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.” Those education-directed programs include the ever-popular Student Day of Poetry, which this year will be broken into five separate events to serve five different areas of Massachusetts: Boston, North Shore, South Shore, Central Mass, and Western Mass. The statewide SDOP and the in-school programs reached over 4,200 students this year. The events for 2015 expect to reach 6,000 plus.  And this year, as always, Mass Poetry was a sponsor for the youth slam Louder than a Bomb.

Brady looks at Mass Poetry as an organization that has proven its stamina. “Many donors,” she says, “want to see if an organization can survive. They want to see it grow and provide more diversified programs as it gets to its fourth and fifth year.” Mass Poetry has met those criteria with flying colors. Not only have the flagship programs – the Festival and SDOP – grown, but the organization sponsors Common Threads, the poetry discussion program that welcomes thousands of readers from book clubs, libraries, senior centers, schools, churches, and bookstores across the state to talk about selected poems by poets with a deep connection to Massachusetts. This past year Mass Poetry began Poetry on the T, a program that places poems in the slots where ads are usually placed, providing riders a moment of contemplation in the busy clamor of a subway ride.  In addition, Mass Poetry took over the sponsorship of U35, a reading series for poets under 35.

Finally this year, Mass Poetry sponsored an Evening of Inspired Leadership, where leaders as diverse as the Governor of Massachusetts, the former Boston Police Chief, the first female Bishop of the Anglican Church, the CEO of a large pharmaceutical company, and leaders of non-profits, educators,  and media personalities all read their favorite poem to a jam-packed audience at Huntington Theatre. All this on a budget of $120,000!

(To see a full report of Mass Poetry programs, check out our activity report for the year.)

Brady says the organization isn’t through growing. “We have a prominent footprint on the North Shore where the Festival is held every year in Salem, and people in Boston know what the Poetry on the T is, and we will be broadening out the reach of Student Day of Poetry. But we would love to do more.”

She mentions one idea Mass Poetry would like to take on next year – if we can raise the funds to do it. This past year Boston named a Literary District that flagged 88 literary landmarks in the downtown area. “Michael [Ansara] would like to see us bring poetry to its cafes and restaurants, to provide them with posters, coasters, and napkins with poems on them. He’d also like to see us bring community leaders together to talk about what they like about poetry and to see if we can incorporate elements into their programs.” 

But it all depends on fund raising. “We are at capacity now,” says Brady. “Think of what we already do on $120,000!” Again, that includes: the Mass Poetry Festival, Common Threads, Student Day of Poetry, Professional Development for teachers, Poetry on the T, U35, and an Evening of Inspired Leadership.

We are counting on you, our readers, to expand our reach.