Emily Foster Day (’05)
Emily Foster Day is the Chief Advancement Officer at Boston Center for the Arts, where she oversees all fundraising, marketing, and community relations efforts for a $3.5million multi-arts organization. In her time at BCA, Emily has focused primarily on growing the organization’s individual giving program, increasing Board engagement, launching and growing the annual BCA Ball, and creating a comprehensive marketing and community relations effort in support of a future campus-wide renovation project.
Emily began her career at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where she served for six years, most recently as Senior Development Officer, Annual Giving & Special Events for the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (SMFA). Emily’s early work with young artists instilled a deep commitment to supporting and advocating for the professional needs of creative people.
In 2010, Emily took the position of Executive Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Fund at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. For the next three years, Emily directed the MassArt Foundation’s annual unrestricted fundraising effort and led a comprehensive alumni relations program for a 16,000-member alumni association during a time of extraordinary growth for the college.
In 2013, Emily left MassArt to serve as Director of Development at the Alabama Contemporary Art Center (ACAC), a non-collecting contemporary art museum in Mobile, Alabama. While at ACAC, Emily established and grew a strategic multi-channel fundraising and external relations program with a focus on creative placemaking. Emily also worked closely with local, county, and state government officials to emphasize and demonstrate the critical importance of cultural organizations in the economic development and growth of Mobile and the Gulf Coast.
Emily has a B.A. in Art History from the University of Virginia and a M.S. in Arts Administration from Boston University. She lives in Brookline with her two precocious and art-loving kids.
Q: You are working at the Boston Center for the Arts: tell us more about what that position entails?
A: As the Chief Advancement Officer, I am a member of the senior leadership team and I spend a lot of my time working with the CEO to articulate and execute the strategic direction of the organization. I manage a staff of six in the Development, Marketing & Communications, and Community Relations departments to ensure that we are constantly focused on engaging and responding to our audiences, community, and donors, and that their connection with the BCA remains strong. I also work very closely with our Board of Directors and sit on the Board Fundraising, Governance, and Capital Finance Committees.
Q: How does the BU Arts Admin Program translate to your current position?
A: When I attended the BU Arts Administration program, I was working in the corporate sector. The program gave me a window into the non-profit world that I didn’t have before I started the program, and armed me with really important foundational knowledge about the sector. I use information from my Legal Issues and Finance classes almost daily. That extremely expensive blue Financial Management for Non-Profits book was worth every penny!
Q: What are some of the challenges with your work?
A: Boston Center for the Arts is an extremely complex organization with several disparate but connected identities. Articulating our work and value to the community and to potential funders is always a challenge – but a good one! It is always a challenge to balance my own work and also make sure that I am giving my team the support and attention that they deserve. Also, fundraising for the arts in an unusual philanthropic market like Boston – is that ever NOT a challenge?
Q: As the Chief Advancement Officer, what is the most rewarding part of your work and or working with your organization?
A: The most rewarding part is coming to work every day to an amazing and interesting team of people, each of whom dedicate themselves wholly to the work that we do at BCA. It is also an honor and a privilege to work with artists every day – choreographers, visual artists, performers, and musicians. Finding that connection point between the artists and the people who want to support them can feel pretty magical, and I feel so lucky that I can help make that happen.
Q: If you were interviewing someone for your current position, what quality would you look for most and why?
A: I would look for somebody who enjoyed management and leading teams, had a strategic big-picture vision for the organization and the Advancement function, and a deep commitment to artists.
Q: During your time in the Arts Admin Program at BU, what was one of your favorite classes, experiences, or topics you learned about?
A: My favorite experience was our trip to Cuba in 2002 – it was spectacular. My favorite class was Financial Management for Non-Profits with Hunter O’Hanian.
Q: Since graduating, what has your journey looked like and how did you end up where you are today? Has anything unexpected happened along the way?
A: My journey has been relatively linear, insofar as I’ve stayed squarely in the arts – mostly visual until my most recent position – and I’ve progressively worked my way up the typical Development ladder. I will say that I never expected to move to Mobile, Alabama to work at a small start-up contemporary art center. Oddly enough, that 15-month experience taught me more about fundraising than the 10 years of work before it.
Q: If you have experienced any setbacks, what did you learn from them?
A: I didn’t expect to move my family to Alabama and back to Boston in less than two years, but the experience itself was so formative that I don’t regret it for a minute.
Q: If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself while you were in BU’s Arts Admin program, what would you say?
A: Work hard to develop relationships and a network while you’re in the Arts Administration program. You never know who can help you with a future job or opportunity.
Q: What do you consider to be one of the most important aspects of working as an arts administrator today?
A: Keep a sense of humor and try not to take everything too seriously.