Individual Fundraising – How To Do It

Nobody likes to talk about money, but there comes a time in everyone’s life where you need to start having those hard conversations.  Now, you can continue to avoid the dread ‘M’ word issue or you can deal with the fact that every facet of your life deals with money.  The sooner you become comfortable talking about it in everyday conversation the easier this talk is going to be.

Non-profits thrive and prosper on the development team.  This part of the organization is the area that brings in the money and makes all the wheels turn from production to education to everyday operations.  In my research to become more apart of the dance world in Los Angeles I have recently applied for a development position.  In my prep for not only furthering my career, but an overarching understanding of the arts world from commercial to nonprofits it is important to grasp knowledge and research what you still need to learn.  One of the components of this potential position includes individual fundraising, which I do not have experience in, but you have to start somewhere.  Granted I have an understanding of grant writing, fund reporting, fundraising efforts with the community, database maintenance and upkeep, and donor event planning, but I have never done anything directly with individual donors and major gifts.  So, I did what I do best which is research like a crazy person.

Started by talking with a woman who has been in the major gift and solicitation game for thirty years.  She told me that following the 10, 10, 80 rule is the most important rule.  Ten percent of funding are grants – foundations, government, corporate, ten percent are smaller funding donations from annual appeals and e-mail solicitations, but eighty percent are your major donors.  These donors need to be cultivated, courted, and become part of the company’s family.  Understanding this rule I came to the understanding that individual giving is the most important aspect in development.  Needless to say I have gained a tremendous respect for the employees that have taken on this intimidating and daunting task of approaching people for funding.

So my thought to maximizing an individual giving program is to first draw up a plan with short and long term goals that have deadlines attached to them.  For example, start by concentrating on the circles that surround the company.  Around the company you have the executives of the organization and board members.  I would want to uses these people to test the case of support to the leadership by developing the story of the company that could be presented to donors (i.e. mission, artistic work, education, community…etc).  Exciting and engaging the people that are associated with the organization so they (board and other leaders) will participate and are comfortable to participate and give one hundred percent to fundraising plan.

Once you have the leadership on board and the basic pitch it is time to get to know the database of the company.  What do your current donors have in common?  Are their relationships between the donors (i.e. friends, family, or board relation)?  Once you are able to separate your current donors into giving categories take a look at other organizations to see if their giving levels are the same or is their a potential for a higher donation that hasn’t been tapped.  Don’t solicit your donors the same.  Continue to target and ask for the right amount for the right type of area of the company to fund.  Continue to communicate to all donors through multiple channels – social media, mail, e-mail, and individualize calls and letters.

Next it is time to leverage the connections.  You know how I was talking about those circles around the organization?  Well the next circle would be friends, associates, and connections with VIPs of the company.  Enlist board support by getting their inner circle to get to know the organization by hosting a small event in a personal setting.  Educate, inform, and involve them.  Cultivate the relationship long-term.  Getting the donor to go from donation to investment in the organization is key.  You want these people to not only give money but believe strongly in the organization.  To do this you need to develop an investment opportunity, give the donor an opportunity to transform the organization or the community, and then you as the organization need to demonstrate that change.

Donor solicitation is a lot like dating.  First you get to know a person.  What are their interests?  How could their interest connect with the company’s interests?  If both of the parties (i.e. the individual and the company) interests can connect in a positive way you start a courtship with the donor.  Throughout the courtship you educate them about the company, find common interests, and get the donor to connect in a personal way.  From their comes the commitment (i.e. the proposal).  The asking for the funds from the donor and how their investment will be used.  Looking at solicitation like dating makes it a little less scary because it fits on a level that everyone can relate to in society.  The thing to remember is that money isn’t as scary to talk about it if you can find a common ground.

Keone and Mari Madrid – The Next Hip-Hop Dynamic Duo

Keone and Mari Madrid are called the next NabbyTabs.  It’s wonderful to get compared as an artist to people you admire, but this dynamic duo has a style all their own.  With the caring and kind nature of Keone and the graceful and free spirit of Mari these two are out to change the world of dance through education, choreography and philanthropic efforts.

Keone Madrid’s first love was basketball.  He grew up playing sports and didn’t take his first hip hop class till he was fifteen, where he started with one class a week taught by KJ Gonzales.  Starting dance at such a late age and becoming a successful professional is rare, but he was determined.  After his first class he joined the apprentice crew of Culture Shock San Diego called Future Shock San Diego, which eventually become the director.  After high school his students and mentors encouraged him to pursue his choreographic aspirations and really get out in the world.  He was nervous to post his work online so students started to on his behalf which led to his first international gig in Norway.

Mari Madrid also didn’t start dancing until a late age.  At thirteen years old, she took her first dance class in Boulder, Colorado.  At seventeen she moved to San Francisco and danced with a group called Funkanometry.  Finally, at twenty-three she moved to San Diego to dance with Choreo Cookies.

These two love birds originally met at Urban Legends in Temecula, California where they were both teaching.  They eventually joined the same crew shortly following Choreo Cookies, which they became co-directors in a short time.  These two have choreographed for music artists all over the United States and Asia as well as had a successful commercial career choreographing the 2012 Hyundui commercial and most recently was on So You Think You Can Dance as a choreography duo.  The couple has signed with Go 2 Talent Agency as a choreographic team.  They have also founded Kingdom Made which is an arts charity that sells clothing and accessories to fund its international mission to build homes and offer dance and art workshops for the underprivileged.

When I look at people to admire, I look at no only talent, but are these people truly good people.  The Madrids are beyond good people.  They don’t allow society to run the way they think or their actions.  They play by their own rules as professional dancers and choreographers as well as personally in their beliefs on relationships and importance of getting to know someone deeply before fully committed to a marriage and that marriage actually mean something more than another step in a relationship.  I spent hours watching their work on YouTube and noticed that as individuals they were technically beautiful, but as partners they had an undeniable spirit in the way they moved.

I watched YouTube videos for hours before I came across two that spoke to me personally.  The Madrids created a music video in 2011 called Don’t Stop the Music which was stylized in the 1920s and went from black and white to color.  An energy and connection that was undeniable as they used off rhythms to make the movement flow.  Their style was full of illusion with smooth yet sharp isolations.  They incorporated small changes in their movement like doing arm motions sitting to standing to different camera angles of the same movement that seem different but they are not.  The remix done by Jamie Cullum is revolutionary and drives the piece as Mari is a beast in her heels while maintaining the sweet and lovable side in her dancing.  The other piece I watched was one done at the Urban Dance Camp with music by Sam Smith, Stay With Me.  In this piece they were so in sync with each other that it was undeniable that they were meant to dance together.  A beautiful couple, a perfect choreographic partnership, and two people that are unstoppable.

**All life information about the couple was found at Dance Spirit Magazine article by Ashley Rivers and Go 2 Talent Agency**

Watch their Don’t Stop the Music Video Below!  Their articulate hand and arm choreography is so intertwined that I think I backed up the player more than 10 times.

The Inner Workings of a Non-Profit Dance Comapny

There are two looks of a dance company. The dream-like state that the audience sees on stage, and then there is a reality to it. Being apart of the dance world since I was a child and understanding all aspects of the business side is important to running a dance company.

First you have the mission of the company. The message that the company is driven on. It should only be a few sentences long, and should be the basis of the company’s story. If a reader can’t figure out what your company is about based off the mission statement you need a new one. Next you have the artistic vision of the choreographer. There needs to be a way to present his/ her vision to not only to the general public through marketing, but to current and potential donors.

This brings me to the administrative offices. First you have the marketing team. The marketing team is what makes the company look good visually. For the marketing team you need photos shoots to happen at least once a year. This will allow new works to be photographed, new dancers to be highlighted, and old works that are coming out of retirement back into the current repertoire to be photographed with new casting. Next you have the development team. The development team writes the grants, researches foundations and government funding, does solicitations to individual donors, courts donors for major gifts, organizes and manages capital campaigns, and is the go to person for managing and maintaining relationships with the donors. A good development team is key to having a successful dance company because they are the ones bringing in the funds to keep the artistic product moving forward to new opportunities.

Since we are talking about money you need an excellent finance person who can be sure to monitor all areas of the company so overspending is not happening. Obviously, there is that old saying “it takes money to make money” but in a nonprofit it is vital to be breaking even. It becomes increasing difficult if the company gets into a financial hole to get out of it because not only can any one see your financial numbers if you are in the negative for multiple years, it will be difficult to convince a donor they are not giving to a black hole or that you are unable to handle your funding positively.

Finally, you have the management and executive staffing like the company manager. This person is equally important to artistic side as well as the administrative side because they are like a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth playing the in-between to presenters, lawyers, publicists, dancers, teachers, travel companies, record and publishing labels, and of course the executive and artistic director to be sure that the company is on the same page. It is vital that this person can work well under pressure, multitask, and understand the importance of what is a priority.

The next time you go see a dance company remember that all the people that work behind the scenes are just as important as the choreographers and the dancers; and without them, the inner working of the company would fall apart.

What to Expect when you Bring a Dancer Out in Public

Have you ever seen the music video of Sara Bareilles singing Gonna Get Over You?  It is one of the happiest break up songs I have ever heard.  Not only is she in the middle of the grocery store dancing and singing, but she somehow gets everyone else to join in too.  Granted, at the end of the video she comes to the realization that it was all in her head and bows her head in embarrassment and shame, but it basically sets the stage for what you need to know about a dancer in public.  Needless to say, when out in public with a dancer they can be extremely embarrassing to a non-dancer.  They can decide to jété down a grocery isle, or if music is playing in your general vicinity expect there to be random dancing to that bass pumping beat.  I can admit I’m embarrassing when I go out in public.  Just ask my brother who had to deal with my random dancing when we were last in Los Angeles together.  He had to deal with my bust a move mentality up and down third street in Santa Monica while street artists were getting their jam on.

