Solas Nua Volunteer Workshop Results - Saturday, April 11, 2015

Solas Nua is foremost a labor of love for our volunteers--a love of Irish literature, poetry, theater, film and visual arts.  In Irish, the noun for a volunteer is deonach.  The root of the word means 'willing, desirous, eager, spontaneous'.  These adjectives accurately capture the spirit of the Solas Nua volunteers.  Twenty-six members of the Solas Nua community gathered on April 11 for a 2-hour workshop focused on how to make Solas Nua the best arts organization it can be. The lively and productive workshop featured:

  • a slide show produced by volunteer Dan Carroll featuring recent Solas Nua programs and volunteers in action
  • a call to action to support Solas Nua’s Vision 2020
  • four break-out sessions facilitated by volunteer Michele Ginnerty, where participants brainstormed idea about these areas of Solas Nua’s work:
    • Fundraising
    • Artistic Programs
    • Operations and Administration
    • Marketing and Communications

Here is the full list of suggestions made at the workshop in each of the four areas.  The Board welcomes further comments from the Solas Nua community as we all work to achieve Vision 2020.


1.     Fundraising


     Contract with:

o     Consultant Fundraiser

o     Grant writer

o     Grant researcher

      Use the Foundation center in DC as a source of information for grants

     Convene a fundraising committee

o     Develop a list of affluent individuals with an interest in Ireland

      Use real estate data and other free information

o     Ask for funding that is specific and tied to an individual’s interest

o     Make fundraising everyone’s job – board, volunteers, others

     Design an Annual Campaign

o     Set clear fundraising goals

o     Annual fundraising campaign around an Irish event e.g. Bloomsday

o     Do a “capital” campaign

o     Either create and endowment from a "Capital" campaign, or secure an endowment from an organization or person. 

o     Build a bequest for the future

o     Rent/buy/swap lists of individuals with similar interests – theater goers etc

     Ensure transparency

     Ask Irish Center for Arts in NY for advice

     Expand efforts beyond DC into MoCo, PG, Fairfax and Arlington counties as well as MD and VA –ethnic arts funding


     Make sure there is an online donation form on all web-based communications

     Add Amazon “smile” as an easy way to collect donations

     Use kickstarter for specific events

o     #Fill the fiddle worked because of specificity

     Target Irish organizations

o     in Ireland – Business to Arts (Irl), Arts and Business (NI)

o     in USA – both traditional (AOH) and non-traditional (INDC)

     Pass the hat at all SN events

     Network at Irish related events


o     Tote bags

o     Use our cool name

o     Use our “otherness”


     Product first

     Create emotional stories

     Be more creative with the use of video

     Sell our message:

o     Exclusivity

o     Specficity

o     Tailored “asks”


     Do a gala fundraiser with Irish artist

o     Raffles

o     Online auctions

o     Silent auction

     Sponsor a 5k

o     Get local businesses to donate for gift items

     Booths at St Patrick’s Day festivals

     Alexandria Arts League-like art exhibition where you can purchase art



2. Artistic Programs


  • Monthly screenings
  • Audience evaluations in monthly screenings toward adding to CIFF
  • $5 entry fee, keep food and drink available for purchase
  • Once every other month in a more formal setting (theater-like); alternate with bar/restaurant format
  • Show older Irish films, but together with contemporary interpretation of theme, setting, etc.
  • Sell DVD’s of what is shown
  • Use DVD sales as way to entice reduced fees from producers
  • Screenings in different neighborhoods, venues, to broaden reach
  • Outdoor screenings (summer)
  • Patrons wear costume for films a la Rock Horror Picture show events
  • Partnership with other film venues, ie, AFI, National Gallery

 Book Club:

  • Publish calendar with book selections a year out
  • Heighten profile of Book Club
  • Annual subscription to Book Club, providing copy of each book
  • Work with Amazon to capture some profit from sale of given list, special member code for purchase, etc.

 Book Day:

  • Create Instagram account, with photos of Book Day books around the world, “Where’s the Book”.  For example, cover shot in front of pyramids, Eiffel Tower, etc.

