Reflecting on ‘Working in the Arts’ with Laura Fredricks

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Professor Kennedy (left) and Laura Fredricks (right)
Professor Kennedy (left) and Laura Fredricks (right).

George Mason University's Arts Management Program, in collaboration with Central Advancement and the College of Visual and Performing Arts, recently hosted an insightful conversation and Q&A session with fundraising expert, speaker, and author Laura Fredricks, moderated by Arts Management adjunct faculty member Professor Eileen Kennedy. 

In AMGT’s Fundraising and Development class, Fredricks’ The Ask was one of our textbooks. One of our assignments was to choose any “ask,” fundraising or not, and to record ourselves asking it, which helped us become more comfortable with the process of asking for something we want. This assignment and our other coursework aligned with Fredricks’ discussion on the evolving landscape of fundraising. She likened aspects of fundraising asks to everyday scenarios, taking one example from the 70+ attendees joining virtually and in person, who was negotiating a lease agreement. Fredricks also highlighted the generational differences in giving and her unique recent experience of working with teenagers on developing their asks. 

Professor Kennedy and Laura Fredricks speaking in front of audience.
Professor Kennedy and Laura Fredricks speaking in front of audience.

As a young arts management professional, Fredricks’ advice felt refreshingly practical and relatable. I was particularly interested in her emphasis on strategies prioritizing quality over quantity when it comes to donors – focusing intensely on a select few who are likely to be ready for an ask, or “top list, next list,” rather than spreading efforts thin across many. 

One thing that stuck out during the conversation was their discussion about The Asking Type quiz, featured on Fredricks’ website and discussed in her latest book. The quiz, based on Fredricks’ years of professional experience, identifies distinct "asking types" and offers insights into your personal asking style and how to improve. My type, like Professor Kennedy’s, was the “Empathizer,” which means I internalize what somebody would think and feel if they were asked for the same thing. Take the quiz now to gain insights and discover your own type! 

Dean Rick Davis introducing event.
Dean Rick Davis introducing event.

I felt the event was a resounding success. Fredricks’ open demeanor fostered an atmosphere of honest and candid dialogue. She didn’t just talk at us; she engaged with the hybrid audience directly, especially when responding to questions from the audience. Attendees were engaged and enthusiastic, both in person and online. Kennedy's moderation was exemplary, steering the conversation with finesse and adding her own valuable insights as a fundraising expert throughout. Reflecting on the event, I feel inspired and more confident in my ability to navigate fundraising challenges in my future career. My own experience as an AMGT student, especially becoming familiar with Fredricks’ work in the Fundraising class, helped set me up for success in my internship. While interning, I led a small fundraising campaign and by using techniques in The Ask, I raised 53% more than the previous year.  

Professor Kennedy and Laura Fredricks addressing audience.
Professor Kennedy and Laura Fredricks addressing audience.

I look forward to using these insights directly in my career post-graduation. Fredricks' wisdom left a lasting impression on the hybrid audience and reminded me of the importance of effective communication and the art of the ask. 

You can learn more about Laura Fredricks and her books by visiting her professional website! 

If you missed the event, you can watch a replay on Mason’s Arts Amplified channel here!  

Author Lauren Stephens Arie is AMGT's Marketing and Outreach Graduate Assistant and is currently pursuing an MA in Arts Management at Mason. She holds a bachelor's degree in music education from Texas Christian University. Lauren recently completed an internship with Transform 1012, a nonprofit organization in Fort Worth, Texas with a mission of reparative justice, working to transform a former Ku Klux Klan auditorium into The Fred Rouse Center for Arts and Community Healing. After graduation, Lauren plans to work for a performing arts organization in North Texas.