If Fundraising Is an Art, Why Can’t More Arts Organizations Fundraise?

The recession has hit arts organizations particularly hard. Ticket sales are down, corporate and foundation gifts are down, and government funding is down. (If it ever existed.)

I get a solicitation or two a week to help “save the arts” from groups I’ve supported over the years. But I can’t respond to them all. And few go beyond a pitch letter and gift envelope.

The situation isn’t hopeless. Arts groups just need to apply the same creativity to their fundraising as they do to, well, their art.

The quirky and often unpolished Bershire Fringe Festival gets it. Rather than inviting me to become a “gold” sponsor or some other worn-out ferrous appellation, the festival’s producers have asked instead to buy some gaffer’s tape ($4.95), a tank of gas ($30) or colored lighting gels ($158).

If I was feeling really generous, I could even sponsor a theater rental for one day ($250) or provide a scholarship for an emerging writer ($2,500).

The message is fun. The tongue-and-cheek vernacular reflects the Fringe’s offbeat brand. And, as I’ve written here before, people would rather donate to achieve a specific goal (clean drinking water to 100 schools) then a general one (everyone deserves clean water).

I just wrote a check for some fresh bedding. I figure that it’s bad enough there are so many starving artists in the world. At least I can help one or two get a better night’s sleep.