Women Leaders: Elizabeth Von Hassell, Director, National Sporting Museum


ELIZABETH VON HASSELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SPORTING LIBRARY & MUSEUM 

Our spring arts preview featured 20 women cultural leaders in Washington, D.C. We wanted to amplify their voices in our online newsletters, spotlighting each of them individually. Our Monday May 2 newsletter features Elizabeth Von Hassell, the Executive Director of the National Sporting Library and Museum.

THE GEORGETOWNER: D.C. should have a “spring awakening” of sorts after two long years of Covid. What are you most looking forward to for your institution this season?  

ELIZABETH VON HASSELL: The museum will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in June, with an exciting “Highlights” exhibition that will encompass all galleries.… The opening and anniversary celebration is being kicked off with an on-site gala. 

GEORGETOWNER: What led you to become a leader in your organization? Tell us a bit about your career trajectory and inspirations along the way.

EVH: Possessing true and authentic passion for our mission to promote the art literature and culture of traditional field sports as well as a burning commitment to advocate for the conservation and preservation of open space and waterways, has helped make my pathway to the Executive Director and made the position at the NSLM a perfect fit. Successful fundraising of over $50 million at James Madison’s Montpelier as Director of Development with President and CEO Kat Imhoff, was a critically important career step. One of the challenges of working in the arts is that fundraising continues to grow as one of the most important aspects related to the sustainability of the organization, and is increasingly a required talent and skill for any executive director.    

The majority of my career was spent in the corporate world as a marketing executive, managing and working with high performing teams on a national basis. I’ve never been a believer in titles, silos, or rigid hierarchy, and find it much easier to lead a group that is motivated, inspired and encouraged without micromanaging. The NSLM is  a donor, community and visitor-centric organization that focuses on relationships. The rewards are seen in the abundance of achievements that often by far exceed initial goals, and this culture encourages a collegial, yet goal driven work environment where successes are shared and enjoyed as a team.  

GEORGETOWNER: What are the biggest challenges for your organization?

EVH: Even though I would not without question, ever change where we are located, in Middleburg, Virginia, one of the most beautiful areas in the world, the location does pose some challenges regarding how many people visit our Library and Museum. Additionally, I think fundraising for nearly all institutions, if looked at honestly, is one of the biggest challenges facing non-profits in the arts, especially fundraising for non-bricks and mortar areas such as  raising endowment or operating dollars. Thankfully, our NSLM team is enjoying continued success and breaking records raising funds for exhibitions, programs, acquisitions, and our endowment.   

GEORGETOWNER: How do you feel being among the first women to lead an arts institution?

EVH: It is an honor, and privilege to be the Executive Director of the National Sporting Library and Museum, and I will always be humbled for being recruited by our Vice-Chair, Jacqueline B. Mars, and Board, who believed in my talents, work ethic, and leadership abilities.  With this opportunity, comes a strong commitment and responsibility for me to mentor and help women of all ages and backgrounds, when possible, with their professional careers.  

GEORGETOWNER: What are you most proud of accomplishing while serving in your position?

EVH: Building an outstanding team that has not only creatively insured that the NSLM stayed open, and pivoted continually to offer a variety of creative, interesting virtual programs, smaller in person programs, safe outdoor events, and exhibitions, but this team worked tirelessly building strong relationships with our members and community at all levels.  Encouraging a focus on solutions, not the problems, especially through these challenging times has insured the NSLM has had one of its most successful years in their history. Being a relatively new organization, sustainability of our future is paramount, and with the support and leadership of our engaged Board, we have been able to nearly double our endowment and my utmost goal is to not only lead and inspire a team of Library and Museum professionals, but to continually develop and execute a business plan that ensures our success long after I am gone, long after we are all gone.  

For more information on the National Sporting Library & Museum see here.

 

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