NAME: Sheri Kuehl
TITLE: Director of Development
PREVIOUSLY: The Crucible, Alonzo King LINES Ballet
GUIDING QUOTE/TAGLINE: Choose wisely.
CURRENTLY READING: Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda is a series of short essays illuminating more than 80 works by authors ranging from Lao Tzu to Eudora Welty; Cicero to S.J. Perelman. This book is guaranteed to send you right back to the bookstore or the library.
Also: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken.
FAVORITE MOMENT OF CALIFORNIA HISTORY: IN 1904 Dorothy Mae Buffum, age 3, moved to Long Beach from Illinois. More recognized by her married name, Dorothy Chandler was later described as “perhaps the most impressive display of virtuoso money-raising and civic citizenship in the history of U.S. womanhood.”
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT CALIFORNIA HUMANITIES THAT FIRST APPEALED TO YOU?
I was attracted to serving an organization that is making such a broad and meaningful impact throughout California. From supporting brilliant documentary filmmakers, to working with librarians on innovative programs that better serve immigrant populations, I was struck by California Humanities’ thoughtful approach to programming. At a time when the value of the humanities is up for debate, I wanted to be part of an organization with a strong point of view and a track record of proving time and again the humanities are not optional.
YOU HAVE WORKED IN DEVELOPMENT FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS AND FOR A VARIETY OF NONPROFITS, WHAT DRAWS YOU TO THIS TYPE OF WORK?
I have always been drawn to the mission of the organizations I work for. It is critical for me to understand what the organization is trying to achieve and personally believe in that vision. It’s extremely rewarding to connect nonprofits with the resources needed to achieve their goals, while also connecting donors with projects and programs that resonate with them.
WHAT IS YOUR OVERALL APPROACH TO FUNDRAISING AND HOW CAN IT BE APPLIED TO CALIFORNIA HUMANITIES?
Fundraising is about storytelling, making connections, building relationships, generosity, and gratitude. The work California Humanities does naturally lends itself to those things.
One challenge is the belief by some that California Humanities is a governmental agency. It’s not! We are a 510(c)3 nonprofit organization. While we do receive federal funding, we also rely on private institutions and individual donors to support our work with 100% tax deductible contributions.
YOUR EXPERIENCE IN DEVELOPMENT AND FUNDRAISING IS HEAVILY ROOTED WITHIN ARTS ORGANIZATIONS, WHERE DO YOU SEE THE CROSS-SECTION BETWEEN THE ARTS AND HUMANITIES? WHERE DO YOU SEE THIS WITHIN CALIFORNIA HUMANITIES?
I think it is impossible to separate the arts and the humanities, and that together they make up the foundation of our culture. Music, dance, theater, painting, sculpture, poetry, literature, film, history, rituals: these are not luxuries, but necessities. The arts and humanities inspire and provoke, they connect diverse audiences, and expand the way we think about the world around us. Art is important. Language is important. Storytelling is important. History and tradition are important. Insight and empathy are important. California Humanities champions these ideals by giving a platform to those who encourage speaking freely while also listening carefully, and by illuminating what we have in common, rather than what divides us.