Saturday, June 14, 2014

My Lesson in Fundraising

This post is embarrassingly late, but if you were inside my life, you'd know that this really is the first chance I've had to sit down and compose my thoughts for mass consumption.

Two weeks ago, we held a fundraiser - our first ever - for our new show, Red Death. It's an opera, based on Edgar Allen Poe's short story, "Masque of the Red Death." Bryan wrote the libretto, and Daniel Doss, is composing the music. I'm directing and producing.

This isn't my first time at the Fringe Festival rodeo, so I'm not ignorant about budgets and such, but the further we got into this project, the more never-before-seen expenditures came up. It was already going to be our most ambitious (read: expensive) show to date, even without things like piano rental and tuning. Of course, Bryan and I (and everyone else) isn't in this for the massive piles of cash (that don't exist), but we don't want to go into debt either. And most importantly, we want to pay the people who are bringing this show alive. A fundraiser seemed to be the only option.

If you've never held a fundraiser, let me tell you a few things I learned about the process:

1. It's hard. There is a tremendous amount of planning, shopping, requesting/begging, wheeling/dealing, promoting, organizing, loading in, setting up, running the thing, striking, and math involved. It is physically and mentally exhausting and anxiety-producing. Thank Everything for friends like Jill (, who's done it many times before, knows what all needs to be done, then works her butt completely off (don't trip over it, there, on the ground) to help us make it happen. And held my hand at the craft store and Costco as I went wild-eyed and boggle-minded and stopped being able to form clear sentences.

2.  It's expensive. It's a great example of having to spend money to make money. If you don't have food and activities and entertainment, people won't want to come. All that stuff costs money, so the first goal of the fundraiser is to pay for the fundraiser itself. Which is a little Inception-y.

3. My family rocks really hard. Every single one of them pitched in to help. My niece performed (her debut!), my brother worked the raffle table, my dad worked the silent auction table, my mom worked box office, my nephew worked the photo booth with Bryan, and my sis-in-law worked the craft table. They are amazing.

The most important thing I learned about this experience came at the end of the evening, when Jill started wrapping the evening up and thanking people for coming. I was suddenly struck by what really happened: All the people in this room, and several who weren't but contributed online or by handing me a check, believed in us, and believed in our project. They believed enough to spend time and money, and did so willingly. Happily. I'd been feeling guilty and weak about asking for money (and donations for the auction/raffle), but all these people jumped up to help. Because they wanted to. Even people who contributed to the project, in one way or another, and I had their names on a "Do Not Accept Money from These People" list at the box office, insisted on paying. Even people who worked that night contributed money. Even people that I've never even met attended, paid for tickets, paid for auction items, put money in donation baskets, and bought raffle tickets.

And, very suddenly, I realized that I wasn't begging. I was giving people an opportunity to help us.

I have this idea that I should be able to handle "It" - every "It" -  all on my own, and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. But it's not. These people wanted to help. They wanted to be there. They wanted to support us. We gave them an opportunity to show us that, and when they did, I was moved to tears by it. (To anyone who knows me, this shouldn't be a big surprise, but I swear, it's genuine.) It's a pretty incredible feeling to know people believe in me, and my work.

Thank you, everyone. Thank you so much for the auction and raffle donations, for the monetary contributions, for the gift of your time and work. Mostly, though, thank you so much for this lesson in support and gratitude. I am deeply moved.

If you're interested in more information about the show, including dates and times, pop over to Bryan's website: Also, there's an online donation button there. Just in case you were wondering.

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