Want to volunteer at Proctors? You’ll have to pay

Want to volunteer at Proctors? You’ll have to pay to do it.

Want to volunteer at Proctors? You’ll have to pay to do it.

Starting this fall, Proctors CEO Philip Morris is asking all 1,200 volunteers at the theater to donate to the annual fund drive.

He’ll accept any amount of money — even $1, he said.

But new volunteers will have a higher threshold. Unless they can show extreme financial hardship, they will have to become a Proctors member at a minimum cost of $75 per year.

Morris said he wants every volunteer to donate because foundations that offer grants to theaters are now asking about volunteers’ donation rates.

Nearly 30 percent of Proctors’ volunteers currently contribute money in the annual fund drives.

“Is that good?” Morris said. “I don’t know. I do know that 100 percent would be very impressive.”

He said “major, national funding sources” are asking for the donation rate. “Like everything else in the world, these things get more and more competitive.”

The Wright Family Foundation and the state Council for the Arts do not ask about volunteer donation rates, but representatives of both said they ask for other, similar data that indicate how much the community supports the theater.

Wright asks every grant applicant to list the names, qualifications and years of service for all “key” volunteers and asks how much money the board and theater members contribute.

The Council for the Arts also asks about the contributions from board trustees.

Other agencies have asked Proctors to provide a list, with names, of all expected donors and how much they will likely donate. “for a [fundraising] campaign that hasn’t happened yet,” Morris said.

He added that he believes agencies ask that question to judge whether applicants have properly planned their campaigns.

“Another measure is the level of involvement of volunteers,” he said. “We’re asking our volunteers to change with us.”

Morris admitted he was “hesitant” to ask volunteers to donate. National funding agencies started asking about volunteer donation rates two years ago, but he wasn’t sure how his volunteers would react.

He sent out the donation request Monday. By Friday, he’d gotten one angry response and three supportive comments.

He stressed that he doesn’t plan to get rid of any volunteers who can’t pay — nor will he reject a new volunteer who can’t afford $75.

“Clearly if someone’s incapable, we’ll deal with it,” he said. “We’re not going to kick anyone out. Give anything you can. We’re looking for participation — we’d like to say we have 100 percent participation. Give a buck. A buck’s a buck.”

Proctors relies on its volunteers, who do everything from bartending to ushering, all for free.

“If not for them, we would fall apart,” Morris said. “You can’t replace 1,200 volunteers with part-timers.”

It’s a popular post. Very few volunteers leave Proctors and there are 300 people on the waiting list, hoping someone moves on so they can get a spot. Working for the theater allows ushers to watch shows, from the back, and every volunteer can earn free tickets for working a set number of hours. They also get a discount on food and drinks and often can buy discounted tickets, though that must be specially negotiated for each show.

Categories: Schenectady County

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