Story 07: Managing the Organization

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"The Thread Salesman"

Written by Elaine Heumann Gurian

We had elaborate fundraising systems. There were agonizing meetings where cherished hopes were postponed for yet another year. Twice a year a team went to Washington, DC, and called on every possible federal funder to suss out every funding opportunity and their particular slants. We went to New York at least once a year and called on every possible foundation to do the same and float some new ideas. People made trips to Kellogg and Kresge at critical times. We carried with us kits of walking papers, of "show and tell," and "leave behinds." We gave a big party annually at the Tabard Inn in Washington for all the workers in federal giving programs and museum associations. We were often told that the Washington attendees at these events saw each other at no other time. Because we were frugal we often catered these parties from local supermarkets. We thought of ourselves as "thread salesman" and gave ourselves solace that sometimes people bought green and sometimes purple thread, so we needed to have all colors at the ready in case they wished to see them.

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