 Literature (general):

  • Partner more with publishers (in US and Ireland) on securing traveling authors for readings
  • Partner with other groups in US to share visiting authors
  • Partner with Politics & Prose, Kramer, etc
  • Poetry slams


  • Revive!
  • Partnerships with other companies/theaters
  • Two productions per year: one traditional, one contemporary
  • Audience as artists,  interactive pieces
  • Site-specific plays/productions
  • Continue with play readings


  • Open-microphone nights
  • Comedy

 Visual Arts:

  • Gallery Exhibits of photography, 2-d, 3-d, multi-media
  • Mini-festival for visual arts
  • Give equal weight to visual arts


  • Link/Post new pieces to website
  • Reviews of what’s new coming out of Ireland

 Podcast and on-line video programming:

  • Music, readings, interviews with artists, etc.
  • Oral histories of elders produced by  younger
  • Visual arts


  • Posting a history/archive of Solas Nua programming in last ten years
  • Hire full-time employee to manage/administer programming
  • Outreach to community through education programs and facilities
  • Post list of Irish artists practicing/based in DC


3.     Marketing and Communications

Coordinated strategies  across all genres

Defined audiences, targeted new audiences

Potential partnerships outside D.C. and regionally

Jump on the Kennedy Center bandwagon  for its 2016 Ireland Festival.  Get on the Millennium stage. 

A 3-5 person marketing committee, marketing calendar and strategy

To hire a marketing manager

Press connections and contacts, building PR

Be systematic about communications

Build relationships with key people in media

Give the option of sharing the book via phone on book day; get contract info to boot) Amazon

Distribute at Irish arts events during St. Pat’s Day

More Use of Irish Media

Connect with Catholic University, University of Montana, George Mason etc. irish Studies

Get with Upshur Books on James Joyce reading

Facebook, Google ads (Google gives grants for free ads)

Kickstarter, Instagram, Aer Lingus magazine

Create Solas Nua Ambassadors

Social Media presence, Tweeting

Video blog with subtitles for the deaf (blogging more generally)

Pop-up on home page asking for email address

Catholic University Irish Study program screenings, Solas presence on/off campus;

To start early publicizing

Refresh website, new look (an about us page)

Politics and Prose partnership; Kramer Books

Women in Film partnership

Strong partnership with Irish Embassy with one point of contact from Solas Nua

Website Facebook, other social media

Enhance, simplify and unify marketing

Organizational rebrand: do a logo and image (visual identity) rejigger that encapsulates Vision 2020. 


4.     Operations and Administration

 1.      Records/archives

 1.      Records management and archives

2.      Data base management (Solas Nua donors, patrons, volunteers, other supporters including businesses)

3.      Washingtonia Collection and the MLK Jr. Library could manage our archives once they are organized

4.      Another potential source of help for archiving: library programs at CUA and UMd

5.      Record keeper of member data base

6.      Develop an administration manual (policies and procedures)

7.      Help manage contacts

 2.      Staffing

1.      One paid staff person.  Full-time administrator

2.      Intern (one scheduled for summer 2015)

3.      Interns  - local universities as a source of interns (arts management programs – AU, GMU, GW, UMd)

4.      Interns – need structure, supervision, coaching

5.      Interns - Philippa  Hughes/Pinkline Project

6.      Artistic director

7.      Stipends for program directors

8.      Start developing job descriptions

9.      Hire professionals across the board

3.      Governance

1.      Board profiles (who is on the board?)

2.      Should have a larger board

3.      Link budget to goals and Vision 2020 and create indicators

4.      Prepare and implement a strategic plan

5.      Prioritize the list of volunteer suggestions

6.      Transparency regarding use of funds…clear plan for use of funds…public reporting on use of funds, e.g., publish online an annual report (financial and program results)

7.      SN is in transition from small non-profit to a larger, more professional organization

8.      Track metrics (attendees at programs, etc.)

9.      Accountability and a clear chain of responsibility

4.      Organizational structure

1.      Value of establishing committees (e.g., fundraising, arts programming, marketing, governance, membership/outreach)

2.      Need a permanent physical office space

5.      Partnerships

1.      More partnering (with other arts groups, venues, bookstores, etc.)

2.      Irish Studies Program at Catholic University as partner

3.      Potential space and partners: Folger Theater, Politics and Prose

4.      Booz Allen and other large firms often provide pro bono services in many areas discussed in today’s meeting

5.      Communicate and coordinate, when appropriate, with other Irish groups (such as Irish Network DC and the St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee) in areas that can be mutually beneficial.

6.      Other

1.      Marketing

2.      More money needed

3.      Donate a week/weekend to doing whatever needs to be done

4.      Use google docs to share info

5.      Use website’s volunteer page to share info, exchange idea

6.       Website: review and adjust; add a history of Solas Nua; include movie and other reviews


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