Serendipity played a big role in the appointment of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s new development director, Noelle Colome. When Nancy Kelly left the position in June to relocate off Island, Ms. Colome, her husband and two small children. had only recently arrived on the Vineyard. With over 15 years of fundraising and development in the nonprofit sector under her belt, Ms. Colome was a natural fit for the job.
The California native and former Vineyard visitor was selected as interim director at the beginning of July. As of October 1, her temporary status was dropped and she slid seamlessly into a position that is becoming increasingly important to an organization currently focused on growth.
“The museum was very fortunate indeed to have Noelle and her family move to the Island just as we were looking for a new development director,” museum executive director David Nathans said. “She has a great skill set and we are seeing strong movement up the learning curve in getting to know the Island and the unique fundraising challenges the Museum faces.”
Most recently Ms. Colome served as director of development for the International Museum of Women, an online virtual museum dedicated to raising awareness on vital global issues for women that Ms. Colome said, “uses art as the means to societal change.”
She also worked for Futures Without Violence, an organization dedicated to ending violence against women and children around the world, and Emerge California, a democratic group that helps train women for office. She was also involved with other nonprofit groups in Los Angeles and San Francisco, both as an employee and as a consultant.
The Colomes moved to the Vineyard from the Bay area of California in order to care for Ms. Colome’s mother-in-law, Marie Burnett. Mr. Colome has been visiting the Island ever since his mother purchased a home in Oak Bluffs 30 years ago.
Ms. Burnett was the innkeeper for the Lambert’s Cove Inn for many years, and she later worked as a realtor for Tea Lane Associates. Ms. Colome has spent vacations on the Vineyard ever since her marriage eight years ago.
The couple has two sons, four-year-old Dexter and Miles, seven. “I’m most excited for my kids,” said Ms. Colome of the move to the Vineyard, “Living in an urban environment they didn’t have the kind of freedom that they have here. We’re always thrilled when we see skunks and rabbits.” She is also impressed with the local libraries and other resources for families.
Ms. Colome has discovered that her new job has proved an ideal immersion experience in both the Vineyard’s history and its current culture. She has enjoyed getting to know the museum’s many patrons and board members, as well as the close-knit staff. “I’ve met so many people through museum events,” she said, “At the same time I’m learning so much about the Island itself.”
In taking on her new position, Ms. Colome faces a substantial challenge. The museum is in the midst of raising the funds to move their base of operations to the former Marine Hospital on Lagoon Pond Road in Vineyard Haven. The four-acre property was purchased just last year. Converting the existing building and grounds into a new, larger campus for the museum is an extensive long-term project which is still only in the planning stage.
“It’s definitely a huge project — probably the next big project on the Island,” Ms. Colome said, citing construction of the hospital and the YMCA as two recently completed projects comparable in scope. “We’ve spent the summer interviewing people on the feasibility of a large-scale campaign and we’re ready to embark on the next steps,” Ms. Colome said. “It’s exciting and challenging at the same time.”
The new development director is optimistic about public support of the museum’s move from the current Edgartown location. “People really love the idea and love the Island,” she said, “Those are two key ingredients for success.”
One recent fundraising initiative that Ms. Colome has helped move forward is the Vineyard Museum Circle. Families or individuals committing to a minimum donation of $2,500 or more for three years become members with a number of additional benefits including attendance at special events, a sail on the museum’s catboat, Vanity, and private use of one of the museum-managed lighthouses. “It’s a wonderful way for people to support the museum in a deeper way,” Ms. Colome said.
“We don’t have an endowment. When people commit for three years, we have a better idea of where we’re at each year. We want to be strong before we get bigger.”