The J. Paul Getty Trust is plugging a fresh executive into what's perhaps the art world's most counterintuitive job: getting rich folks, corporations and charitable foundations to make big cash donations to an organization that already sits on a pile of investments more than $6 billion high.
The Getty announced this week that Janet Feldstein McKillop, head fundraiser for St. Matthew's Parish School, a K-8 Episcopalian parochial school in Pacific Palisades, will step into a job whose only previous occupant did not gain a lot of discernible traction.
McKillop, who'll start in February, also has been a fundraising executive for bigger institutions -- Stanford and Harvard. She has a bachelor's degree in art history and a master's degree in business administration, both from Stanford.
"I look forward to building on the support the Getty has developed over the years and generating new sources of funding and partnership," McKillop said in the Getty's written announcement of her hiring.
J. Timothy Child, a veteran fundraiser for the University of Chicago, became the Getty's first fundraising executive in June 2012, tasked with finding ways to enrich the anemic fundraising of a lavishly endowed organization that historically has managed to get by without much in the way of donations or earned income.
He left in April after less than two years on the job. Figures from the Getty show that gains in fundraising were modest, at best, during his tenure. In fairness, however, fundraising experts say it can take a year or more to court and land a seven-digit donation, and coming from Chicago -- where James Cuno had led the Art Institute of Chicago before coming to the Getty -- Child had to learn a new donor landscape.
Child left the Getty to become head of the Los Angeles office of Aspen Leadership Group, a national consultancy that advises nonprofit organizations on fundraising, management and executive hiring. He did not respond immediately to an emailed request for comment.
"Tim's initial priority at the Getty was to build a [fundraising] infrastructure and hire appropriate staff," Getty spokeswoman Julie Jaskol said Monday. "Now Janet will have the opportunity to advance that work."
From mid-2012 to mid-2014, roughly Child's tenure, the Getty took in $10.6 million in donations of money and investments -- compared with $9.5 million in the previous two years. The Getty saw an average of $5.2 million in annual donations of cash and stock from mid-2010 to mid-2013, according to its annual nonprofit tax returns -- enough to cover just 1.9% of its annual expenses.
With admission free, about $10 million a year comes from the $15 parking fee and earnings from food service, ticketed events and museum store sales.
For the rest, the Getty depends on the payout from its huge investment portfolio. It suffered badly during the recession, leading to layoffs, but has bounced back with the largely favorable post-recession investment markets -- although Cuno trimmed the staff by an additional 34 positions in 2012 to free up an expected $4.3 million a year for art acquisitions.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, whose budgets are about a third the size of the Getty's, typically raises more than eight times as much money from donations and membership dues, which are accounted for as gifts -- a yearly average of $42.1 million from mid-2012 to mid-2013 that paid 46% of LACMA's average expenses of about $92 million.
Where LACMA has a long tradition of raising money to meet its needs -- and can make a compelling case that its programs will suffer badly if donors don't come through -- the Getty is just getting started and must overcome the idea that giving money to is would be like sending truckloads of sand to Santa Monica or Huntington Beach.
After all, the Getty has done pretty well by living almost exclusively off its investments. J. Paul Getty's initial inflation-adjusted bequest of $2.9 billion in 1976 has more than doubled in value despite billions in expenditures for massive building projects (building the Getty Center in Brentwood and renovating the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades), a steady stream of major art purchases that are the envy of the museum world, and annual operating expenses that have averaged $272 million in recent years for the two-campus museum and the Getty's art research, international art conservation and grant-making wings.
But when he announced Childs' hiring in 2012, Cuno said that the Getty couldn't continue to thrive if it relied only on its investments.
"The work of the Getty has grown to the point where the expansion of our programs will soon outstrip the growth of our financial resources," Cuno said in a written statement at the time. "It is time to develop a program to supplement our endowment....I’m confident that just as people want to contribute to the world’s great universities and research centers, they will want to assist in the Getty’s groundbreaking and important work."
The Getty consistently mount the kinds of exhibitions and programs that corporations and foundations are often happy to back -- either because sponsoring them can bring luster to a corporate brand, or because the project dovetails well with a foundation's charitable aims.
The Getty's three most recent tax returns reflect some nice cash donations, topped by a $1.8 million bequest from architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable in 2012-13. She willed her entire estate to the Getty and also donated the archives of her husband, industrial designer Garth Huxtable, which were valued at $500,000.
Various charitable wings of Bank of America gave $510,000 in 2011-12 and $775,000 the previous year, and watchmaker Swatch gave the Getty $200,000 in 2010-11.
The Getty's nonprofit tax returns list donors and their gifts -- and show that it has emerged as a go-to repository for photography, highlighted by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation's gift of Mapplethorpe's photos and archives valued at $15 million. Spread out over three years starting in 2010-11, the Mapplethorpe gift included an additional $473,000 in cash donations.