Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cold meats, wet feets, and white rubber tents

I've been doing some reading lately on the would-be demise of certain fundraising events. Before (and during) my tenure as a nonprofit arts exec, I've had the opportunity to organize and execute events for a few different places, as well as do a whole-lotta installations in and around NYC working for an event lighting company.

The semiotics of these events have always baffled me. Well-off folks in nice clothes congregate in close quarters under rubbery tents in damp grass and eat hot food that has gone cold that cost twice as much as a good meal in a decent restaurant on any other night.

The mathematics are worse. Typical direct mail campaigns cost about $0.15 to raise a dollar. Many events cost at least $0.35 on the dollar - with some costing more than they raise. The health care and arts sectors are notoriously inefficient at generating ROI at events. I'm a bad blogger because I can't find the article that backs this up - I think it's in my office, and I'll post it when I turn it up.

There are certainly good reasons to hold fundraisers - also called "friendraisers": building brand, recharging emotional capital, and creating networks of stake holders. But how do white rubber tents and the dense damp atmosphere under them promote those activities?

Now that many nonprofits are run by folks in their 20s and 30s, and their supporters are more and more drawn from the baby boomers and less and less from the Greatest Generation, the semiotics of these events are in a moment when they can and should evolve. Rather than perpetuating the mystique of black-tie gatherings, let's take advantage of baby boomers' fondness for all things Springstein, shiny Harleys, and kitschy TV nostalgia. And I'm not just talking centerpieces - really re-engineering these events to be fun and to meet the expectations of the people we're asking to attend them.

There's a lot of room for comment and debate on this topic - it's a big issue, and my run at it here is a little slap-dash - but having come out of my big annual fundraiser last week, it's been on my mind. Comments are appreciated!

Posted by Chris Casquilho

Monday, July 14, 2008

UpstArt Cultural Events

UpstArt is holding its monthly movie night at Rock Hill Bakehouse Cafe in Glens Falls, Wedsnesday July 16th at 7:30pm. This month's film is "Russian Ark" - a film famed both for its art historical and philosophical content and its achievements in cinema - the entire film is shot in one cut and casts hundreds of actors. The film takes place in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburgh, each room in the museum holds a chapter of Russian culture - from music and art to philosophy and theatre. This is a free event.

Thanks to everyone who came to our art party Saturday night; the Art of Politics show will open Friday July 25th at 5pm at The Rusty Matcutter, 21 Cooper St., Glens Falls, NY.

Our next open critique will take place Saturday July 26th at 2pm, please call ahead or email to book your spot - 518 932 2477 or

UpstArt is seeking a space to hold its annual Charity Art Auction in October 2008. If you or someone you know has a space to donate or can lease a space for the evening at low cost please contact us at This has been a highly successful event in the past and has donated to such organizations as the Homeless Youth Coalition of Warren/Washington Counties.