As a circus student, sometimes I forget how much it costs to keep a gym open. But the reality is that circus is expensive, and it takes the whole community to raise money through grants, auctions and fundraisers so that we can keep our circuses afloat. There are about a thousand different ways to fundraise, but in this article I wanted to focus on one fundraising option that was fun, raised money, and brought my community together.
So I interviewed Wendy Cohen, the Educational Director at the Echo Theater Company in Portland, Oregon. Wendy has been a community member of Echo Theater, performing, teaching, and working in the echos office, since 1996. The Echo Theater is a nonprofit, and is always looking for creative fundraisers to raise money, and Wendy was a massive help to Echo in creating the FUNathon fundraiser that took place about 6 months ago.
The FUNathon was a one night fundraising event that took place inside the Echo Theater Company’s space. The night included, acts, pledges, concessions, jokes, poetry and puppets. Wendy described the event as being, “the circus version of a jogathon” saying that, “People could find a fun thing to do either repetitively in a short time or something that they could sustain. Then family members would pledge money for how long or how many a participant could do. The idea was to get pledges from family members and the community in a way that would be fun to watch.”
When I asked Wendy what she thought made the FUNathon a successful event she kept coming back to the idea that it was fun, silly and completely inclusive to all members of the Echo community. She told me, “It made people curious! There was definitely an element of, What is that? The event really brought the community together from all levels, whether or not you were taking a class at Echo.” It was clear to Wendy that what made a difference in this fundraiser was the inclusion of all generations. When I asked Wendy about the importance of including parents and relatives in fundraising she said that, “It’s really important, We need an audience and they are the audience. they want to support the kids who are working, and we wouldn’t be here without them.” Another great part of the FUNathon was the message it sent to both kids and adults, as Wendy said, “it showed that people with any age, body or ability could do circus, and it really gave those who had not been exposed before a chance to understand what circus is.” The FUNathon did a great job of capturing Echo’s mission to its community, “ To create unique, professional performances and classes aimed at bridging generational and cultural gaps while celebrating the collective potential of all people.”
Altogether the FUNathon raised about 6,000 dollars for the Echo Theater Company, and there are plans to do another event like it next year. Wendy, and everyone else at the ETC, hopes that it is just as successful if not more. Clearly fundraising works best when you can get everyone in your community in on the fun, and get every single member invested in the time and money it takes to make circus work.
You can find the Echo Theater Company at www.echotheaterpdx.org