23/11/2011 - 10:52

Buzz’s creative spin on dollar dance

23/11/2011 - 10:52

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Buzz’s creative spin on dollar dance

STORIES of the fragile nature of funding in the community sector are all-too common, with organisations believing themselves secure in their strategic direction one minute, only to be blindsided by the withdrawal of a vital stream of funding the next.

That scenario played out for Buzz Dance Theatre earlier this year, when its long-standing triennial funding arrangement of 15 years was removed with four months’ notice.

It was a shock for Buzz, which had been using the $140,000 Australia Council Dance Board funding for production costs associated with developing the performances it takes to school children across Western Australia.

The Dance Board funding wasn’t its only income stream, however. The state Department of Culture and the Arts has long been a supporter of Buzz and provides the organisation with the bulk of its funding – $290,000 annually. Healthway provides $50,000 and other private and corporate donors support project-based programs.

And while Buzz’s chairperson Pamela Jayne Kinder said the organisation had sufficient finances to run next year’s season as planned, for an organisation with an annual operating budget of $600,000 the loss of $140,000 still hurt.

“In 1997 when we started getting triennial funding from the federal government, we had earned our stripes,” she said.

“We proved it was a viable thing going forward and triennial funding meant we could plan. Three years out you can’t get a long-term plan, but you can build on things.”

Triennial federal funding also created a level of confidence in the organisation’s future operations, making one-off project-based funding more attractive for private commercial sponsors.

It also brought the organisation within months of signing its dancers on a full-time, as opposed to contract, basis.

Buzz was informed in late August that the Dance Board funding was going to be pulled in December because while the federal arts department had a focus on regional Australia, the Australia Council Dance Board was focused on national touring and adult performance.

For Buzz, whose focus is on filling the dance gap in WA’s broad arts curriculum with its school performances and workshops, the fit eventually was not compatible with the dance board’s criteria.

Ms Kinder suggested a lack of understanding between the representatives from the dance board and Buzz could have contributed to the funding being removed and said more notice would have been valuable.

“In terms of consultation I don’t think they were clear enough. Three years ago when we were going through our last triennial funding, they could have been more forthright with their change in direction,” she said.

“They could have been more open and given us fair warning.”

Buzz’s relationship with the state government Department of Culture and the Arts is at the other end of the scale, according to Ms Kinder.

“The Department of Culture and the Arts fully support Buzz’s focus on youth and education and because they contribute $290,000 they are in effect out major funding partner,” she said.

Ms Kinder said working closely with DCA and nurturing the relationship between Buzz and the government department was an important element in Buzz’s future, with the organisation having developed an interim plan to find the funding to replace that from the Australia Council.

“We have launched an education giving program, which we have had our first donation to,” she said.

“That basically asks individuals to donate to Buzz and it is small amounts of money, less than $1,500.

“They donate to Buzz and then specify what they would like that money to go to in terms of education. For example, $250 will help us subsidise the hire of a bus to bring students in to see a performance.

“Aside from trying to build sponsorship partnerships with large organisations, we are going to have to start trying to collect on mass smaller donations to Buzz.”

 

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