The Field Museum is a must-see for Chicagoans and visitors alike. The Field Associates auxiliary group gives young professionals age 21-40 behind-the-scenes access to the science action, education, collections, and world-class exhibitions that make The Field Museum one of the world’s top natural history institutions. We spoke with Michael Wren, Giving Society Manager and staff liaison, and Casey McCarthy, Communications Committee Co-Chair, to learn more about how this group operates and how it’s related to the larger organization.
Please give us an overview of The Field Associates and your leadership structure.
The Field Associates is the Museum’s young professionals group, focusing on fundraising and friend-raising. We hold a big fundraising event each year called Evolve (not to be confused with the Museum’s Women’s Board Gala); this year it will be held on Saturday, October 22, and will feature one of the Museum’s most non-traditional exhibits, which at this point is still under wraps. The Field Associates is for young philanthropists ages 21-40 who are passionate about The Field Museum mission to explore the Earth and its people. We have a monthly activity for our members, typically involving a lecture by one of the Museum’s many active scientists. As part of our February “Love in the Animal Kingdom” series, we featured an event and presentation called “Shark Sex: Fifty Shades of Great White,” followed by cocktails and networking. We also hold events like social happy hours, volunteer activities (we’re going to the Beaubien Woods in April), and professional development opportunities. For example, we have an event coming up where our members can network and get a professional headshot taken. If we want our members to be ambassadors for the Museum, they need to know the ins and outs of the Museum’s cutting-edge work.
Tell us a bit about how The Field Associates is structured.
The Field Associates has two tiers of membership: the General Field Associates for young donors who want to attend a few events over the year, and the Field Associates Board for young professionals looking to engage in philanthropy and leadership opportunities at The Field Museum. The Field Museum Board is led by an executive board, made up of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and the two committee co-chairs from each of the four committees. The committees are run by rotating co-chairs, with one incumbent and one new co-chair serving every year. The committees represent different ways of getting involved, from communications (including our monthly newsletter) to programming (such as planning our fun events) to the Evolve committee (which plans and hosts our primary fundraising event) to membership (in charge of recruiting, welcoming, and connecting our members).
Casey, what’s been the most surprising benefit for you personally of serving on the board?
It’s been such an interesting and unique way to get involved in The Field Museum, which is one of our great Chicago institutions! I love the access we get to what goes on behind the scenes, the real science action that makes the Museum so important. At our events we get to interact one-on-one with the scientists, and there’s so much more going on beyond what you think there is at The Field Museum. The scientists are doing work with a global impact that we can all learn from, they’re not just maintaining and studying the existing collections.
Speaking of the Museum itself, how do you work with the larger organization to attract members to your board?
Casey: The Field Museum has been great about supporting us as a board. They really recognize that we are the next generation of philanthropic support. We promote our events through general museum communication channels, and our scientists look forward to volunteering to speak at our events. At larger museum events such as exhibit openings, we get a table to promote the board. About half of our members have joined through personal referrals, the other half have found us via organic traffic through the website.
Mike: The Museum is has embarked on an extraordinary $250 million campaign between 2015 and 2020, but really we’re thinking 30 years ahead as well. We know that our Field Associates are so important to the long-term future of the Museum. To ensure this continuity, the sitting president of the Field Associates is brought in as an ex-officio Board of Trustees Member of the Museum, and Field Associates executive board members are invited to sit in on meetings of the President’s Leadership Council, which is one of the Museum’s top-level advisory groups.
If this information has piqued your interest in the Field Associates, you can reach out to Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org for more on how you can get involved.