Friday, January 9, 2009

Grants, Donations, and Revenue

Most of you know that I work with a Non-Profit Community Theatre company in the San Diego Area. Like most companies, we had a down year and the subject of the best way to suppliment our revenue has come up. What do we do? Do we raise ticket prices? Do we focus on getting Grants? Donations? Loans (God forbid)? Should we only focus on building audience because that's the best long term solution. Is show selection or show quality the best stragedy to follow?

There are many different opinions out there. Obviously, a non-profit theatre organization that provides a service can't exist solely on Grant money. The revenue stream is not that great to begin with and they are very labor intensive. Plus, why should any organization recieve money if they aren't relevant to the community at all? Grants, by themselves, are not the way to go.

So what about donations? Donations fall in sort of the same catagory as Grants, except you lose the revelance aspect. Donations are a good way to make money in that the community is supporting you by giving to the organization. However, just like Grants, there is a high labor component involved to the donation aspect of revenue. While the paperwork is way more manageable, there has to be a personal aspect to your donation stragedy. The organization needs to get out there and put face time to potential and active donors to woo them and take care of them. Donations alone also does not work for a non-profit based business.

The discussion invariably wandered into the building a bigger audience. This problem is not unique to the "theatre" segment. All businesses are looking at ways to increase their market share and get new business. The good thing about a non-profit (at least in the theatre community) is that no one is really competing with each other, unless they are doing the same show at the same time. If you come see Midsummer Night's Dream at my theatre ( March 5 - April 4) does not mean that you necessarily won't go see something at another local theatre. But, again, building the audience isn't the only way to maximize your revenue due to the unique nature of a non-profit.

The conclusion is that all three of these things need to work in conjunction with each other, that generating funds isn't a zero sum game. If you can get grants to offset specific expesnes (i.e. for special events or with theatre, show production), that allows you to not be as worried about being put in a position where you immediately need to raise your customers to generate revenue. The flip side is that raising your market share will allow you more access to grants and donations. Remember, just because you have audience, does NOT mean you don't need grants and vice-versa. An organization needs to focus on using these stragedies together to create their revenue stream for the fiscal year.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

So today I discovered I was listening to a podcast from Paul Colligan ( He's a bit of a nutball, but hugely entertaining to listen to and knows his stuff) about to intergrate all of the various social media outlets anyone would belong to and I realized that this is an extrememly powerful tool to get your message out to people who are on various sites.

We all have heard that time is money. I'll go one step simpler and just say that time isn't money, time is time! Someone once said that the greatest gift you can give anyone is the gift of time...and does exactly that. I can now update multiple things with one tool. Facebook, Blogger, MySpace,'s all in one place.

I love anything which intregates things in one place. One of the things I hated about "Web 1.0" was the fact that I had to go to 9 different locations to get in touch with my friends and collegues. Now, I have a tool where I can do it all at the touch of pretty much one button. For example, this blog post will post on 3 locations ( which also publishes on my Facebook page and

The other neat thing is they list the sites which link up to it and I have realized that I don't have accounts on a lot of these sites. I don't know where this journey is taking me and one day I hope to earn some money because of it, but I know that this tool will definately help me get there.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year

Yes, I understand that we are technically past the "New Year," but since we are not quite a week in, I thought I'd write my New Year post.

So, what exactly does a new year mean? Most people look at the new year as a potential new start, especially if the year prior was pretty bad, and let's face it, 2008 was kind of an up and down year overall. I mean, we elected our first African-American President on a message of hope, but we also watch a lot of our collective income vanish like a good show on FOX. Many people were ready for 2008 to end. I mean, 2009 HAS to be better, right?

But what about those people who might have had a pretty good year? I know, they are as far and few between as those nice 5 people who like the Matrix sequels, but they are out there (I know, I'm one of them...liked the Matrix Sequels AND had a pretty ok year. Yes I like The Phantom Menace too...I live in a wonderful world).

The good and bad of a year (or any situation) ultimately lies in the person who is having said year. This may sound like common sense, but you would NOT believe how many people don't understand that simple fact. The good or bad in a situation lies in the perception of the beholder.

