Covid-19 Impact on BorderLight
BorderLight is a biennial event that launched in 2019. Our plan for 2020 was to use the staff time of our small, three-person part-time crew to raise funds, curate programming and plan the events for our 2021 return. We would also feature a late summer fundraiser reprising our highly successful event at Worthington Yards in downtown Cleveland in 2018.
The Covid-19 pandemic immediately hit our plans for 2020 and 2021. We had to postpone and ultimately suspend our biennial fundraiser, where we had hoped to raise $70,000 (and were already well along in planning). We also lost some funding for operations and sponsorship that had been tantalizingly close to guaranteed, including $20,000 for a development consultant and more in sponsorships. Funders were, justifiably, redirecting limited resources to facing a calamity whose proportions were unknown, and often conceived in disastrous terms. Sadly, in many respects these estimations of the impact of the pandemic were not incorrect, as we face health and economic disasters. In addition, BorderLight is a public gathering event, which we believe is ultimately essential to the health and vitality of our community. We also understand that such events are not the first priority in a crisis. However, when such events are truly needed–the “morning after” we discuss in our other story for WeCareCLE–they have to be planned for and prepared. In any case, such healing moments also require and reward the work of planners, caterers, venues, performers, parking valets, media workers, etc . . . the arts are an essential part of the local economy and a key to its revival.
Even more intimately, the virus impacted our small staff. One member was traveling abroad with her family (a trip that included invaluable research into Fringe festivals) and found it very difficult to return. Cancelled flights pushed her return back, as did a mandatory quarantine in Maryland when they could fly back. One of our co-founders and Co-Directors came down with Covid-19, and has been slowly recovering from the virus for well over a month–in fact, until the present, which has made our pivots to other strategies of advancement (which we are proud of) more difficult to achieve. Our other co-founder and Co-Director was working hard to recalibrate her day job as a university instructor into a something workable from at home. She has had to carry a heavier burden than is proportionate in this time.
Not only were the staff challenged regarding presence, health and time, we have collectively foregone compensation for the first four months of this year. At the start, this was intentional and a way to save money–although we were working towards a sustainable future in which these three (minimum) crucial roles could be filled on a compensated basis; for the last two months or more, it has just been a way to save money. We can’t maintain this practice and retain staff time and energy, however motivated we are as individuals.
We were fortunate that our 2019 success brought in some early funds for use this year. We have been operating on a shoestring since expected donations and the fundraiser have evaporated. Our monthly overhead is low: mostly event planning contracts, professional services and software/online subscriptions. Soon, though, we will have to pay staff and place deposits for a late summer 2021 event; artists will need deposits; part-time staff and sub-contractor lists will grow, as we seek to match and exceed our 2019 event. Cumulatively, this puts us in a position of facing a set of difficult choices in the next 2-3 months of whom to pay, what to commit to, what venues to “secure” or risk losing, what artists to connect with, etc.
For BorderLight, given our thin costs of operation at the moment, our greatest needs are either donations or development/networking assistance to build a network of donors in a difficult time. Donations could meaningfully consist of in-kind contributions of the costs that festivals incur: rent, printing, media, transport, housing, etc. We know what we are doing and have proved our concept; we even defer reward in the interest of the concept. We most need the resources to make it happen.