Melissa Cowley Wolf has 20 years of experience in strategic planning, philanthropy, and programming for art museums and institutions of higher education across the United States. She has worked with internationally renowned cultural, corporate, and academic leaders, philanthropists, collectors, and artists.
As an advisor to organizations and next generation philanthropists and arts advocate working across industries, she was named to the Artnet 2020 Innovators List as one of 51 global innovators transforming the art industry.
Melissa works with nonprofits organizations on Organizational Assessment, Narrative Assessment and Redevelopment, Strategic Planning and Positioning, Capital and Endowment Campaign Planning and Feasibility Studies, Individual and Institutional Major Gift Pipeline Development, Board Development, Expansion Planning, Recruitment, and more.
Clients, collaborators, and partners include cultural organizations, museums, foundations, family offices, philanthropists, collectors, financial institutions, media companies, universities, galleries, artists, art fairs, auction houses, and corporations throughout the world.
Melissa is also the director of the Arts Funders Forum (AFF) an advocacy, media, convening, and research platform designed to increase private support for the arts and develop new models of impact-driven financial support for the cultural sector.
Her work has been profiled in The New York Times, Financial Times, Inside Philanthropy, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Art Newspaper, Artnet News, and more. Melissa is a contributor to Artnet and The International Family Offices Journal, a member of the World Economic Forum Arts & Culture Global Solidarity Network, and a frequent speaker on cultural philanthropy.
She received a B.A. in Art History from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a M.A. in Arts Administration from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Below are a few testimonials from organizations Melissa has worked with:
“Melissa’s presentation about engaging the next generation of cultural donors provided critical information for theater leaders. The current unprecedented transfer of generational wealth calls for radical refocusing of fundraising strategies, and Melissa offered up sage and practical advice for our sector. The session was brilliantly prepared and delivered. It was clear, well organized, and focused on practical steps. Melissa presented with humor, passion and the self-confidence of a seasoned and highly effective leader.” — Former NEA official and Trustee
“Melissa shared with our clients her expertise for navigating the art world in today’s ever changing environment. With a virtual audience filled of CEO founders and entrepreneurs, she was able to provide succinct, achievable takeaways for novice and advanced art enthusiasts alike. From how to start a collection, to authentically engaging with artists, to successfully achieving philanthropic impact. It is a true privilege to have a partner in Melissa, as she is able to help guide our clients on their evolving art journeys.” —Lorrie Zimecki, CMP, CGSP, Director, Lifestyle Services, Cresset Capital
“Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) worked with Melissa on a major grant aimed at funding the digitization of the Museum's collection. With her expertise and outside perspective, we were able to create a competitive proposal that the entire team, including the Museum's President & CEO, felt confident about. We would recommend Melissa because of her thoughtful input and guidance, her work ethic, and her ability to take on a project as if she worked at the organization.” — Todd Heustess, Vice President of Development, MOLAA
“Melissa is full of energy and great ideas. She is very good at solving problems and thinking quickly. She always has a creative approach to programming. She can get along with anyone and is a true team player.” — Benjamin Prosky, Executive Director, AIANY, and Center for Architecture
“I partnered with Melissa in the lead up to the inaugural Art Funders Forum conference. Her exceptional workflow skills, creativity, and leadership created an inspired working partnership and resulted in an incredibly impressive and successful inaugural conference. I remain in awe of her ability to command the room, bring people together, and foster a genuine sense of community within a few short months leading up to The Forum.” — Spencer Sharp, President and Founder of 718 Media
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