I often find this out not with the people I work with, but with my vendors. I don'tknow if it comes from a nervousness of possibly losing me as an account (as many of the vendors I work with are either home run businesses or sole proprietorships), but it honestly feels like many of these people are trying to be as friendly and amiable as possible by joking about things that everyone MUST be feeling. I usually smile and wink, partially because I understand how hard they are working to do what they do and partially because I really don't want to get into an arguement.

Trust me, there are many worse things in life than what happened this least happened to me. I was pretty lucky this year, I admit that. But just because I was lucky, I don't want to make that assumption that everyone else did ok this year.

That's one side of the coin, the other is to notlet it get to you when someone holds the opposite view of how something is. If you just smile and nod, it'll make all your relationships, professional and personal, good for yet another year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Social Media...Who knew?

A few weeks ago there was a workshop on Social Media and Marketing, which I was unable to go to, but was able to get the info on podcast. Yesterday I got the podcast download and have been listening to it as fast as I can. It is quite frankly, facinating.

I knew all about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and all that jazz, but I had no idea the potential that lies in having them work together. Not only can I promote myself, but I can promote both the company I work for on multiple levels, but also the non-profit theatre I work with as well.

The first of these sessions was on Twitter by Warren Whitlock who wrote Twitter Revolution: How Social Media and Mobile Marketing is Changing the Way We Do Business & Market Online. What struck me as interesting about him was the idea of repricocity (Giving people no string attached gifts which will help you drive sales), being the guy who gets people what they need, and meaningful relationships. I think I was aware of the potential on a personal level, but on a professional level it opens so many windows that we didn't know eexisted. I wonder if that has to to with an old culture of companies cracking down on internet usage? I don't know...I fancy there's a mystery in it.

Whatever the reason, I think perhaps for my companies (,,, and my theatre to get into the next decade we have to open up online communication more to the staff and employees. Instead of erring on the side of caution, err on the side of communication. We already have rules in place for the most heinous abusers of policy, and we have the technology to track what people are doing, so I say have at.

The next podcast is on Facebook....this should be fun cause I love Facebook.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ok so the election is depressing me

I just want to believe that, after all is said an done, as a people, we are good. I have to belive that we all want the same things, that we all believe that the United States of America is greater than the sum of its parts.

When we have spent the last 8 years failing (poor education standards, a crashing economy, a huge deficit, putting our children in harms way based on flimsy evidence, a burned out struggling middle class, energy prices through the roof) and losing sight of what the United States means, I would hope people would look at it and say "You know what, SOMETHING has to be done."

But that's not happening.

I feel like you tell the electorate that McCain and Palin will let them keep their guns and they are better Christians and they just vote them in. Even after its their party that got us in this mess.

We have lost sight of the Great Experiment

We can no longer call ourselves A City On A Hill

And half the country is ok with that because they seem to want an executive who is more like them. But they don't realize that by voting in the guy you want to have a beer with or the woman who is also a soccer mom, they are effectively destroying what the United States of America means

I would be saying the same thing if we had 8 years of failed Gore policies...if that were the case, bring on McCain. But it makes no sense to me that people can honestly look at the last 8 years and believe that the GOP has the answers this time.

I am trying to keep hope that we can be better than we are.

If McCain had good ideas and a record that invoked "change," I would be all over him...or at least be undecided as to who would change things in a better, more effective way. But he doesnt seem to and I am saddened by the fact that half the country wants to elect a candidate who stands for the same things as the failed president before him

What's happened to us as a people?

That's what's got me.

Obama is our best hope for restoring America...and not because he's a Democrat, but because he's the best of us.

He is the best of what we can be...and people are calling that a detriment

And that's why I'm sad. When did being American mean NOT striving to be the best we can be, and WHEN did we stop celebrating people who are the best and brightest of us?

When we fail, the electorate will cheer because their guy won and they will celebrate because they beat "liberal politics."

And they won't even realize what they have lost.