The most important thing you will read today

On the heels of my recent decision to devote my artistic energy to the proliferation of indie theatre, I have found a new manifesto, and I cannot get it out of my head. Which means I have to try and get it in yours. Written by New York non-profit fundraiser/blogger Sasha Dichter and inspired by übermarketer Seth Godin, it is entitled I’m sick of apologizing for being in charge of raising money. In it Sacha propounds a set of ideas whose time has come, now more than ever, if you consider the world we live in to be in desparate need of art and its ability to communicate ideas directly into the central nervous system. Some talking points from the manifesto…

Look around you at great leaders who you know or respect. What do they spend their time doing? They are infused with drive, passion, vision, commitment, and energy. They walk through the world dissatisfied with the status quo. They talk to anyone who will listen about the change they want to see the world. And they build a team and an organization that is empowered to make that change.

How good is your idea? How important is your cause? Important enough that you’ve given up another life to lead this life. You’ve given up another job, another steady paycheck, another bigger paycheck to do this all day long, every day, for years if not for decades, to make a change in the world and to right a wrong.

You’re devoting your life, your spirit, your energy, your faith into making the vision you have of a better future into a reality […] So why are you so scared to ask people for money? Why do you feel afraid to say: “This problem is so important and so urgent that it is worth your time and your money to fix it. I’m devoting my whole life to fixing this problem. I’m asking you to devote some of your resources to my life’s work too.”

People think that storytelling is a gift, not a skill. Learning how to do this – to be an effective storyteller, to consistently connect with different people from different walks of life and convince them to see the world as you do and walk with you to a better future – is hard, but it’s a skill like any other. It’s true that some people are born with it. But it still can be learned and practiced, and if your nonprofit is going to succeed, you’d better have more than one or two people who can pull this off.

Of course your programs or investments are real work. But so is evangelizing, communicating, sharing, convincing, cajoling, and arm-twisting. So are videos and images and stories and ideas […] If your ideas and programs and people and vision are so great, shouldn’t people be willing to reach into their pockets and fund them? If it’s worth spending your life doing this work, shouldn’t you or someone in your organization be able to convince someone else that the work is worth supporting?

Can I get an amen. Sacha’s salient point that rings the bells with me in this essay – outside of the one about being proud of asking for funding for your art – is the need, the real, honest-to-goodness need for all of us artists to get better at talking about what we do in a clear, proud voice all the time. This is the best marketing we can do for ourselves as a community, to legitimize it and push it further into the consciousness of the uninitiated. This manifesto is talking about a change in how we exist in our city, about becoming a force. One to be reckoned with.

Read the full text of the manifesto here, and pass it on if it resonates with you. I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on it in the comments as well. The revolution starts with proclamations like these…

4 thoughts on “The most important thing you will read today

  1. I’ve started this dialogue with my actors at the first rehearsal.
    It’s rare that you feel like a show’s going to be ready for opening night. In my experience the rehearsal process starts great and gets scary as you barrel towards opening – however at opening you feel great about the show (because you’ve either accepted that it’s terrible – or more, often than not, the show has come together in that magical way that makes us all love theatre so much.)
    So I prefer that we skip that whole “give us a week to settle” and tell everyone in the cast (and my friends/family) to come in the first week – we all know Vancouver audiences will wait until closing to come see a show – this gives those of us who do a two week run the chance to get the word out as quickly as possible. Speak with pride about your work – but also the show you are in. Nothing kills a show quicker than an actor talking about how much they are not enjoying rehearsing the show they’re working on.

  2. Hi there,

    Thank you so much for your post and for spreading the word — it really means a lot.

    Sorry to ask but my first name is spelled “Sasha”!

    And by the way, I come from a family of artists. Go figure.

    Congratulations for the great work you do, and thanks so much for sharing this.

    (no need to actually approve my comment — just didn’t know how to contact you directly).

    Thanks,
    Sasha

  3. Oops, sorry Sasha, that was clumsy. Fixed. And the thanks is totally mine, that’s one of the most useful pieces of writing I’ve come across in many months of navigating the blogosphere. Great stuff.

  4. “Nothing kills a show quicker than an actor talking about how much they are not enjoying rehearsing the show they’re working on.”

    No doubt Ryan, and there’s not a more scalding indication of a complete lack of professionalism than that. Even if you’re denigrating your own process, it irrevocably hurts the show.

    Maybe we should be setting an embargo on negative chatter right at the top of the rehearsal process, and make it mandatory to talk the show up to at least 5 new people a day.

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