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The Detroit Institute of Arts' "Art is for Everyone" Millage Campaign

Situation

In 2010, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) decided to go to voters in southeast Michigan with a millage proposal to provide financial stability and allow the museum to turn its considerable fundraising skills from operations to endowment.  The DIA also recognized it needed to reengage the sizable southeast Michigan public before asking voters to approve a tax increase.  

The DIA engaged Berg Muirhead and Associates (now Van Dyke Horn) to institute a comprehensive outreach strategy to develop and strengthen relationships between the museum and the region, communicate the museum’s value and remind voters that the museum was a treasure in their midst. This foundation of knowledge and appreciation for the museum needed to happen before the millage effort’s launch, so when the campaign began, it would open with a strong foundation of public knowledge.

We worked with the DIA’s community relations, marketing, public relations, and learning and interpretation departments to understand and assess the museum’s programming—the vehicles for public engagement and value to the region. We then developed a strategy to break the region into segmented audiences, so we could effectively target Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

CLIENT

THE DETROIT INSTITUTE OF ARTS

SERVICES

 

COMMUNITY RELATIONS

MARKETING

MEDIA RELATIONS

SOCIAL MEDIA

Strategy

Our strategy was to develop relationships between the DIA and community influencers in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and communicate the museum’s value to these counties well in advance of any millage discussion. This created a solid foundation of healthy relationships when the museum transitioned to conversations about the millage campaign. 

Berg Muirhead conducted a multi-tiered segmentation of the region to help focus our efforts on reaching the communities that could be most influential to the DIA’s millage proposal.  The region was broken down by voter-rich communities, then major stakeholders within those cities.

Combining outreach efforts for the DIA and the Art is for Everyone millage campaign, we developed databases totaling 5,363 contacts representing a multitude of organizations in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. From these databases, we scheduled 149 community outreach presentations and meetings. We also completed 23 direct mail and email campaigns about DIA programs to approximately 6,459 individuals.

Additionally, in 2012, we worked with the museum’s executives and public relations department to provide strategic direction and assistance for millage-related media relations. We consulted on millage press documents, scheduled and facilitated 14 editorial board meetings, wrote nine letters to the editors of publications in each county and wrote several op-ed articles.  The results of these efforts were highly successful—the DIA millage was endorsed by every publication with which we met. 

Further, we facilitated 53 media interviews and engaged media for the Mackinac Policy Conference, organized an Art is for Everyone campaign rally the week before the election, scheduled media coverage of museum Director Graham Beal voting the morning of the election, media coverage of the election results party and a media event inaugurating free admission for tri-county residents the morning after the election, complete with a balloon arch and DIA staff members standing at the entrance to thank voter/visitors for their support.

Success

Our efforts supported a hugely successful campaign for the DIA.  The Art Institute Authority Millage was passed in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties— the first time an art museum won a tax increase for operating support anywhere in the country.  The outreach efforts proved particularly critical in Macomb County, where the millage carried by a 50.5-49.5 margin.