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Trey McIntyre Project co-founder says patronage is all about ‘that human touch’

By Kathryn Lawson

John Michael Schert, dancer, producer, and co-founder of the Trey McIntyre Project, and current Visting Artist and Social Entrepreneur at the University of Chicago Booth School, recently visited our Finance in the Creative Industries course taught by SoC alum Cory Sandrock.

He stayed after class last week for a special session with our students on patronage. His approach, he says, has in large part focused on one-on-one communication. For example, he prefers to send individual emails as opposed to group e-blasts, even if he’s sending out a couple hundred.

“It’s that human touch, it’s someone getting a direct email from me,” Schert said. He also discussed the importance of maintaining contact with your supporters once you’ve received a gift. His goal is to thank people at least seven times, in varying ways, whether through an email, in person, or as a shout-out during a speech. “We want that feeling of being part of something,” he said.

This level of attention makes the patron feel like a valued part of the family and can make it a little easier to return to the donor again the next year. Finally, you must be passionate about your project, but also be able to speak about it in terms that your audience will easily understand.

“You’re educating people all the time,” Schert told students. He emphasized that means not just about what your project is; you’re also educating them about why it should matter to them. Schert said that your message should communicate to your audience that “we believe in the creative process and the impact it can have on communities.”