What Do I want for Christmas? … KEEP OUR DANCERS DANCING

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$270,000 fundraising goal of which $180,000 is needed immediately by Dec. 31, 2008

 Charleston Ballet Theatre is a vital cultural asset to the community and contributes to the quality of life in Charleston and the Lowcountry.  The current economic crisis we are experiencing has created a significant shortfall of $270,000 for the company of which $180,000 needs your immediate attention and support to maintain the Charleston Ballet Theatre. The projected immediate shortfall we must fulfill has a deadline of Dec. 31st, 2008.

Usually at this time of year we are in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the “Giving Season,” a time when many nonprofits receive the majority of their donations, and are wistfully looking forward to some free time when we can reflect on the activities of the past year and craft our goals for the coming year. But this year, we have a new concern—the global financial meltdown and the impact it will have on the nonprofit sector. I think it is too early to tell if nonprofits will be adversely affected this year. It seems unlikely that we won’t. On the other hand, Giving USA Foundation has written that donations continue to increase year after year, even in bad times, and I certainly believe we should never underestimate the generosity of Americans. At the moment, though, this downturn appears different from others we have experienced in our lifetime. It seems deeper and more widespread, affecting every aspect of our economy. It feels as if some fundamental beliefs about government, regulation, and many of our institutions may forever be changed.

The future of the ballet is contingent upon the meeting of this important goal. We need your help to make that happen and to secure the vitality of this wonderful performing arts organization. As one of the creative leaders of the company, I have created a personal target of $50,000 to raise for the ballet by reaching out to my own network of friends and colleagues.  And for your  gift I  offer to you my promises to scale the company in accordance with this current financial climate

Several guarantees come to mind:

Leading a team through tough times calls for similarly open and frequent communication from the top. People need to know that leadership has a handle on the problem and a plan to address it. We promise to let you know where we stand, what the organization’s prospects are, how and if they change, and what you can do to help .

We promise taking immediate action: to manage costs aggressively; to do away with nice-to-haves (both because they are easily expendable and because of the signal it sends to the whole organization); and to delay undertaking new initiatives. It also entails developing explicit contingency plans, as waiting to get specific until the wolf really is at the door will not make the choices any easier, but it will sharply increase the likelihood that the available options will be fewer and more strict.

I also know the push for transparency and accountability will pick up speed. With fewer dollars available to support nonprofit activity, individual, corporate, and foundation donors will be under increased pressure to invest their money wisely, in organizations doing the best work and having the highest impact. Transparency is already a given for most donors. Now the demand for demonstrating and measuring effectiveness will move front and center.

Coupled with the move to effectiveness, I promise we are considering new ways to operate more efficiently. We’ll need to challenge our assumptions about how we deliver services. There will be increased emphasis on mergers, partnerships, and outsourcing. We’ll be challenged to justify our way of doing things like never before. This is why initial talks began with our sister organizations, Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the Charleston Stage.

Finally, these challenges to us offer exciting opportunities for rebirth. The needs of our society are significantly different from what they were when many of our organizations were created. How can we redesign ourselves to be more responsive to today’s world? This new opportunity to break old habits and structures, coupled with a recommitment to public service inspired by the Obama administration, leads me to hope that 2009 could become one of the most important years ever in the history of the nonprofit sector, increasing our roles, responsibilities, and impact in American society

 For that reason, I am writing to ask you to either renew, or start, your own personal commitment to securing the dancers future.

I know this is not an easy time for me to ask you for financial commitments to Charleston Ballet Theatre  All of us our dealing with an increased cost of living, while at the same time many of our retirement accounts or other means of savings have been hard-hit by the global economic crisis.

“We need you to help us keep the stage filled with the magic, the vitality and the other-worldly escapism live professional ballet and dance brings to us all. We need you to help us maintain our educational outreach programs so that the next generation of artists and patrons can continue to enrich their lives and the lives of others. Make the choice to keep us alive…not just for this year, but for many more years to come.”

 The best present you could give me this season is your financial support of this vital “crown jewel” in the Lowcountry. To simplify your contribution here is a direct link where you can make a donation that is meaningful to you. 

http://www.charlestonballet.com

I’d like to close with a thought from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address. I find these words as inspiring today as they must have been to an America in the grips of the Great Depression in 1933:

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.

 

 

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