By: David Grindle, USITT Executive Director

Dan Culhane and Mark Shanda announced the Setting the Next Stage Campaign at the opening of the Annual Conference in Louisville. This is the first concerted campaign in 10 years to support the work of USITT. But that often leads to the question, “Why are you raising money?”

The “easy” answer is security. Our goal in this campaign has been to shore up the four basic funds of USITT. This helps us ensure we have the funds to continue research funding, international connections, student and early career initiatives, and to build the USITT Fund for support of the Institute. Each of these funds ties back directly to the charter written by our founders and gives us the assurance that we can continue the mission they began as it applies to the industry of today.

October is the month USITT was “born” according to the legal documents. As such we are hoping to make strides toward fulfilling our campaign goal during this, our birth month. We will even be having a day of giving on Oct. 26 to help us meet that goal, which we’ve appropriately titled “USITT Giving Day.” So I ask you to consider what part of USITT’s mission is dear to you. Is it the research that we support? Our international connections? The future members of the industry? Or just the Institute as a whole? Each of these has a fund to make a gift.

While big gifts certainly make a “splash,” the size of the gift doesn’t matter. A few dollars or a few dollars each month go together to make a lasting impact. It helps us support people like Steph Waaser in her research to mitigate the spin inherent in single point rigging. It provides rigging inspections for high schools along with safety training. We currently have the funding to support 20-24 schools per year, but there are more than 50 applications we can’t fill and funding is literally the only barrier.

USITT is opening doors for people at all points in their careers, and especially those in underrepresented communities. While the entertainment industry has a reputation for being a welcome space for all, that isn’t always the case. We are making efforts to change that through our Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion work that is funded through the Diversity Initiative in the New Century Fund.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of all of the work that USITT is doing beyond producing the Annual Conference. Those are the things that this funding campaign is set — to raise money for and ensure future funding.

I ask that you consider a gift to USITT. One time, recurring, or a pledge over several years, each gift makes a difference in someone’s life. And if you are thinking about estate planning, those gifts count too. Our Loft Block Society is made of people that have notified us that they have left a bequest to USITT upon their death. If you’ve done this but not told us, you can help us meet our goal and we can recognize your generosity today.

Thank you for being part of USITT. We appreciate all those we serve and we hope you will look to us in the coming year for more connections and resources as we Set the Next Stage for the next 60 years.