The Metropolitans Are Bringing Back Social Clubs With Style & Class
It was the late 1980’s. Boston’s historic Wang Center for the Performing Arts was preparing for a massive renovation to preserve the theatre. A group of young Bostonians wanted to be involved in the renovation, so they created the Metropolitans, named after the original name of the Wang Theatre when it first opened to the public in 1925. That group of individuals grew up to become donors and board members – exactly what they were supposed to do! But, in the meantime, the Metropolitans were forgotten about.
Flash forward to January 2013. Now called Citi Performing Arts Center, the non-profit organization wanted to engage with a new generation and begin to build lifelong relationships with future donors, leaders, movers and shakers. But first, we needed to figure out what kind of experience this generation of Millennials really wanted. We did tons of research, read every relevant article we could find (and then some), culled ideas from other groups around the country and surveyed our friends to help guide us.
When we set out to re-launch the Metropolitans, we wanted it to be a group that connected young professionals to each other and to the arts in Boston through unique cultural opportunities.
The new Metropolitans that we introduced in January 2013 has four main focus areas: social events, meet-ups, volunteer opportunities, and fundraising. When we set out to re-launch the Metropolitans, we wanted it to be a group that connected young professionals to each other and to the arts in Boston through unique cultural opportunities, in our three world-class venues (the Citi Wang, Citi Shubert, and Citi Emerson Colonial Theatres) and at partner locations across the city.
It really felt like you were transported back in time.
We created a signature event that drew inspiration from the Wang Theatre’s history, called the 1925 Party, with a live band, themed cocktails, our Paper Moon Photobooth, and an amazing DJ who kept the party going into the night. Hundreds of Metropolitans came out to celebrated dressed in their 20’s best; walking around the Wang Theatre that night, it really felt like you were transported back in time. To date, it was one of the best nights of my life – and we’re looking forward to planning the second annual 1925 Party in the coming months.
In order to regularly see our members and stay on budget, we created Metropolitans Meet-Ups at different locations around the city, leveraging partnerships with cool restaurants looking to grow their weeknight business by hosting these bi-monthly get-togethers in their spaces. Now, Meet-Ups are our most popular events, with the average attendance at about 75 Metropolitans per Meet-Up, no matter the location or the time of year.
Give because it feels good. Don’t give until it hurts.
A special aspect of membership that is unique to the Metropolitans are our volunteer opportunities. We wanted people to engage with our mission and with the greater Boston community, so we collaborated with the Education team at Citi Center to create volunteer opportunities for Metropolitans who wanted to help out with our arts education programs.
Most of all, we wanted to make the commitment of a membership approachable, so we decided to set the price at $50 per year. I am a strong believer in this adage about philanthropy: “Give because it feels good. Don’t give until it hurts.” We didn’t want our members to have to worry about what joining the group would do to their bank accounts. We’re passionate about creating a culture of philanthropy among our members that is approachable and organic.
[The Metropolitans] are all engaged and interested and interesting, and they all care deeply about the impact of their philanthropy and of their involvement in the group.
It has been the greatest challenge and the biggest joy I’ve had in my professional career. I’ve never been a part of something quite so dynamic: we’ve grown from no members to 150 active Metropolitans in just over a year, which has been a huge rush and, sometimes, a bit daunting. With 150 members comes 150 relationships to maintain, 150 different desires and needs to remember and understand, and 150 new ideas of where the Metropolitans could grow to.
What I love about all of the members we’ve met this year is that they are all engaged and interested and interesting, and they all care deeply about the impact of their philanthropy and of their involvement in the group. Every lunch date I have with a member turns into an hour long brainstorming session of “what if we did this?” and “how can we collaborate on this?” I just wish there was more time in the day and in the year to make it all happen!
Mostly, I just feel so lucky that we were able to recruit so many incredible young professionals in Boston. They make every part of this job feel like anything but work, and they make it all worth it.