An open letter from our Vice President
Year after year the Christmas Revels closes, the props and costumes are packed away, the theater goes dark, and we marvel at the fact that somehow we made this amazing experience happen for another year. As the glow begins to fade we realize what a miracle it was that we pulled it off, and that we need yet another miracle for the year ahead.
There’s no counting on miracles. We scrape by each year through dedicated acts of generosity and overwhelming labors of love. But to teeter on the brink of dissolution over and over is exhausting. One hard year easily tips us over the edge.
All that is a long way of saying that 2018 was a hard year, and it has placed us right on the edge. We ended 2018 with a $60,000 deficit that erases our bank account balance. Our existence is in peril, and I’m going to be transparent and tell you exactly why, and what we’re doing about it.
In simple terms, we can't carry an annual operating budget of $400,000, and produce the Christmas Revels for 6,500 audience members at ticket prices we believe are accessible and affordable. Charging $100+ per seat excludes so many people for whom Revels is a part of their tradition and a bright point in their year. While ticket sales were flat from 2017, our houses have shrunk 30% over the last 10 years. Overall, ticket sales only cover 46% of our budget.
As generous as our donors are, we lack the kind of deep-pocketed donors who can sustainably fill that gap in perpetuity. Moreover, donations this year were actually down 37% from 2017. While every donor gives generously in accordance with their means, the fact is that what our community gives as a whole does not—and more crucially did not—pay for the level of production that we are accustomed to bringing you.
Government funding for the arts and corporate grants have declined steadily over the last two decades. The few remaining grants are hotly sought after and require huge amounts of time and effort to even be considered for. While we still submit applications each year, this revenue stream has all but dried up for us.
That means 2019 is going to be a year of changes if we’re going to make it at all. To put it bluntly, right now we see hard changes ahead for us to continue to exist. At this moment, we have just enough money to keep the lights on while we make a plan this month.
We are immediately taking three steps:
* We are setting a new annual budget target that is 10% below our worst recent fiscal year. In concrete terms, that adds up to almost $100,000 we're looking to reduce compared to our 2018 budget. We’re working line-by-line through our budget to figure out how we can continue to exist and produce the Christmas Revels for that amount.
* We are thinking deeply on what is core and essential to the Revels experience so that we can focus on doing that the very best we can as we evolve within our new reality.
* We are increasing our board and volunteer recruitment, especially focusing on core skills we need more of like volunteer coordination and marketing/social media.
If these sound to you like the right things for us to be doing, then I ask you to donate to Revels now, this month, to fund us through this period as we chart our new course.
Donate so that there will be a 2019 Christmas Revels. Donate online at californiarevels.org/donate/. Become a monthly donor; that really helps us even out our cash flow over the year so we don’t need to ask you so often.
Become a volunteer, or even a board member. California Revels only has two year-round paid staff, both part-time but filling full-time roles. We rely on volunteer assistance for the vast majority of our operations. There is no shortage of ideas for how we can grow, but right now we're short on humans willing and able to put in the hard work to build success. If you are willing and able, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteer today and be a greater part of this wonderful community.
I can’t say it enough: If you believe in the joy we bring and the community we help to build, then contribute what you can today. If you believe in the power of the arts to lift both individuals and society out of darkness, then contribute what you can today. There is no other time. No one else will do it. If you don’t stand with us then we may not be here later... and we’d really like to be here later!
With great hope of celebrating with you at the 2019 Revels,
Vice President, California Revels Board of Directors