Thursday, January 13, 2011

$10,090 from 44 Donors

A few months ago I blogged about The Sunset Challenge, the Magic Theatre's campaign to raise $10,000 from donors to go toward the writing and production of a new play by Octavio Solis. I donated $20.

I was just digging through some papers and discovered the letter acknowledging the receipt of my contribution and the success of the campaign. It said "Magic Theatre was able to raise $10,090.60 from 44 donors."

And that took me by surprise: the number of donors is so much lower than I had expected. If every donor had given the same amount, the mean contribution would be $230. And because I, and likely others, had given much less than $230, that means that most of the money had come from just a few people. (Did the 80-20 rule came into effect: 80% of the money coming from 20% of the donors?)

I know that $230 or $250 is not an insane amount of money -- you don't have to be a millionaire fat cat in order to donate $250 to a charity or an arts organization. All the same, it is hard for me to imagine having $250 (or more) lying around and giving it to a theater company and feeling 100% sure that I had made the right choice. Maybe it would have been better for me to buy something useful with it? Or bank it, put it towards a longer-term savings goal? Or donate it to help the denizens of the Haiti refugee camps, or to protect the environment, or...?

But $20, I can spend without guilt. And I was truly excited that the Magic Theatre seemed to want my $20 for the Sunset Challenge. It solicited my donation on Facebook, it made the project sound like a community effort... a collaboration between a San Francisco writer and two San Francisco theater companies to write a play that takes place in a not-so-well-known neighborhood of our city. And so, after all that, I must confess to being really disappointed that only 44 people donated, and that many of them had to have given substantial sums in order for the math to work out.

I know it's churlish of me to complain about this; the Sunset Challenge achieved its goal, and I'm just looking a gift horse in the mouth. But, when I gave my $20, I thought I would be one of many proud first-time donors to the Magic Theater. And yet there weren't so many of us, after all...

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