COVID-19 has brutally affected many nonprofits. Children’s Performing Arts (CPA) is no exception. Normally, tickets sales and tuition income account for 55-65% of our revenue. With the theater mandatorily closed on March 24, all spring and summer rehearsals and performances had to be cancelled, resulting in over $62,000 in lost ticket sales and tuition income.
CPA has mitigated some of these losses by cancelling programs and pivoting to virtual classes, increasing fundraising, receiving a payroll protection plan loan, and pursuing outdoor venues to share our students’ work. Despite best efforts, losses of over $17,000 remain.
Much of this is because the nature of theater requires large groups to gather. Our education model focuses on 25-100 children learning at a time. Under COVID, we’ve drastically reduced class sizes. For example, one of our K-8th grade camps had an anticipated class size of 30 students and budgeted income of $7350. Because students couldn’t gather in those numbers, it became a virtual course with only nine participants, resulting in $900 in tuition income–a $6450 loss. Cancelling programs, refunding tuition, renegotiating contracts, switching teaching staff to a virtual format, and moving staff to home-office environments resulted in considerable administrative costs and offered little economic relief. Virtual plays simply don’t offer the unique opportunities provided by the live stage, but we wanted to keep our students engaged and continue our mission of offering children an artistic haven in which to grow and learn.
As a result of ticket and tuition losses, fundraising needs have doubled. We’ve implemented additional strategies, such as our GiveAtHomeMN campaign. However, it raised only $12,600 of the $55,000 needed at that time. We’ve applied for as many grants as we can, but most grantmakers have switched their focus to COVID relief for essential services, making us ineligible. For example, the Greater White Bear Lake Community Foundation, which gave us a $1500 grant in 2019 and a $1000 grant in 2017, has adopted a COVID relief focus for which we do not qualify. We also had to cancel an in-person giving event in April and have lost four business sponsors and a handful of donors because of cash flow concerns or unemployment due to COVID.
Positives have also stemmed from the pandemic. In switching to virtual, we’ve discovered the potential to overcome geographic and transportation barriers for students and audience members, once we manage the cost and technology limitations. We’re also doing our first radio play, teaching students sound-effect and voice-over techniques. Last, we’ve discovered outdoor performance areas we never knew existed and will be able to utilize in the future.
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, CPA is working harder than ever to find opportunities to keep our students engaged and to share art with the Twin Cities. Forging these new paths takes time and resources but will be well-worth the investment when COVID-19 is but a page in our history.
COVID-19 Decision Tree for People in Schools, Youth, and Child Care Programs