Raising Funds

In the three years I’ve been involved with Main Street Stage, I have participated in three fundraisers.

The first, a dinner and a show ticket for $50.00 that involved a lot of preparation and catering for one weekend’s worth of Irma Vep performances, was a lot of work.  We had a cook station set up in the basement.  We blew a the fuses a couple of times.  Lex, who was also starring in the show, was running around trying to get the food ready too. It was good food and the lobby looked great, but the ticket price was high and we didn’t sell out the two shows as we had hoped.  In the end, after all the work, we made about fifty bucks.

After that fiasco, we decided to strike out in a different direction–a dance party.  I went to a city council meeting and we were approved for a one night liquor license.  Lex and I bought a keg (and considered driving to Mexico, but then returned to the theatre).  We had a DJ from North Hampton donating his services.  We charged $15.00, figuring it was a fundraiser and people might pay a little more.  We postered everywhere, talked it up.  But the attendance was low.  We made enough to cover the cost of the keg and we had a great time dancing, but, again, not much in the funds raised department.

This summer, before we even saw how little was available through grants and sponsorships (we’ve made a total of $250.00 from that drive), we knew that we needed a fundraiser to get us through Twelfth Night.  We had the age old discussion–do we do something fancy and expensive or cheap?     This evolved into a Woodstock style music festival, which would be a great  show for the community in and of itself.  But it’s hard to find an outdoor venue in North Adams where you can charge admission; believe me, we tried.

As the weeks passed, as we thought about past attempts to raise funds, Lex decided the simpler the better, and we had to agree.  The fundraiser was going to be two weeks before we opened and mounting a second show in the middle of the big show sounded less and less doable as the summer progressed.  We lined up two local musicians who have been very supportive of the stage (and who we adore as people and as musicians).  We got RBIT to perform. We rented the American Legion–who provide a cash bar as part of the rent.  The intern went around and got local restaurants to donate food and the cast made the rest.  It helps that we had a lot of foodies in the company.

We postered, we sent out press releases and we put ads on WNAW (something we’ve found has really upped attendance).  Then we waited.  And we worried.  Would people even know about it?  Had we done enough?  We kept getting bad news–Zombie Prom was opening that night, and Wild Oates was having some BBQ and it was a third Thursday in Pittsfield.  Even postering was difficult.  Usually you can find some space on a board, but there were several we couldn’t find any room on.

An hour before the doors were set to open, I went to pick up the tickets from Papyri and found not a single one had sold.  We had five reservations.  The dread I’d been feeling for a few days only got worse.   Lex shrugged and said, “As long as ten people show and we cover the rent for the space, the cast will have a good time and a night off.”

And then, at 5:30–people!  Lots of people!  I kept counting and recounting the money in awe.

So why did this one work?  We put less energy into it than any of the others.  We had less riding on it, I guess, and we catered more to families (the door price was only $12.00).  We had a really great raffle that raised over a hundred dollars.  We’ll sit down and get to have the meeting we’ve been wanting to have about a fundraiser for years–the “what went right?” meeting.  I, for one, am looking forward to it.

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