SD&A Q&A WITH ELIZABETH McCLAIN, DIRECTOR OF ARTS TELECENTER (ATC) OPERATIONS

With a new MBA and a fresh promotion under her belt, Elizabeth sat down with our senior staff writer to discuss the most important advice she gives clients, the things she loves most about her new job, and the reason SD&A’s boutique phone rooms are so vital to keeping the arts alive in America.

SD&A: Name one of the biggest challenges facing arts organizations and tell us how ATC campaigns are designed to help them overcome this challenge.

ELIZABETH: I have so much respect for the dedication of micro staffs at performing arts organizations and the amount of hard work they can handle. Some of the organizations we work with in the ATC have only 2-3 people in their marketing and development departments. They need the revenue streams that telemarketing generates, but the reality is that telemarketing campaigns are huge undertakings. If it weren’t for the ATC and the services we provide, tapping into these revenue streams might not be feasible for smaller organizations, either from a budgeting perspective or from a management perspective. ATC campaigns make it possible for us to offer onsite-size solutions and service to performing arts organizations in a call center scenario.

What do you enjoy most about your job as Director of ATC Operations?

Number one, the people. I work with a team of managers who have honed their craft and together bring over 100 years of managerial experience to the table.  Beyond that, they are just amazing human beings:  artists, advocates, life-long students and educators.  And that’s just the SD&A team.  One of the things I love most about our clients is that they work to bring beauty to the world through art. I get to spend my days speaking with leaders at world-renowned arts organizations, and when I travel to meet with them in person, I get to visit some of the most beautiful artistic venues in the world.

For clients, what are the advantages of choosing an ATC campaign?

We’re like that boutique winery that’s a best-kept secret. The setting is intimate, it feels like family, and the product is carefully crafted with attention to detail by a professional management team that has extensive experience in nonprofit sales and fundraising.  The wealth of knowledge in our ATC brain trust is pretty remarkable. Beyond that, we all just enjoy what we do and we love working together, so it makes for a great atmosphere for our callers and great relationships with our clients.

Before you joined the SD&A team, you worked for one of our competitors. What makes our company stand out from the rest?

The relationships.  When I first started working for SD&A, I remember sitting in on (Account Executive) Lucy Schroepfer’s weekly meetings and thinking, “Wow! The clients are enjoying this!” There are deep professional relationships that stem from the honesty and transparency that SD&A provides.  We build our relationships based on trust, and while it’s certainly a lot more fun to deliver great news, like surpassing a goal or bringing in a record-high gift, we always paint a full picture of the full campaign story, which increases the trust. Beyond that, it’s the credibility that the SD&A name has in the marketplace. We’re known for delivering creative and individual campaign design to every single client. That’s one of the reasons I’m so proud of the work our ATC staff accomplishes each day. They’re bringing the same level of service we provide to our largest onsite clients into a call center setting so smaller clients can succeed.  And to me that’s what makes SD&A so great. We love and care about the arts and bringing beauty to the world, and when our smallest clients win, that means we’re bringing that same beauty and joy to communities of all sizes, all across the country.

What is the most important piece of advice you give to new clients before they launch an ATC campaign?

As much as you can, treat us like your in-house staff.  We want to hear it all.  We want as much information as possible because it helps us shape the message and mirror your organization’s effort from a different state.  And I think that’s just good business practice in general.  I realize there is only so much time in the day, the week, but the more you talk with us and tell us what is going on in your department, your organization, your community, the better we get to know you and your patrons and your future patrons.

What’s the best business or leadership advice you’ve ever received?

Wow, so much. I’ve had some great leaders to look up to throughout the years, so it’s tough to pick just one.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Get your hands dirty.
  2. Humility, honesty and humor are the trinity of leadership.
  3. Never let yourself fall into the “because we always have” trap; always move forward and always be an agent of positive growth and change.
  4. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

What do you do for enjoyment when you’re not working?

I’ve found some free time again now that I’m finished with my MBA program, so right now I’m really enjoying spending quality time with my husband — who also has a long history of working with nonprofit arts organizations — and our kids, Matthias and Mariana (5 years-old and 3 years-old respectively) and our cat Edward (11).  We love to be outside exploring or in the water. We cook a lot and love introducing our kids to new things: singing, plays, art museums and travel.  We also love attending live performances – we go to a lot of concerts, plays and ballets.