Now, before you stop reading my blog post, let me first say that I’m not using this blog to ask you for a donation. I’ve been learning a lot about fundraising lately, and I find the psychology of giving and behind-the-scenes processes fascinating. I thought I’d use my post today to explore what I’m learning and discuss how it relates to the work you see on our stage.
First, let me say something that you have heard several times, and if you haven’t, it’s worth repeating: Only 50% of Gulfshore Playhouse’s annual budget comes from ticket sales. 50%. Half. That’s it. We are a 501(c)3 organization and work incredibly hard to bring high-quality theatre to the community, but we could not possibly do what we do without the support of our donors. So, THANK YOU, donors and supporters. We could not create any of this without you. Our ticket prices are affordable, allowing for more individuals to have access to our productions and deepen a conversation of arts and artistic experiences in our community. Fantastic raison d’être, no?
Second, as our staff talks more about the psychology behind gifts, we realize that every person who gives to us has a different reason why. Some always wanted to be an actor, so they support the theatre arts. Some love our staff, so they give to keep the staff in our office thriving. Some love the insider perspective they get, so they give and come to talkbacks to speak with actors or to learn in our panel discussions. Some love the educational opportunities we provide and the work we are doing to share theatre arts with local students, so they give to help the youth of our community. Some are intent on creating a legacy of professional theatre and they give so we can continue the fantastic work we’ve started. But whatever the reason, they are equally valuable and donors connect incredibly deeply with them. In this case it’s business AND personal.
Third, the process of “fun”raising (the missing ‘d’ is intentional) is a huge part of what we do at The Playhouse. We are working tirelessly to continue to create sensational work in more ways than just the onstage production. Our staff meets daily to develop new ways to engage supporters, to apply for new grants, and (I have to say it) new ways to increase gifts. Remember that I mentioned only 50% of our annual budget is covered by ticket sales? The process of fundraising is a huge part of our daily tasks, and the generosity of our supporters has an immediate impact on the work on our stage.
As I look through this list of the process of “fun”raising, I realize that it doesn’t sound that fun. It’s a strategy, for sure, and requires a HUGE amount of effort, detail and time. But I’m reminded why it is so important every time I step in the doors of the theatre. This art we are creating means something important to everyone. It enriches everyone. It feeds everyone. It is thought-provoking in some way to everyone. It reaches all ages, discusses all topics, makes us laugh, makes us think, makes us cry, causes us to question, debate, understand our world, and engage in the human experience more deeply. The arts are soul feeding! We are incredibly fortunate to have them so accessible to us, and I suppose I’ve given away my own personal reason for giving in this paragraph…
Last week I was reminded of something profound about giving to the arts: Most people give to charitable organizations because they hope that their gift will one day cause the charity to be obsolete. For example, if a cure for cancer is discovered through the generous gifts of charitable individuals, those individuals will have succeeded in their cause. How wonderful would that be?! A world without that type of loss of friends and family would be one I’d choose. But a world without art? Without theatre? Without music, canvases, and dance? No way.
So, I’d like to leave you with a few questions (all rhetorical, of course): Why do you choose to give? What is your “reason”? And have you heard about our WANTED campaign? (Alright! I couldn’t help myself!)