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Funding Education Programs
Waddy Thompson, Director of Development, Symphony Space; Peter McDowell, Director of Programs, OPERA America
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EducationLink10/15/2007

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Opera education directors will often limit themselves to creating programs as funds become available. If your education programs are good (and we're sure they are!), find ways to be proactive about finding funds, within the organization or from outside.

Good education programs will find funding — somewhere. It seems that many foundation and corporate funders will support arts education even when they have no interest in art, but you should also look beyond the usual institutional funders to the source of most contributed funds for opera — individuals.

Let your young people's group sponsor the education programming. If given the choice among operating costs, a production and education, they'll frequently pick education. You might also see bigger numbers from that group once they have a funding focus.

Do you have an auction at your benefit gala? If so, use the "send this child to camp" approach to rake in the money for your program. Have the auctioneer announce that the program needs $xx,xxx to serve the children in your community and that works out to around $xxx for each student. "Who'll bid $xx,xxx to support education for 10 kids? How about $x,xxx for five? Who will support just one kid for $xxx?" One New York museum raised some $80,000 at their benefit last year using this technique. (And if you're doing a video tribute to your gala honorees, why not sneak in an infomercial for your education programs or have a video of the education programs playing continuously during the cocktail hour?)

There are undoubtedly many other ideas as well. OPERA America would be happy to hear from all of you creative opera educators out there! If you have an inspired fundraising solution to share, please e-mail it to Education@operaamerica.org for use in a future EducationLink feature.

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