In 2004, facing a shaky economy and a landscape full of people with diminishing interest in classical music, The Woodruff Art Center decided to branch out and purchase a for-profit fundraising outfit.
Having already made use of SD&A’s fundraising, the nonprofit Woodruff decided to “get creative” and brought SD&A inside purchasing it from marketing giant MKTG.
As The Artful Manger explained:
“If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em…
In an unusual strategic move described in the Nonprofit Times*, the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, and its Atlanta Symphony Orchestra division, recently purchased a professional telemarketing firm. The $3 million purchase of MKTG Teleservices from Media Services Group, Inc., created in a new subsidiary to the nonprofit, now called SD&A Teleservices. From the story:
ASO’s Wade said the organization had several reasons for pursuing the company, but a key factor was the changing business environment for orchestras, which have seen several challenges in recent years.
“Orchestras and performing arts in general are increasingly constrained in tickets they can sell and money they can raise, and the ability to control costs,’ he said. ‘Part of what led us to this project was trying to be creative and innovative. “
Unusual indeed. Like a dentist with their face caked by an unidentifiable white power and who keeps screaming for more novocain and a nurse with restraints.
Read the entire piece here:
To be clear, there is nothing illegal about a nonprofit purchasing a for-profit subsidiary.
There are, however, some issues that raise still more questions about Woodruff and the CSO.
Namely that SD&A while raising money for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, was also raising money for the CSO and other nonprofits.
Again, not illegal. But…in terms of conflicts of interest you have the ASO’s fundraiser, raising money for the ASO’s competition and you have the ASO’s fundraiser gaining access to the donor-lists of every other art organization for whom they raise money.
One could have a default setting of optimism and assume that just because SD&A had access to the donor lists and the strategic plans of the development offices of the ASO’s competitors it doesn’t necessarily mean they were doing anything unethical with that information.
Except as it turns out that while SD&A Telemarketing was raising money for the CSO, and making use of a donor list that included dead people, and people begging to be placed on the Do Not Call List, and people who had not contributed in 10, 20 or even 30 years, and while SD&A was rebuffing the annoyingly ethical Oaks Spalding (who we know was demanding that the CSO Development Office get its shit together and cull the database) it was also in negotiations with DCM to merge…creating a clear conflict of interest for everyone involved.
The merger fell through and Oaks was sacked. And SD&A was replaced by DCM. Who hired Jacqueline Berkaw because after all, why wouldn’t you hire a woman convicted of multiple counts of credit card fraud to run the telefunding office where, she had access to thousands of credit cards.
In 2014 (finalized in 2015) Woodruff sold SD&A and it became an “independent” fundraiser.
But let’s step into the wayback machine and take a look at the California Attorney General’s report on fundraising and we find that from 2002 until 2005 SD&A and DCM traded places as the principal fundraisers for the San Francisco Symphony every year.
Is it illegal? Not necessarily unless, as has been suggested by two attorneys who have spoken to The Ink, that it reeks of collusion and antitrust violations and covers the period when SD&A was a for-profit subsidiary of…Woodruff…
And of course it’s odd isn’t it that they traded places because, it’s not as if SD&A has magic telephones and DCM has magic callers. Essentially they are other sides of the same coin.
And as they say, wait…because there’s more.
Who was working in San Francisco at that time in fundraising?
Our good friend, Jacquie Berkaw who spoke openly at the CSO, in detail about her time in San Francisco.
See the AG’s searchable database here:
And another search reveals another set of questions.
Beginning in 2002 and ending in 2005 and overlapping with DCM and SD&A while it was, a for-profit subsidiary of Woodruff, another player enters the scene – Diamond-Tel, Incorporated.
And what do we know about Diamond-Tel?
Diamond-Tel, has no prior fundraising history before 2002.
Diamond-Tel vanishes after its multi-year run as a fundraiser for the San Francisco Ballet.
Diamond-Tel lists its “HQ” as a house in Berkeley California, (1329 Cornell Avenue) owned by two women (more on that below) and has as one of its chief officers, Thomas W. Flynn…
Who is also listed as the Director of Development for the San Francisco Ballet.
So…Woodruff is facing tough times and buys SD&A. SD&A is raising money for Woodruff’s competition. SD&A exchanges places with DCM in a back and forth that makes lawyers say “hmmm…smells like collusion and antitrust violations” and then SD&A and DCM overlap their San Francisco fundraising with Diamond-Tel… which operates out of a house, and is run, in part, by a man who also runs the Development Office of an art organization that is kicking money to…Diamond-Tel, SD&A and DCM. (And yes The Ink is aware of home offices…even ones that handle contracts for prestigious art organizations).
And the two women with the house in Berkeley?
One of them is Reba D.Davis. A woman with 6 home addresses included multiple PO Boxes in Houston Texas.
Like Jacqueline Berkaw who is known to have used multiple aliases.
Are Reba D. Davis and Berkaw the same woman?
Did DCM employ Berkaw in San Francisco?
How did Diamond-Tel, without any prior experience in fundraising, land the contract for the San Francisco Ballet?
Why did Diamond-Tel vanish after its contract with the S.F. Ballet expired?
Did no one at the S.F. Ballet find it curious that a manager of Diamond-Tel was also the Director of the Ballet’s Development Office?
Did no one at DCM find that arrangement odd?
Did no one at SD&A ask any questions about these arrangements?
Did no one at Woodruff ask any questions about SD&A’s relationship with DCM and by extension Diamond-Tel?
Did SD&A keep Woodruff in the dark and out of the Loop?
Did Woodruff allow itself to be out of the loop?
Given Woodruff’s interesting relationship with financial accuracy the answer would appear to be no. Or as seems to be the case with its hiring of corporatists with colorful backgrounds perhaps they did ask…and said: yes please, we’ll have some of that.
And, were The Ink to indulge in some speculation and spin out a few hypotheticals we might conclude that all the players, DCM, SD&A, Woodruff and the CSO, are a gang of morally hermaphroditic weasels with a fundraising fetish riding the putrid waves of a weakly regulated industry ripe to bursting with con-men, scams, and operating on behalf of a collection of apex nonprofit art organizations that while producing some of the most wonderful cultural artifacts and while safeguarding the shared cultural history and inheritance of the planet, are also acting like a gang of wig-wearing aristocrats who want to know when it’s tea time at Versailles. And the plebes can, of course, go fuck themselves. Just as soon as they buy season tickets and or fork over their credit cards.
But that would be pure speculation.
Based on an extrapolation of the facts.
And as noted Zen Master Ronald Reagan said: Facts are annoying things.
Next up in our look at the swamp: Who is SD&A?
*The link is now dead but the gist of the article can be found here: