One day last week, I left a meeting with someone who is under a great deal of pressure because of current budget squeezes that impact her nonprofit organization's funding. The physical sensations of stress she described were indelible, and I felt a great deal of empathy as I walked through the City towards my office.
I passed the Merriam Theatre in Philadelphia, and a crowd spilling out onto the sidewalk, hours before showtime, piqued my curiousity. Then I heard drumming. Stomp was in town, and at this very moment, they were conducting a masterclass for high school-aged – and very enthusiastic – kids.
With nothing more than plastic buckets, wooden sticks, and passion, this drumming circle crackled with energy. If you've ever seen Stomp, you can imagine.
It reminded me of a few things:
- The human spirit is a live wire of creativity, passion, and inspiration. Accessing that energy requires no budget.
- Anyone feeling stressed or pressured can find instant relief through the arts – music, visual art, performance, wonderful writing, beauty in some form. Our own internal creative energies can help us through a challenge.
- Shouldn't arts funding be as critical as human services funding? (Yes, that's rhetorical.)
- We have a mythology about the starving artist. The most creative and artistic people revel in the constraints of their craft. Sure, they spend lots of time fantasizing about what they'd do with piles of money. The best and most innovative push on, transcending the constraints and making the most of their resources.
And that's where you might be inspired. Rather than focus on what you don't have, perhaps you might think more creatively and bigger about what you do have. Perhaps you have more to offer than you might imagine, or can focus your sponsorship effort in a new way that yields bolder results.
Today I received a press release about the Blue Cranes, jazz artists from Portland, OR, about to launch a cross country/East Coast tour by train. They rallied their friends and friends' friends on a Kickstart fundraising effort, raising nearly $7,000 to cover their costs. They also sought a rail sponsor and found a promotional partner in the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) which so far has written a blog post about the tour.
Blue Cranes' print publicist Matt Merewitz and the band members developed some great ideas for a rail partner. Blogging along the way. Performances by the quintet at station stops. Mentions to the group's audiences all along the tour. They're all great ideas which hopefully will come to life with a committed partner on the next tour. NARP, for now, is simply a promotional partner, and my hope is that they recognize the value of having an innovative band exemplify NARP's ideals, encouraging people to travel by train, and commit at more appropriate levels in the future. My hunch is that Blue Cranes' fans and audiences share the values of America's railroad passengers but who may not have considered train travel as an option.
"I believe in their mission," alto sax player Reed Wallsmith said about NARP. He looks forward to the collaboration.
While I wanted to hear reports of a great partnership between the two and cash and/or inkind fees commensurate with the exchange of value, I remain hopeful that that will happen in time. What I am excited about seeing, which is exactly my point, is that the Blue Cranes are making things happen. They set out to accomplish a revenue goal and through lots of ingenuity on their part, they accomplished it. Next time, they'll have stronger ideas and new skills that they can use to secure a substantial sponsor or two. (NARP, you have a great opportunity, so I hope you're thinking big, too!)
If you're struggling with making your fiscal year-end or event budget goals, do what you need to do to shake the anxiety and stress. Shift your energy and reconnect with your own creativity. You need new ideas, fresh thinking, and a way to see your work, your event, your sponsorship offering from a new angle. That's when you'll think big and pursue big partners to leverage big results.
To check out the Blue Cranes and learn more about their tour, watch their video below or visit their web site for dates near you. Blue Cranes photo credit: Jen Downer