As is obvious, I've been off for a while doing all sorts of day job related things. While my daily work has little in common with my artistic life generally, it has made me think a great deal about development and models for giving. I work for a Church Foundation, which definitely speaks to a grassroots model of giving. There are no tickets to Church...but there is an ongoing need therein for operational funds and annual gifts, as well as major donations and bequests. Unlike standard small developmental organizations, that function on a mix of mission statements, ticket sales, creative fundraising and grantwriting (usually with a small staff and steep competition) parishes work entirely on the assumption that their mission should be supported by those in the pews.
Now... I'm not actually advocating a change to this model for all small and large theatre companies. But I am an artist that sees the daily difficulties of theatre companies to raise the necessary money to not only mount their work, but pay those involved and properly promote their work. And often, the shared information about how this is best done comes as a patchwork of organizations (Fractured Atlas, Network for Good, The Field).
Nothing is more valuable, in my experience, than first hand knowledge and getting best practicies from other organizations.
I'm curious if there would be interest in putting together a meeting of 10-15 established Indie Theatre companies, to talk about not only their successes, but their challenges in finance. I would envision, instead of a litany of stories about the need for federal funding, a roundtable environment, where companies can learn from each other and become engaged in a larger conversation about how to encourage giving. It's a way from the small company that is largely funded on credit cards to learn from perhaps a more established company that is funded by an excellent grantwriter. I know some theatre's throw creative fundraising events, and others have spent far more money on a fundraiser than they had any hope of raising in returns. My own experiences in the church model focuses on the importance of kinds of asking and donor relationships. I'd love to bring that to a table that is formalized and prepared to aid in those discussions.
So, what do you guys think? If such a seminar was made available to you as a resource (or several small seminars) would you take advantage of it?
- 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.