My current job is working in Annual and Planned Giving for a non-profit organization. Obviously, all non-profits are familiar with the idea grant writing, gifts, donors and fundraising. But recently, it occured to me that the mantra of most large gift organizations is that Planned Giving and donation come exclusively from elderly donors or wealthy patrons.
Part of this is practical: Most of the more complex and large gifts are designed to benefit the very wealthy or the very old. A Charitable Gift Annuity, which is a popular type of Split Interest Gift, or a Charitable Remainder Trust, is useless to a small donor who will receive an annuity for years. Even if you don't know precisely what those things are, suffice to say, they are popular at the Metropolitan Opera, and in Churches, and for Universities. They are donations of generally large amounts, with tax benefits. And they are not available to those of us who are under 60.
So most of the fundraising done by Indie Theatres, Off-Off Broadway Theaters, or small theaters, especially in NYC, is rather rudimentary. It includes labor exhaustive grant writing, events that are intended to raise a certain amount of money by almost fooling the small donors into thinking they're paying for free booze (this happens a great deal), or simply doing some sort of calculus on ticket sales that, god help me, no one seems able to make work.
Even Awards are small and unfulfilling for small theater. The Obie Awards (bless them, this is not a complaint) offer what amounts to a pat on the back for a job well done. I wouldn't send back $1000.00... but I make more in one month at my relatively low paying day job than I would for winning an Emerging Playwrights Obie Award.
So I think it's time to reimagine the donor base for small theater and speak about how we can create a culture that encourages small, consistent annual donations from the base that we already have access to. I have proposals on this...but I wanted to put those terms out there and see if they get any response.
What do you think about small donations and a New Culture of Giving?
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.