This post marks the first in a series of posts of our community sharing their stories of how they came to fundraising! This first story is from Jennifer Kimball, Managing Director of the Essential Theatre in Georgia.
From the first kernel of an idea in a playwright’s mind to packing away that first successful production, there’s a lot that goes into making a play happen, bringing it to life.
Over the years, I’ve filled a lot of the roles that are needed along the way.
To explain how I came to fundraising, I should first explain how I got into theatre to begin with, and shortly thereafter into stage management, almost two decades ago.
It all started with coffee.
When I was in college, most of my friends were theatre students, and I noticed that several times a year, right before each of our theatre department’s major productions, they’d all disappear.
Where did they go?
They disappeared into the theatre for what I would later come to know and love as Tech Week, the week when all the theories and ideas and possibilities that a play holds are finally pinned down, solidified, executed.
Eventually I followed. And when I walked through the door, well after midnight one fateful weekday night, I found my friends, bleary-eyed and sharply focused.
It was there I found my first theatre mission: These people need coffee!
So I began to join my friends each tech week, holding open a door here, smuggling sandwiches out of the dining hall there, and always, always keeping that coffee hot and fresh.
College theatre. I’m glad to have moved on, but truly there is nothing like it!
By the time I was out of college, I knew: there was no other life for me than a life in the theatre.
But how does a fairly methodical, analytical person such as myself find a home in the crazy, creative world of theatre?
I interact well with creative and artistic personalities, but I’m not, in fact, all that artistic or creative myself. My strengths – and my joys — lie elsewhere. I love helping creative people to effectively communicate and execute their artistic vision.
So I found my first professional home in stage management: it’s an obvious choice. And I loved it – still do!
As I began my fledgling career, the floundering of the US economy throughout the early 2000s led to a difficult environment for the arts.
For awhile, the arts floundered along with the larger economy, as funding evaporated: private foundations began to buckle and government funding dried up. Even I, deep in the world of stage management and theatre tech and far away from the world of fundraising, was dimly aware that things were changing.
It affected all of the arts, and most non-profits of any kind in the United States: many of you were there. You know what it was like. And the effects can still be felt today. It was survival, for all of us, day-to-day and on our own. Nobody had answers, but we continued on.
Eventually, we were faced with a choice as artists and arts-supporters: adapt or die.
So adapt we did, and a new age of self-empowerment in the arts was born.
When outside forces could no longer support us, artists and arts organizations started fending for themselves, finding creative solutions in this new, more challenging landscape. We started partnerships and collaborations, pooled our resources, and even explored crowdfunding. We all stuck together to help the arts as a whole to survive so that we as individuals could survive as well.
As part of this shift, I found my role as artists’ facilitator evolving from Stage Management, the assistance in the execution of an artistic endeavor, into Development, the aligning of resources to create an environment in which an artistic endeavor can be executed.
And in this shift, I found a way that I could be creative, constructively involved and working very directly for the survival of the work in which I so deeply believe.
In a nutshell, that’s the story of how and why I got into fundraising: I wanted to see my friends’ and colleagues’ work come to life and share it with the world. And there came a time when fundraising was what was needed to make that happen.
There was a time when I thought of fundraising as a chore. But fundraising today is a role that speaks of hope, of empowerment and of moving forward.
We may have been down for awhile, but by bringing the creativity from the stage into the business side of theatre, we ensured our survival, recreated ourselves and moved on, stronger and more empowered than before. In fact, we just finished our power2give online fundraising campaign, and raised $10,000!
Jennifer Kimball is the managing director of the Essential Theatre, a non-profit theatre dedicated to supporting the work of Georgia playwrights.
Well done Jennifer! What a story of empowerment and hope in arts funding! I am so proud of you for stepping up and helping Georgia playwrights tell their story through the power of your fundraising!
If you would like to tell your story of how you came to fundraising, please email me through my contact page, and let’s learn all about you and your journey!