Meeting Review

Meeting Mathilde Smit (II)

Summary by Adam Rakestraw

Enter Mathilde Smit: 

In the interview with Mathilde Smit the first questions we had for her was understanding her background. We wanted to gather context for her past to better understand her future. Mathilde’s background was studying at Utrecht University in language and culture studies and international relations. After graduating she found herself working in government services for 5 years. It was in the later half of this she was wanting to have a change and transition into the cultural sector, or at least a field more related to her academic background. Thus, she landed at FOAM as the director of Foam;s young donor circle. Foam Museum or Foam Fotografiemuseum in Dutch is Amsterdam’s leading contemporary photography cultural institution.

Mathilde had to establish her role at FOAM as the young donors circle was a relatively new concept. With in this role she defined the job as always connecting people, be primary responsible for finding donors and connecting, look into and relay organizational values, understand and promote FOAM projects, and the main objective being to find out people and connecting them to what the organization has to offer. So by this last point, Mathilde’s goal was to understand on a personal level potential donors. By making the organization outreach more personal, Mathilde discussed that this added a layer for the donor in which seemed as FOAM really want to invest in their donors as much as they wanted their donors to invest into FOAM. Her focuses is on gathering private donors, mainly age 25-45 in order to keep the demography younger. This is a strategy to hopefully transition what would be “foam fans” or entry level donors into “lifelong members,” as in recruiting early in order to keep donors lifelong loyal. This strategy is maintained by making sure Mathilde is always has a presences at events. This allows for connecting to potential donors, mainly friends of already donors, as well as a level of keeping consistency. Another strategy is to utilize resources such as social media in order to connect to more potential donors. Mathilde sees Facebook as a means to discovers background identities via social media to build a character profile on donors.

This all relates back into trying to keep FOAM young donors circle experience feeling personalized and intimate for the donor. Mathilde furthers this concept by

developing a foam fan day to acknowledge donor support. In her own words, “If you want donors, treating fans is what helps .”

This text will now breakdown into three main points which exemplify Mathildes work at FOAM.

1st Part: Club Foam

So questions we wanted to know in particular to club foam include when it has been created? What is your specific influence on the policy managing of the Club Foam? As well, What do we know about Club FOAM?  To answer these questions we were told that Club Foam does include a particular young audience which pay a membership fee of 300e. The benefits of this fee include 2 tickets to exhibits, private tours, photography workshops, events, magazine, 10% discount for the bookshop curators contact and international photographic museums, and an annual organized trip to Paris. In particular to Club Foams creation, the organization wanted to open club that appealed more to diverse group, wanted to move past only an interest in photography, and wanted to target a new group of people to supporting cultural institutions, namely Millennials. Foam was found 15 years ago and as a young institution it already as gathered much international recognition. Funding is done mainly through private donations efforts, yet Foam budget always had less that 20% government subsidies.

2nd Part: Philanthropy & Social Capital

So conceptual, our group wanted to understand Foam further. We were curious to the to the non-material benefits to joining Club Foam. Mathilde elaborated on joining Club Foam as a means toward going social capital, or creating opportunities through interpersonal interaction. Some donors who joined were looking for job possibilities and more networking options. As well, some donors were going purely for the philanthropic side or did have a taste toward contemporary photograph. Which ever reason a person did join Club Foam, the organization did form a community aspect, or gave a purpose and sense of being  toward individuals whom shared the same experience. We did want to know how important the social aspect is in donation in general? Mathilda defined the social aspect as creating a sense of accountability and public duty by connecting with citizenship for group belonging. 

3rd Part: Human aspect

There our group transition into questioning the personal behavior and approaches into maintaining the organizations group cohesion. We asked what were the human relation aspects of your job? Important characteristics is with having trust in relationship, sometimes friendship that exploiting mutual interest. In this case supporting Club Foam. The main idea of Club Foam is to connect people to people and people to projects. This is achieved by organizing a lot of events to see donors. With the interaction at these events focused on keeping conversation social and common, as a means to never allow for a potential donor to feel awkward or out of place. Thus creating an atmosphere of inclusion is at the core of Club Foam as an organization.  It is best to understand Foam in Mathilde’s own words, “if you find something important you should support it”.

Our group grateful appreciates our interview with Mathilde Smit at Foam Museum.


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