Filson Historical Society

Culture and humanities

Boosting the Annual Fund

Founded in 1884, the Filson Historical Society is Kentucky’s oldest privately supported historical society. For more than 130 years, the Filson has been collecting and preserving significant stories from Kentucky and the Ohio Valley region.

At the start of our engagement, the Filson’s leadership sought to move the institution to the next level. Specifically, they wanted to…

  • Expand the recognition of the Filson as one of the community’s most precious organizations and be broadly recognized for the value the organization adds.
  • Become a stronger and more diverse organization in every aspect—from collections to programs to membership to leadership—in order to tell more complete stories from the community.
  • Engage in educational efforts to build the intellectual curiosity of the general public, especially youth.

The Challenge

When LAPA joined the Filson’s fundraising efforts, the organization was finishing a significant capital campaign. The Filson’s leadership was concerned that their regular “bread-and-butter” donors had been under-cultivated while the staff had been focused on the campaign.

They also wondered what new local funders they should be securing larger gifts from and which of their past funders could be giving more.

Overall, they wanted more unrestricted annual support.


The Solution

To address these critical questions, LAPA immediately conducted a study of all relevant funders interested in the Filson’s mission of historic preservation. More than 200 prospects were identified, including one possible large government funder. The study took 60 days, and the best prospects were identified for immediate cultivation and solicitation. The 40 funders LAPA found represented over $5 million in new prospective funding.

In addition, a website vendor was identified through a call for proposals, and LAPA worked with the vendor to revamp the Filson’s social media fundraising efforts.

Finally, LAPA fully analyzed the Filson’s donor database structure. Specifically, we analyzed each donor segment to document patterns of giving. We then analyzed the Filson’s fundraising return on investment (ROI) and provided action steps to improve the ROI.

For more about annual funds, click here.

Key Elements

  • LAPA identified 40 new foundation funders.
  • With LAPA’s help, the Filson received a $175,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a new multiyear funder.
  • The Filson’s social media fundraising efforts were revamped and redesigned.
  • LAPA segmented the Filson’s donor database and wrote a plan to cultivate different donor segments. LAPA also guided that plan’s implementation.
  • LAPA designed a community engagement plan and coached the executive team on implementing it.

The Impact

LAPA’s fundraising partnership with the Filson produced both immediate and long-lasting results. Specific outcomes include the following:

  • LAPA made forty new foundation solicitations and raised $1.2 million within 18 months.
  • The Filson’s community engagement increased.
  • The organization’s donor data hygiene was vastly improved, and donor records were informed with giving research.
  • The Filson’s social media fundraising was redesigned and modernized.
  • The organization received an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant of $175,000 for two years of program support.

Ultimately, the Filson’s overall ROI was $10.35 for every dollar spent with LAPA.