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The answer is you!

Happy Spring, First Nighters!


Thank you all so much for your support over the past months. We had to deliver the worst news we could to our city: that we couldn’t deliver an event that for many has marked the new year for decades. It is a tough thing to admit defeat, and it’s taken growth, reflection, and a commitment to change to look at what has gotten us to this point—and if the celebration of First Night can teach us anything, it’s to let go of what no longer works, and embrace new opportunities!

What happened?

This is the question we’ve heard over and over for the past 6 months. The bottom line is, we didn’t have the money. As an organization, we didn’t do enough to build relationships with the community, with donors, with corporate sponsors, and create a broad enough base of support that when the boat rocked, we wouldn’t capsize. And the boat rocked in 2018.

So what is the answer? Looking again to you all, what we have heard, again and again, is, “We would have helped if you had asked!”

The answer is you.

Moving forward, we are committing to producing an event that is FULLY community-centric. This means we need to build a base of individual donors who are willing to support us year-round.

It means we are making First Night a pay-what-you-can event.

The way this breaks down for us is that First Night has always been free-ish. We typically have about 4,000 people purchasing buttons and enjoying our indoor venues—which is fantastic! But roughly 10,000 people actually visit First Night. 60% of our audience comes through and enjoys our outdoor stages and street performances, rings in the new year with their city, and heads home. Many of those are children, for whom we have always committed to free attendance.

So do we look at these numbers and say “we should raise prices”? That excludes members of our community who could not afford to join us with their family if we raise the cost.

Do we say “how can we make more people pay?” If you’ve been to First Night, you know—it’s pretty cold out there :) Chances are, if folks could afford to sit in a nice warm theater for a bit between outdoor events, they would have bought the button. The people who come buttonless aren’t freeloaders—they either can’t pay, or they don’t personally see the value—either way, if we tried to ‘lock down’ this event those people would probably just not come. Again, this option cuts out our neighbors.


Do we look to grants? Grants from the state, from non-profits and local corporations, are certainly a welcome part of our fundraising strategy and budget! But one missed application deadline, one hard decision on the part of our grantors, leaves us in the lurch when we depend primarily on big chunks of income from single donors.


We believe that if we ask you, you will help to make this event happen. In fact, we think that not asking you sooner is our biggest mistake to date. We have an opportunity now to create an event that the community wants, is committed to, and all are free to enjoy! We think this model will create a more accessible and diverse event, and make our organization more sustainable moving forward.


We need to raise $200,000 to make First Night happen this year. Today, we are launching a dedicated campaign to recruit individual donors who will give a little (or a lot!) to First Night every month.

If you can commit to making First Night happen in 2019-2020, please follow the link below and give what you can. And please stay tuned for updates!

Please donate today and tell your friends and family. Celebrate with us this year!

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