Meet an EMP: Tricia Handza

handzaYears in Museum Field: 4

Degrees/Certificates: Law degree – Wake Forest University School of Law
AFP Certificate of Fundraising – Villanova University

Current Occupation: Grants Manager at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Previous Museum Experience: Manager of Institutional Giving and Centennial Campaign at the Delaware Art Museum

Other Relevant Work Experience: Attorney, corporate litigation. Law clerk to Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court.

Did a mentor play a significant role in your career development? My first boss at my prior job, Susan Zellner (want to give her public props!), established an organized and defined “mentor-mentee” relationship from my first day of work, letting me know that she wanted to help me grow in this field and talk through everything in more than simply a boss-employee relationship. That has stuck ever since, and I’ve found her advice, willingness to help me network, and all-around support of my career over the years to be invaluable. Thanks, Susan!

And for any EMP-ers reading this profile – please reach out if you’d ever like to chat museum stuff. I’d be happy to!

How does your current position fit into your career plan? I’m sorry to say I don’t have a concrete career plan. Or maybe I’m sorry I’m not sorry!

What museum organizations do you belong to? AAM, Philly EMP

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began in this profession? How much I would love my coworkers. I was nervous and intimidated to meet everyone in my first job – museum people just seemed so mysterious and knowledgeable about this whole world I wasn’t familiar with. But museum staff are the most wonderful people!

What do you enjoy most about your position? First and foremost, I love that in my position I get to work with people from across all departments in the museum. I also love putting together the puzzle pieces of the grant process – finding hidden relationships that the museum might already have with a potential funder, building relationships with the “personal” side of foundation- and government-based giving, tying a fundable project to the right foundation, sorting out the “wants” from the “needs” among budget priorities, and making connections between our grant-based fundraising and funding from individuals.

What is it that keeps you engaged at work? The variety and balance of tasks keep the day-to-day from feeling too routine (don’t ask me this question, though, when I’m in the midst of working on a large, detail-oriented federal grant!).

After practicing law for a few years, Tricia decided it wasn’t the right fit for her. “I had imagined that my legal career would be much more relationship-driven than it was, rather than the reality of spending a good deal of time by myself, drafting documents. I also wanted to get my hands dirty in the business side of things, making decisions and building exciting projects, rather than coming in to play “clean-up” afterward, or drafting the legal documents to make those projects happen and watching from the sidelines. I’ve also always had a strong passion for museums and the visual arts, including a stint as an intern for Mural Arts, spending my days up on scaffolding painting murals around Philly, so my best idea for an alternative career upon leaving law was to work for an art museum.”

A variety of conversations with folks around the field led Tricia to fundraising – many former attorneys find their way to this work. Tricia’s first museum boss took a chance on her – an “over-qualified” lawyer who didn’t know a thing about fundraising for art museums – and gave her a part-time job processing gifts. After several years of building experience in my first role at the Delaware Art Museum, always taking on increasing responsibilities, Tricia is now in an exciting, related role at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Tricia raises funding from foundations, government, and corporations for PMA’s slate of special exhibitions each year. “I like working on a larger team of grant writers, which has been a fun change from my prior position as a museum’s sole grant writer. We bounce ideas off each other and help sort out the process together, since we all do similar work.”

Tricia loves learning about all the facets of fundraising. She also loves being involved in strategic discussions about the museum’s plans; Tricia enjoys that grant writers get to be involved in these discussions from the beginning. “Because I do not have a background in art history, I hope that I can continue to grow in my museum career, even perhaps in a role that is not fundraising-oriented, without feeling that I require that. But I don’t like to plan too much regarding my career – you never know where you might end up next!”

Tricia’s favorite museums outside of Philadelphia include the Victoria and Albert Museum and Tate Modern in London, the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL, and the Delaware Art Museum.

Fun Fact: Tricia has participated in two competitive eating contests: Shoofly Pie and Krispy Kreme donuts.


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