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What’s a Non-Profit To Do? Part 1 - Performing Arts

Having spent over ten years as the executive director of a non-profit arts organization, I’ve been watching with great interest and concern to see how various organizations are dealing with the pandemic. Many non-profits were dealt a double whammy. My friends in the performing arts world not only had to close their doors, eliminating regular sources of revenue, but now also had to solicit more donations, competing with organizations providing essential services like food and shelter in a time of need for so many.

Other organizations, such as the Food Basket - Hawaii Islands Food Bank, had a massive increase in service need. They now distribute more food in a single month than they did in over six months last year. That has required a major shift in purchasing, fundraising, and most importantly distribution.

So what’s a non-profit to do? The answers are still unclear, but there are many hard working people showing us the way. (You can see Part 2 in this series here.)

Performing Arts

Here on the Big Island, I’ve been watching three unique venues deal with the pandemic. The Hilo Palace Theater has primarily featured films and local-ish performances. After an initial (successful!) fundraising campaign focused on securing monthly donors to retain minimum staffing, they have begun to increase online offerings that mimic regular programming. You can stream movies at home, rather than go go the Palace, and the Palace gets a percentage of sales. They have also produced an AMAZING video series, “Live From the Empty Palace,” featuring local performers doing their thing on the empty stage.

On the other side of the island is the Aloha Theatre. Pre-covid they had a strong lineup of classes and workshops in addition to some locally produced shows. Now they are pretty active online, streaming classes for kids, offering acting workshops via Zoom, and hosting script readings as well.

Third is the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea. They are a presenting organization, meaning most of their typical events are touring performers. The first in a series of fundraising events is this weekend, and features Hawaiian favorite Brother Noland. Dinner tickets have already sold out, and the performance will be broadcast on FB live. I’m very excited to see how these socially distanced, picnics in the park come together. It's a creative way to be together, apart...or is that apart, together?


While we don't know how these tactics will work long term, the key takeaway for now is to get online. It's always been important, but now it's the best, and likely ONLY way to get in front of your audience. They want to help you. They want to visit and support you. Be sure you give them a way to do it. (And yes, PECO Arts can help you do it!)

Your homework is to visit and tell your legislators to support relief for these organizations.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE support the arts. They were the first to close, and will be the last to re-open. Buy tickets to these streaming events, make donations to the organizations you love, and remember to buy the work of local visual artists as well.

To read about how other non-profits are dealing with the pandemic, check out Part 2 of this series here.

If you know of other non-profit organizations (or anyone really!) that have positive stories to tell, let me know. I’d love to hear about it!

PECO Arts helps small business do business by providing management, marketing and bookkeeping support. Let us know how we can help you succeed.

#management #marketing #nonprofit #ecommerce #performingarts #HiloPalace #AlohaTheatre #KahiluTheatre #saveourstages

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