So why do dancer do this?  They just can’t help themselves.  Imagine your whole life having various three minute sections of your life choreographed to music.  Now imagine repeating these sections so many times that your brain is going to fall out.  Between recitals, competition, professional performance gigs, choreographing, and charity events you have a tendency to lose your mind a little that anytime you hear music you just need to move.  In some situation random dancing is appropriate like on iCarly, a concert, or a music festival because not only are their other weirdos like you, but your friends or siblings that look at you as a crazy person are now joining in on the music that actually exists.  In my brother’s case, he gets the head bob going with his hands in the air like he just don’t care; there is a lot of jumping around and dancing like an idiot.

Lastly, a dancer can randomly start dancing when there is no music playing, but just so you know there is a constant soundtrack in their head.  Let me tell you it never turns off.  You know how I was saying that a dancer has the constant pleasure of repeating pieces or dances over and over again?  Well, that carries over into other parts of their lives.  For example, I become obsessed with certain songs and learn every word.  Then I am singing it for a week and every time I’m singing it to myself I get in my own head, think I’m alone, start choreographing to it, and all of a sudden I can have five people looking at me in the park because they think I’m a spaz.  I leave you with this. The next time you see someone dance randomly in public, I can 95% guarantee they are not crazy they just love life and want you to too.  Join in on the fun and make a flash mob out of their moves or make your own and connect with someone on an artistic level by dancing it out.

The Reality of Pointe Shoes & Finding the Right Fit

Pointe-shoe-image-1---opt._0If you have ever seen the movie Center Stage you will notice a minute worth of footage where ballet dancers look like they are wrecking a pair of $80 shoes, but guess again. Let’s start with the basic ballet slipper, which is soft fabric like cotton that molds to your feet the minute you wear them for a few hours, but Pointe shoes are in no way that simple.

Getting fitted for your first pair of Pointe shoes when you are young is like a dream, because you will finally be able to do all the graceful and elegant moves and phrases that you have seen danced across the stage by older students, in film, and on stage.  Let’s get real – you need to be ready to work harder than you have ever worked in your life.  I’m not saying this to scar you or deter you from Ballet, but there is a reality that you need to understand to be great.

Pointe shoes are the one part that is key in your first year.  It is important to go to someone who can fit you for the correct style of shoe that is necessary for your type of foot.  Everyone’s feet are different.  Some have incredibly high arches, others have flat feet, some have falling arches, while others have their second toe longer than the rest of their feet.  These are all little nuances that you don’t think about usually buying shoes.  This is why it is important to go to a shoe place that has a person who understands feet, how each style of Pointe shoe is different, and how each shoe relates to the different types of feet.

There are five things to look at when buying Pointe shoes which include the shank, vamp, box, platform, and heel. The right shoe is based on the layout of your foot and will protect the delicate parts, as well as offer support to the contours of your foot. This is extremely important to prevent pain and bunions, sinking into your shoe, and forced weight onto your big toe potentially causing injury from not being over your box properly. For example, the first two toes after my big toe are longer than the rest of my toes, and the toes eventually taper down to the smallest toe on my foot.  Since my two toes are longer than the rest it causes them to stick out.  In my first pair of Pointe shoes, these two toes felt a lot of pressure because I was sliding in my shoe and it was causing them to curl instead of extend.  The reason I was sliding in my shoe was because the profile height of the shoe was to big and I was given the wrong box type for my foot.  Be sure that you have a snug fit around the box and width part of your foot to prevent the sliding as well as the right type of box.

The vamp length is another spot I have seen dancers struggle.  I was subbing as a ballet teacher and I noticed a student was not getting over her box, and on top of that she was sickled in what we were doing across the floor.  When I looked at her foot the person who fitted her didn’t fit her properly.  She had a shoe for a square box foot when she needed to have a tapered box (toes fall in line like a slant).  The shank strength she had was too strong for her feet.  She needed a pre-arched shank due to her flat feet to give her more support.  Lastly, her vamp length was too long.  She had short toes and an inflexible arch.  With a vamp that is too long it also causes difficulty getting over your box.

Pointe shoes are a trial and error process.  Your feet change as you get stronger and may need to adjust to a new type of shoe as your feet develop, but the thing I need to harp on the most is to know your body.  You are the only one that can say when a shoe doesn’t feel right.  Just like the girls on Center Stage they beat up their shoes to adjust them to what feels comfortable on their feet.  Now I am not suggesting you do this, but as I got older I use burn the fabric on the bottom of my box and rough up the bottom of my shoe so it wasn’t so slippery.  I had friends that didn’t like how stiff the box was so they would beat it up on the floor to loosen it.  Needless to say, your first stop needs to be to figure out your foot.  Talk to you Ballet teacher and see what they know.  If you have any doubts before you go to the store check out the website below.  It will teach you how to look for the right shoe for your foot.  Happy Pointe Shoe Hunting!

Learn Your Foot Type Here