Placing a value on ballet’s survival
To the editor:
It was an honour and a pleasure to serve as the development manager and then executive director of Ballet Kelowna.
Upon the invitation of the Kelowna Ballet Society in 2007 to become its first development manager, my husband and I relocated to the Okanagan.
This move was well considered because I knew that it would be a huge challenge to raise money for a small but growing ballet company.
In philanthropy, the arts compete first with the religious societies, then alma maters and education, followed by health and human services. Essentially the arts are lowest on the scale of giving, and dance is the lowest of these.
In order to be successful and raise the necessary funds to support a ballet company it must meet two essential criteria.
It must be of the highest quality pursuing excellence in every moment and at every turn, and it must be meaningful to its audiences, providing what studies consider a transformative experience.
This is a tall order in this electronic age of mass production and consumerism.
But Ballet Kelowna possesses both which is why it has been so successful and admired.
In the development field, we always say that every non-profit gets the opportunity to ask for support at least once when they face difficult financial times.
This financial challenge is a first for Ballet Kelowna, which has had an exemplary record of financial stewardship equal to their artistic excellence.
I am happier than I can possibly express that we have the philanthropic leadership in Kelowna that enabled the company to complete its 10th anniversary season and honour its commitments to the four presenters in the Lower Mainland, setting the example for others.
For 10 years and against the odds, Ballet Kelowna has thrived with the passion, talent, discipline and dedication of its founding artistic director David LaHay, dancers, production manager and crew.
It has been sustained deficit-free through the good management and perseverance of a committed board and a small administrative staff, working way beyond full-time hours on part-time pay alongside wonderful volunteers.
It was also sustained thanks to many generous donors, from individuals and local businesses to corporations, government funding and special events.
However, during the recent economic decline as funding sources and amounts began to shrink, the company became reliant on special event fund raising which put it in competition with all other non-profits in the region. Special events require a large outlay of money, without a true guarantee of return.
Long-term sustainability, however, requires a partnership between both the public and private sectors. This means individuals willing to:
1. provide monetary support
2. ask their employers to match their gifts and develop their own partnerships with Ballet Kelowna
3. buy tickets and introduce the ballet to family and friends; and
4. advocate for the organization to receive a more equitable proportion of government funding locally, provincially and nationally.
This challenge presents an opportunity for new volunteers who have the energy and enthusiasm to join the board and provide the additional skills, experience and will required to restructure and reorganize Ballet Kelowna to overcome its first financial challenge.
This is the time to take the measure of our community, our province and our nation to determine the true value of this wonderful art form.
A study of audience trends conducted in many cities in the United States found that citizens place a high value on having the opportunity to attend a cultural arts performance in their community.
Ballet Kelowna self-presented for years around the province and is now so highly valued that presenters are including the company on their performing arts series.
But we have yet to fill the Kelowna Community Theatre and we have not had the courage to ask our friends in the Ballet Kelowna family, both here and around the province, to make a significant contribution and to bring their friends and family to see and support Ballet Kelowna.
Ballet Kelowna has made the leap for the past 10 years. Now we need to build upon existing relationships and invite our friends and family to make the leap and give generously to Kelowna Ballet Society.
Please join me and make a pledge to The Future Fund, never needed more than now.