The Palmer Westport Group focuses on strengthening and developing the fundraising and leadership capacity of theatres around the U.S. We have assisted historic theatres and other performing arts venues, arts councils, arts service organizations across the country with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual operating campaigns, solicitor training, strategic planning, board development and retreats, organizational assessments, business plans, master plans, and leadership development.

Instilling residual strength into client arts organizations: During consultancies, we work strategically to enhance the knowledge and skills of organizations’ staff, board, and other key leaders to strengthen the ongoing planning and fundraising capacity. We believe that successful outcomes also require a successful partnership between client and counsel. We form enduring partnerships with our clients, which has often led to subsequent engagements as the organizations we have served build on their successes and prepare for new phases of growth.

The Value is in the Planning: We specialize in guiding planning efforts that: 1) energize those involved – staff, volunteers, communities, downtowns, and regions, 2) give confidence and experience to new generations of leaders, and 3) elevate a community’s sense of what it is capable of accomplishing. We are best known for an integrated approach to that uses the planning process itself, whether it be strategic planning, business planning, or master planning to fully engage supporters and volunteers in a systematic process that results in enduring, committed relationships

More than raising money: Our approach is holistic and intuitive, logical and analytic – and grounded in the belief that successful fundraising requires the development of authentic relationships. We help our clients build and manage these relationships with a methodology that envisions the whole process in a systematic, sequential way.

Although we approach our work systematically, our product is custom designed to the unique circumstances of each project and organization. Planning efforts are based on the realities of your community. Fundraising campaigns are structured based on characteristics and capacity of your constituency.

Leadership Mentoring: Capital Campaigns for historic theatre restorations often demand the most substantial fundraising effort ever undertaken in the community. Overall need is often greater than any previous community campaign, and potential asks will likely be much larger than many donors have previously given. Confidence in the organizational leadership becomes one of the most crucial factors in determining success or failure of a campaign of this magnitude.

The “face” of the organization must evoke assured, mature confidence in his or her every step. The Palmer Westport Group will work one-on-one to develop leadership perspective, judgment, habits, and presence, such as that which is required to inspire confidence in your staff, constituents and the community you serve.

Unique, hands-on experience: While the Palmer Westport Group works with a wide range of non-profit arts organizations, we have an unusual range of experience and extensive expertise in addressing the needs of projects to revive once-abandoned, or long-neglected, theatre facilities; the type of project and facility that typically has little or no staff, but is driven by a dedicated group of volunteers with a commitment to restoring an historic structure to its once-held position at the center of community life.


Susan Palmer, 

Susan is the former Executive Director of The Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA, where she led the board/staff team to produce and present programs, raise funds, do long-range planning, and lay the groundwork for a $21,456,002 restoration of the 100-year-old, architecturally-significant historic Colonial Theatre, dark for over half a century, and the 30,000 square foot adjacent annex building. The capital campaign included $6,265,322 in New Market and Historic Tax Credits.

Susan began her tenure with the Colonial in 1998 as a founding board member. She was a co-founder of Barrington Stage Company – a producing theatre company that recently won two Tony awards for The Putnam County Spelling Bee; managing director of The Berkshire Theatre Festival; Information Systems Manager at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival; Director of Major Gifts at WGBY Public Television; and General Manager of CompuWorks, a systems integration firm in the Berkshires.

Susan has been on the faculty of Association for Performing Arts Presenters, a national service organization for presenting theaters, and has been a program presenter at the League of Historic American Theaters at their national conferences in Boston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, and New York City.


Sarah Sperber
, Consultant

The arts have been always been the focal point of Sarah’s life. She was literally raised in a theatre. Her passion for the arts manifested in the study of many disciplines, and in 2009 she received a BFA from Maine College of Art. Since graduating with a degree in Metalsmithing and Jewelry, Sarah has created a clothing line and consulted with a prominent lingerie company to design a novelty connoisseur line. She also maintains a studio practice in ceramics and pottery and is a founding member of a successful aerial circus group, allowing her to bring to Palmer Westport Group perspective from both sides of the curtain.

With her undergrad thesis work greatly steeped in the concept of ritual, and the study of why people gather, it is no wonder she has found herself working to re-animate these architecturally and historically significant vessels that have provided communities for many generations the ability to come together. In her position as a Palmer Westport consultant, Sarah has presented at the LHAT National Conference in NYC (2014), and worked with many organizations nationwide to inspire transformational community impact. Projects she has worked on in this capacity include The Colonial Theatre, Phoenixville, PA, The Roxian Theatre, McKees Rocks, PA, Jacksonville Center for the Arts, Jacksonville, IL, The Columbia Theatre, Paducah, KY, The Princess Theatre, Decatur, AL, and 8 historic opera houses statewide in Iowa.