Network for Good & the Dance Theatre of Harlem
Partner for Fundraising Success
- Raised $27,864
- Reaching supporters around the world
- Hope for the future
In 2004, the famed Dance Theater of Harlem was in such desperate financial straits, it closed the doors to its school and laid off the 44 dancers in its acclaimed ballet troupe. And it did everything it could to raise money - from making very public pleas for help to turning to Network for Good to raise money, for the first time, through online donations and solicitations - to erase its $2.5 million debt and reopen.
These days, the non-profit's future is looking far more robust. Its school has reopened, most of the creditors have been repaid and the theater has begun making plans to create a new ballet troupe. Development director Rodney Trapp and resident choreographer [and webmaster] Robert Garland talked to us about how Network for Good's DonateNow and EmailNow services boosted the Dance Theater of Harlem's initial fundraising efforts and, more importantly, how these tools will be key in ensuring the nation's only primarily African-American ballet school and troupe will be here for years to come.
N4G: Why did you start using Network for Good?
RG: "We had to shut down our operations in 2004. An American woman sent out an e-mail saying the dance company and school had shut down and if everyone sent in $1, it could help fix the problem. We started receiving all these single dollars in the mail. We have to record every donation. It was great, but it was really time consuming."
RT: "We realized, as people were asking how they could help, that we needed to find a way to get donations online. [Turning to Network for Good] initially was a desperate attempt to make a vehicle available to make contributions. We put the DonateNow button on our website. That was it. It was very basic."
N4G: Is your online donation system still set up that way?
RT: "No. We got some training from Network for Good on how to maximize the service. It was immensely helpful immediately. We learned how to design a website to attract people and the importance of putting the donation information 'above the fold.' We began thinking about ways to have visitors physically interact with the computer to make it more dynamic."
N4G: What features were especially appealing?
RT: "We customized our DonateNow page to make it look like the rest of our website, so it didn't look like you were leaving our site. It had the same color palate and graphics. It gives comfort to the potential donor. Even though they are being sent somewhere else [on the Internet], they feel like they are still with you. It's a relationship you are building and you want it to be as positive and trustworthy as possible. For those still uncomfortable with making a donation online, we added language to ease their minds and let them know how to mail a donation or call us."
N4G: Do you use the EmailNow service?
RG: "Yes. We have a performing company that is on hiatus. They were our messengers, our advertising. [Through EmailNow], we can maintain those supporters. They write us and ask when we are coming back. They still know what's going on here. They know about our open houses, our schools. They know everything! We have a relationship with our supports [across the U.S. and abroad] that we didn't have before."
RT: "In 2006, we gathered all the e-mail addresses we had in our database and put them in our EmailNow database. We're adding to that list regularly by having people sign up through our website. We have different categories of lists within EmailNow: the New York metro area; people interested in our Open House series; non-New York metro area people; staff; and alumni. We send out one or two of these e-mails a month for special events, our regular series and our spring and fall solicitations. We send out hard copies of the solicitations too; the online one is a reminder. We can personalize them and not everyone gets every e-mail."
N4G: What role do DonateNow and EmailNow play in raising money in your $4.3 million budget?
RT: "We received over $14,700 in online contributions the first year we, most one-time responses to the news of our closing. In 2005-06, we received $5,244 from 32 donors and in 2006-07, we received $7,920 from 44 donors. It's not a whole lot of money but it's the beginning of what we know is a growing trend. You have to start somewhere. As people become more comfortable with donating money online, I think more will be drawn to the site. It's still fairly new for us, but people are using it, so it's effective for us. It's definitely worth it."
RG: "It's great for unsolicited donations. And it's helped use a new technology and keep us in touch with our constituents who are regularly online. That's everyone! You can't not do it. We had looked into other services, like PayPal, but they didn't seem to work for us. When we got to Network for Good, it was perfect. A great match."
N4G: Why is it so important for the Dance Theater of Harlem to have this extra fund-raising and communications tool?
RG: "We are about black people who do ballet. It is a real thorn in the side [that some people still believe the two don't mix]. We have to exist for our culture and for our community here in Harlem."
Dance Theatre of Harlem