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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Parent's committees, associations, etc.


cbballetmom

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Within the last year my daughter switched ballet companies from a large pre-professional studio/company to a very small but rapidly growing Russian based studio/company. For many years at her former company I was involved with the association that was put together and run by parents to help support our girls and the ballet company by raising funds for scholarships, RDA fees, etc. Now that we are at the new company the instructor has asked that I form a parents committee to help do the same type of thing. We started this committe last spring, but quite honestly the only prior experience I have is from our former company and I know there have to be other companies that have a similar type of committee or association. I'm looking for new ideas to raise funds, promote our company (on a very tight budge :)), and generally to spread the word around our community that we exist. Can anyone give me some ideas on how you are organized and what your committee/association does (i.e., are you a separate 501©(3) association? Do you have appointed officers? Do you have fees to join? What types of fundraisers do you hold? Do you keep your own books separate from the studio/company? What types of support do you provide to the company, i.e. scholarships, $$ for costumes, etc.). I would really appreciate anything anyone has to offer as while I have a lot of ideas, they are generally just from what I know from the prior studio. I'd really like to try new ideas and not just copy everything we previously did. Thanks!!

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I think you are lucky to be starting this group from the ground up rather than trying to sort out the affairs of a group that already exists. Maybe you are beyond this point already, but have you been given a clear set of objectives from your company director regarding what he/she expects your organization to accomplish? Without creating some type of mission statement or clear "reason for being" (in writing), it can be extremely difficult to coordinate volunteer efforts. In my experience, one of the most important things when building this type of organization is to be sure that each person who participates understands those designated objectives, and is willing to support efforts to accomplish them. I think it is all too common to find groups where well-meaning parents step-up with various agendas, and much time and energy is burned hashing out ideas and plans that have little to do with the intended goals. So before going further I would make sure that everyone involved at this point is unified in terms of where you are headed.

 

I do think it is typical to have appointed officers. At least it has been in the groups I've been involved with, and again that unity among officers can be critical as they set the example for the others, and they are most vested in acheiving the group's objectives.

 

I wish you the best of luck in getting your group up and running!

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We do have a completely separate 501-3-C organization. I think it is probably cleaner to keep it separate in some ways.

 

We have an appointed board. Officers are elected by the board. Fundraising is always a hot topic. We do 2 full length ballet a year and various outreach activities (school residencies, programs for targeted populations in the community, etc). The money for the ballets is raised in part through participation fees. There are need-based scholarships available. These are separate from any scholarships the ballet school may offer. Money, of course, is also raised through ticket sales, sales at the boutique, raffle baskets- you name it!

 

The separation is from the studio does get a little murky. The studio donates rehearsal space. In the earliest years, the AD and rehearsal assistants did not take a salary. They now get a meager honorarium. Most, but not all, of the student dancers come from the school as well.

 

Grants are probably the biggest key to long term success. Unfortunately, larger grants usually require a financial audit which is pricey in itself for a young organization operating on a shoestring (actually, young or old!). We have been successful with some smaller grants that help cover outreach activities.

 

I think there are other threads out there on promotion and fundraising. For promotion, social media is free. Get yourself out there on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Look at what other companies do. Post photos and interesting little tidbits. Don't post too often or too infrequently. There is a happy medium. Make sure you "friend" the local businesses and civic minded organizations in your region. Get to know some of those people personally, especially those with a large social media presence as well.. Word of month is the best advertisement and it is free! You can also do some targeted Facebook posts inexpensively and target folks who have not friended your organization. Today, there is a lot that can be done for free.. just takes time!

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Our company is separate from the studio and is a 501 3c nonprofit organization. In order to apply for grants, you must be a nonprofit. The company is housed (and rehearses) at the studio. We have a company office and an upstairs room for costumes. There is one paid employee who works in the office. The ballet master/mistress and artists in residence are also paid. They often bring in guest artists and choreographers for productions. There is a large, organized volunteer organization that works to ensure that four professional level productions are put on each year. Ticket sales are only 20% of our budget. The rest of the funds come through donations, grants, and fundraisers. Students audition to be apart of the company. They pay for their own shoes, tights, and leotards (anything worn under a costume, but not costumes themselves). They don't pay a fee for being in the productions, but they do pay their own RDA expenses (including the kit fee and the cost to attend).

 

I wasn't there in the beginning (they've been around a long, long time), so I don't know how they grew to where they are today, but if I were to be apart of a new company, I would begin by establishing a board of directors, a vision, and a set of bylaws. Then I would put together a list of committees needed to make things happen (PR, set production, costumes, fundraiser, etc.), find a volunteer leader and form cadres to get the ball rolling. Prioritize and start small, building on each year. I suspect it takes years to build a strong organization. I also think there has to be someone (AD?) to fill in the gaps, to always be there, and to have the passion and dream to see the organization continue and grow.

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