The museum recently turned to its members to raise $50 million to help construct a new building after the 1989 earthquake damaged the facility.
It would cost more to repair the museum than rebuild it, and after two failed bond referendums, the city-owned de Young set out to raise $135 million in design and construction funds on its own.
In October, after raising $85 million in a private campaign, the museum turned to its 50,000 members. Through a direct mail piece from Cahan & Associates, museum members were given the chance to become a permanent part of the new de Young by having their name put on the wall for a gift of $1,000.
By the end of November, more than $1 million had been raised from approximately 3,100 donors through the mail and telemarketing campaign. Most importantly, a majority of the donations have been for $1,000.
"I'm just amazed," said Barbara Boucke, director of development for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which includes the de Young and the California Palaces Legion of Honor.
"What's phenomenal is the return we're getting is not from the upper category donors -- it's the 35, 45, 55 buck members who are doing this. That's what's so great," she said.
Ms. Boucke, who expects to contact significant donors next year and expand the direct mailing to include museum visitors and art lovers, believes donors were attracted by the "My de Young" theme that emphasized members and residents are owners of the collection.