Stage Money: The Business of the Professional Theater

By Tim Donahue; Jim Patterson | Go to book overview

6
The Not-for-Profit Professional Theater

Not-for-profit theaters usually begin with the artists’ need for expression. Few begin with a business plan. Yet the not-for-profit theaters that thrive become businesses nonetheless. They need money management, marketing, personnel, janitorial services, heating and cooling, legal services, and so on. As businesses, not-for-profit theaters move through the well-established business life cycle, if they survive and grow. The movement from the enthusiasm of a few to the organization of many others is a story worth telling.

It is reasonably certain that the not-for-profit theater in the United States had total budgets in the 2005–6 season of $1.79 billion. This figure comes from 990 reports that the IRS requires each not-for-profit corporation to file. This total revenue is roughly equivalent to the total revenues of all the Broadway League productions, both Broadway and touring, $1.9 billion in the 2006–7 season. The problem is figuring what portion of the $1.79 billion is for professional not-for-profit theater. For there is no consistently accepted and applied definition of a professional theater.


The Not-For-Profit Professional Theater Definition Examined

The not-for-profit part is easy to define. To qualify as a not-for-profit, an operation must receive the 501(c)3 designation from the Internal Revenue Service. Donations to 501(c)3 organizations are tax deductible, and 501(c)3 organizations are mostly tax exempt. The IRS 501(c)3 exemption applies to incorporated organizations operated exclusively for “religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.” Theaters are called “private operating foundations,” not-for-profit organizations that use most earnings and assets directly for tax-exempt purposes, rather than making grants to others. There are more than a million 501(c)3 corporations in

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