Nobody expected that three months into 2020 we’d be locked in our homes thanks to an insidious global pandemic. Not me, not you and definitely not community-supported nonprofit organizations.
Like us, nonprofits everywhere are having to come to grips with this new dystopian reality. Many are reevaluating their game plans to keep the proverbial lights on.
The Denton Music and Arts Collaborative, a nonprofit that helps subsidize healthcare for local artists, is barreling toward its 11th hour, says its president, Nic Bagherpour.
“Our situation is incredibly dire,” he says. “A big part of our fundraising is events, and that’s not an option for at least the foreseeable future.”
DMAC was founded in 2017 to help support Denton artists. Within the last year, the number of creatives the organization subsidizes more than tripled, shooting from 24 to 74 members. But Bagherpour said that by the looks of it, DMAC will run out of funding sometime in May.
The organization needs to raise around $7,000 a month to continue providing its members with health insurance, Bagherpour says. That amount doesn’t account for its marketing budget, incidental expenses or the You Are Here mental health program, which DMAC launched with Denton-based creative collective Spiderweb Salon last year.
Operating a nonprofit was already a challenge, Bagherpour adds; in order to function, DMAC has to host at least one event a month. Its biggest money generator is the annual weekend-long Summer Hangout festival, which last year raised nearly $10,000.
As of now, it’s too early to tell if Summer Hangout will be canceled or postponed like other major events and festivals around the world. But even in the best-case scenario, Bagherpour says he’s worried the payoff will be severely diminished.
“Even if the show does still happen, I think it’s reasonable to assume we’re not going to raise as much this year as we did last year,” he says.
Bagherpour says he’s heard from many anxious artists whose income is “drying up in multiple revenue streams.” Not only have most of their upcoming performances been canceled, but many musicians lost supplemental income when their service industry jobs disappeared. It’s likely some will struggle to afford housing costs in the coming months, let alone scrounge up enough dough to cover doctor’s visits and prescriptions.
But DMAC isn’t giving up the ghost, Bagherpour says. If each one of its more than 1,300 Facebook followers committed to donating $6 a month, that would cover most of the organization’s operating costs. Plus, there’s still hope that sympathetic, deep-pocketed businesses will decide to help DMAC out.
Times are definitely tough, but Bagherpour says he’s doing his best to keep up morale.
“As soon as we start kicking ourselves and start feeling sorry for ourselves, then we might as well just shutter the whole thing,” he says. “We need to focus on the future, and we need to do everything we can to make sure DMAC doesn’t go away.”
Other Denton-based nonprofits are still going relatively strong despite the impending recession/depression. Community radio station KUZU 92.9 FM isn’t as reliant on in-person events, says board chairman Peter Salisbury. Grants and donations from underwriters and members make up most of its revenue.
The station was lucky to have hosted its annual membership drive in February, Salisbury adds, during which it raised upward of $10,000. And KUZU’s other main fundraising event, its annual birthday bash, is still tentatively slated for July.
But a healthy chunk of the station’s revenue comes from listener donations, and workers everywhere are increasingly being furloughed and laid off.
“We could be in dire straits in two months,” Salisbury says. “But I think we are feeling really solid, really good, and we’re really thankful we’re not in a worse situation than we are.”
That’s not to say that the coronavirus hasn’t also affected KUZU, says vice chair Sashenka Lopez. In compliance with Centers for Disease Control guidelines, the station is encouraging its 55 regular producers to record their shows at home instead of in-studio.
KUZU is also ramping up its service-driven approach to programming. For the foreseeable future, Salisbury says, they plan to air local updates and public service announcements to keep the community informed.
And to help brighten the airwaves, they’re asking listeners to send in snippets of local soundscapes — like clips of birds chirping or dancing wind chimes. Lopez says they’re also requesting that community members submit shout-outs to loved ones, as well as personal updates.
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The ultimate goal, she adds, is to help listeners cope with the sting of social isolation.
“We’re looking for ways to inform the community and keep everyone safe, but also ways to alleviate some of the stress,” Lopez says. “When times get hard, you can always turn on the radio and listen to a familiar voice ... that becomes a kind of friend.”
It seems safe to say that we could all use a friend right now.
For more information about the organizations, or to donate, visit www.dmacdenton.org and www.kuzu.fm.