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Fundraising for Stage One  
In the fourth installment of our interview with Stage One, the charity dedicated to new producers talks us through their fundraising process.

Read part one, part two and part three of our interview with Stage One.

How does fundraising for Stage One work?

Zoe (Davies, Fundraiser for Stage One): There’s different things that we do – the bursary and apprentice programme is funded by traditional fundraising so we do trust and foundation applications, sponsorship, individual requests – we need to raise £170,000 a year.

That money then gets allocated throughout the year, so when we have our two rounds of bursaries and apprentices each year, we have a certain amount of money to give out. Normally we’re not really turning people away because we don’t have the money – if the project is good enough we’re giving it. We’re raising the amount of money that’s required to keep up with the level of projects we approve. If we suddenly found that there were more and more better quality projects coming in or more and more worthy apprentices, or more and more people wanting to take apprentices on, then I think we probably would try to raise more money to do it.

We then need to raise an additional £100,000 per annum for the start up funding which we’re doing via approaches to industry suppliers and individuals that care about the future lifeblood of commercial theatre.

How has fundraising for Stage One changed over the years?

Zoe: When I was doing fundraising for the bursaries and the apprenticeships, I did a bit of an audit and went out and spoke to various people who had received our funding, either a bursary or as an apprentice, to look at where they were at. Obviously we have the workshops which was teaching the basics of producing, and then we had the bursaries which was about getting people’s work on stage, and then we had the apprenticeships which is about preparing people to start their careers – but I looked at how many people had come through our schemes and were actively applying for the investment scheme, or paying the levy, and it was small numbers of people.

We went out and talked to people about why that was, and the feeling was that at the time it was £15,000 and perhaps that isn’t that much of an incentive when they’ve got to raise a lot more. Also with the current investment scheme, the money goes to the production, so if you’re co-producing, you split it based on the producer share.

A lot of the people coming through our schemes – I remember talking to one of them and her saying, ‘I’ve only got three investors,’ and I said ‘that’s fine – you’ve got to love those three investors and cultivate them because then those three will become four or five, and that’s really how it works.

Was that the inspiration for the new Start-Up fund?

Zoe: Yes, we then looked at bridging that gap which is where we eventually came up with – after much conversation with the council – the Start-Up fund, which we’ll be launching in April 2010. We started fundraising for it in November 2009. We’re trying to raise £100,000 a year to pilot it over three years to run and develop the scheme. It’s about launching the careers of the most promising new producers identified by Stage One’s training programmes.

What will the Start-Up fund do as opposed to your other investment opportunities?

: The idea of the Start-Up fund is that we want to invest £25,000 each into four of the very best producers that have come out of our program. And the £25,000 will be solely accredited to that producer, even if they’re co-producing, but they have to match it. Because you’re not going to make it as a producer if you can’t at least raise some money. But that gives you at least a £50,000 producer share in a show – which should buy them a place at the table and again, like the apprentice scheme, the whole point of it is having them sat round that table, being part of that decision-making process, their views should count but also they can learn from the very best people they’re co-producing with.

The start-up fund is being fundraised for at the moment and we’ve so far raised about £57,000 so we’re already over half-way there.

Peter, what do you think about the Start-Up fund? Will you be applying?

Peter (Huntley, Stage One apprentice producer): What’s brilliant about the idea is that if you know there’s potential to get £25,000 from one investment, it makes it much easier to go with confidence to someone else and say, ‘I can actually do this.’ Because if I had to get a share in one of Sonia’s shows and it was £50,000 as a co-producer – that is psychologically really hard imagine finding God knows how many people to fund it – whereas actually with half of it gone, you do have the confidence to go out and say this is do-able.

Zoe: And as with any Stage One investment, we will commit to it, but they will only get it when they raise the other £25,000. We don’t give them the money until we know that is raised. I think – for any new producer starting out, raising £25,000 sounds like an awful lot of money, but if you can’t raise £25,000, you aren’t going to be able to raise £500,000 in years to come – you’ve got to start somewhere. And most producers have started by asking friends, and people they work with – if you can’t ask, you’re never going to make it as a producer.

Check back for more from the Stage One team… and take a look at the website,

Posted on: 16th March 2010

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