In this series of interviews we ask art professionals about their jobs and career after graduation. No matter where you live to find a job after humanities degrees it’s not an easy thing. We try to find out what “perfect job” means for them. This time we speak with Zofia Koźniewska – the fundraiser at the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw.
She tells us what job skills you should have or you should learn, riskiest decision and the greatest successes that reword hardship.
Profession: Art Fundraiser at the Zachęta – National Gallery of Art
Dobromila Blaszczyk: Could you describe your position, duties, responsibilities?
Zofia Koźniewska: I work as a fundraiser in Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, cooperating with sponsors, corporations and private donors. I am responsible for research of potential sponsors, preparing sponsorship offers and initiating contacts. And later signing and carrying out sponsorship agreements.
Since 2010 I am the Coordinator of the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts that associates private donors and supporters of Zachęta. There I am responsible for the membership programme and management of the Society.
DB: What pushed you to become a fundraiser in Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw?
ZK: I was already working in Zachęta in the Department of Marketing and fundraising was part of my job. But in 2009 I had the opportunity to participate in an extraordinary study visit in New York, The American Fundraising Model organized by King Badouin Foundation US. There I met wonderful people and realized that fundraising can be an amazing and creative experience. So I decided this was the career path I wanted to pursue.
DB: How long did you prepare for this job?
ZK: Since in Poland there are no studies that prepare you to be a fundraiser I learned everything from everyday experience. When I started to work in Zachęta I met great people who were willing to share their knowledge and experience with me. Of course I have also made mistakes along the way – but I find we learn as much from our mistakes that we do from our successes.
DB: How has your education prepared you for your career and position?
ZK: In being a fundraiser it is important to be passionate about what you do. I had the pleasure to hear Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt – Gimblet, one of the creators of POLIN talking about fundraising for the museum and she said a very important sentence: “money follows ideas”. Since art history was always my passion my studies of Art history at the University of Warsaw gave me the necessary knowledge that I use in my everyday work. As one of my professors said – we give you the knowledge, but you have to find the job ☺
DB: What were your beginnings?
ZK: I started my work in Zachęta. I remember my first success as a fundraiser were Belgian chocolates for the exhibition of Felicien Rops and William Degouve de Nuncques. This success was sweet!
DB: What were the skills you had to learn and what was the most important skill which let you get this job?
ZK: I feel I am learning all the time! But at first what I had to learn was courage and – as one of the American fundraisers told me – “putting my ego into the closet”. As a fundraiser you have to be prepared that many companies will say no to your offer. A fundraiser also should be tactful, skilled in writing and in the art of conversation. It is also very important to be creative and think outside the box – to find the connections between the potential sponsor and the exhibition and what can you offer.
DB: What was the riskiest decision you had to take?
ZK: In fundraising there can be no risks – when you address a sponsor or a donor you have to be 100% reliable, there is no room for chance.
DB: What was the most difficult task for you, so far?
ZK: When I started to work in the Society I had to learn everything about running a company, even though it is an NGO. Going through the court procedure to register as a Public Benefit Organisation and last year submitting our annual report through the secure account – this was a challenge!
DB: What do you consider for your biggest success?
ZK: The reactivation of our Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts and returning to the tradition of civic commitment that placed the foundations for Zachęta. I believe that Poland has a very strong tradition of civic responsibility and philanthropy. I also believe in the magical words for fundraising: “Please join me” – so I myself am an active member of the Society.
DB: What are three tips you would give someone who wants to start a career as a fundraiser?
ZK: Be passionate about what you do, be creative and believe in yourself.
DB: What is your dream job?
ZK: A fundraiser in the field of contemporary art! ☺
Alongside this interviews, we run a Facebook Group “hARTSjobs” where the arts community can share more opportunities and experiences.
The article was created thanks to the Arts Council Emergency Response Fund: for organisations (non NPO). Contemporary Lynx organisation is supported by Arts Council England.