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How second home-owners affect art donations

Oct 13, 2016

Fundraising efforts helped support construction at AMFS' Bucksbaum campus.
Credit Courtesy Photo

Heidi Zuckerman saw the value of going outside of the valley when she became the chief curator at Aspen Art Museum over a decade ago. At the time, the largest donation in the museum’s history was $75,000. Now, more than two dozen individuals have handed over at least $1 million, according to the Denver Post.

The Aspen Music Festival and School, one of the valley’s wealthiest art groups, raises about $4 million each year from individual donors. Alex Brose, vice president of development, said a huge chunk of those come from part timers.

According to Brose, a little less than half of the music festival’s individual donors are second homeowners, but more than three quarters of the money comes from them.


“Aspen is a resort town,” said Brose. “That, in and of itself, means that people come here from all over the world. Whether or not it’s for a week, or six months, less a day.”

The Aspen Music Festival and School has one of the largest budgets of an art group in the Roaring Fork Valley. The nonprofit is a ‘big fish’ so to speak. On the other end of that spectrum is Thunder River Theatre Company, whose annual budget is $200,000.


“A natural next step for us in the evolution of our donor base is to consider people who may not be here full time, who might be second homeowners, or even might be visitors,” said Corey Simpson, Thunder River’s executive artistic director.

Since Simpson took over the job earlier this summer, he’s started to reassess the way his nonprofit looks at fundraising. The way they operate right now, he said, they are able to fund their programming mission. But the possibility of reaching outside the valley, and bringing in larger donors is attractive.


The Aspen Music Festival and School has done just that with its big-time investors.


“What we’ve done over the past few years, which has been really helpful, is we’ve tried to put some money aside to be able to travel during the quote unquote ‘offseason’ to go to the places where people live,” said Brose.


But the theatre company’s Simpson said, regardless of where your donors live or come from, it’s the message and product you put out that really matters.

Simpson is currently developing a fleshed out plan for broadening his donor base. Brose will be traveling to visit the ones he has.