Uncensored, Uninhibited Giving: How The Playwright’s Center Raised Money

Rachel Jendrzejewski, playwright. (Photo courtesy of the Playwright's Center)

Last week, GiveMN held their third annual Give to the Max Day and raised an amazing $13.4 million from 47,534 donors for almost 4,000 nonprofits across the state.

One of the organizations that participated was The Playwright’s Center (PWC), a full-service organization based out of Minneapolis that supports local and national playwrights with grants, workshops, and career development resources. Their mission is to help playwrights get their plays off paper and onto the stage.

Last year, their communications associate Tom Borger stumbled upon the Bedlam Theatre’s fundraising challenge for Give to the Max Day, where they locked their director in a cage, and only fed him and gave him bathroom breaks when donations came in.

That got the wheels turning for Tom, and he figured out a way to theatricalize the writing process for this past Give to the Max Day.

Tom and his colleagues got on the phones and started reaching out to their network of playwrights to help them raise money by contributing to writing a play—live.

Nine playwrights, two of which were in New York and Los Angeles, signed up for shifts from 8AM to 10PM, to sit in front of their computers and lend their creativity for #NewPlay Live.

“Some of the playwrights came into the center for their shifts and tag-teamed to write a play live on Google Docs,” said Tom. “They were having fun, teasing and writing comments to each other.”

The Google Doc was embedded on PWC’s website so every donor could see the play as it was being written. But donors also had the chance to contribute to that work in progress.

“Our supporters could see them as they wrote and be part of the playwriting process by contributing a word, sentence, character, and other elements as their donations rolled in,” said Tom.

The playwrights would highlight the donated words and give a shout-out to the donors as moved along the storyline.

The end result was a 120-page play that can truly be said to be a community effort. You can view the uncensored, uninhibited final product here. (Note: the play contains some mature content.)

At the end of the day, PWC raised over $2,000 with this project.

“Give to the Max Day has been a huge boom for us, every time we’ve done it for the past three years,” said Tom. “This year, we had about 100 donors and 40% of them were new. That was fantastic. We really view this as one of the best times to reach out to people who’d be interested in our organization.”

Their success didn’t come without some work upfront. They sent an email to their supporters a week before Give to the Max Day, one the night before, and a third one halfway through the day.

They also updated their supporters on Facebook and Twitter with the #newplay hashtag every two hours, letting them know how close they were to their next goal.

PWC had been actively building their online community through social media for a while. For the past few months, they’ve hosted Q&A’s online where anyone can ask them practically anything, even their favorite kind of cheese. They gained 13 new fans in last Q&A.

“We try not to deluge our followers with donation asks,” said Tom. “So this is a great way to engage our community and reinforce the fact that we’re available on those networks.”

The Playwright’s Center hosts many free public events, and welcome the Minneapolis community to stop by for a visit.