It’s the time of year that I hate the most – sending out the hard copies of letter and emails to friends and family, begging for tax-deductible donations for my theater organization.
This year is even harder, given the poor state of our economy. A few years ago, I was calling local restaurants, asking them to donate to gift baskets I was assembling for a local fundraiser. Most places were happy to donate gift certificates, or a gift basket of their own, as a way of helping the community and promoting their business at the same time.
But at one local eatery, the owner hemed and hawed and made me call back three times while he “thought about it.” On the third call, he waxed at length about how he couldn’t donate $25 to a small theater company when Hurricane Katrina had just ravaged New Orleans.
Not to take away at all from the devastation of that natural disaster, but I don’t see these two causes as an either/or.
Your local arts community will always lose in a match up between organizations like The Red Cross, or Habitat For Humanity, or The Sierra Club. It’s much easier to justify giving your hard earned money to worthy causes that help the poor, the sick, the geographically displaced, the internationally persecuted.
But I suggest that it’s equally important to give to your local arts community. Art museums, local artisans, and local performing arts groups survive on grants when they can get them, but also largely from individual donations.
Without these organizations, people aren’t exposed to different art forms, to different styles, to different methodologies, to different ways to tell different stories, to different ways to dramatize different schools of thought.
And the smaller the company, the more they need help. Our organization performs in theaters that have less than 99 seats, and many times, less than 50 seats. Our operating budget for last year was less than $20,000, as were our grosses. This year, our budget and grosses are both less than that.
Why put so much hard work into something that won’t jump-start a respectable career that pays a respectable salary? Why plead with restaurant owners for a $25 donation only to be told my cause isn’t as worthy as The Red Cross?
Personally, I do it because I believe in the arts. Not just the posh art museums that get endowments from deep-pocketed patrons. But I believe in the hard scrabble theater companies that dot the Los Angeles landscape, who put all their heart and soul into telling innovative stories that would never see the light of day on T.V. or movie theaters.
I donate to my church. I donate to my friend’s causes ranging from breast cancer to autism to AIDS walks. I know it’s important to them.
But I also donate to my theater company. Because it’s not an either/or for me. Nobody says it has to be.
Whatever you can give, whether it’s $5, or $25, or an amount of your choosing, please consider donating. If not to us (via the information on the right hand side), than to an arts organization of your choice. They can really use your support.
Many many thanks.
- Amy Heidish