Milwaukee Business Journal: UPAF launches $10.8M campaign with goals for ambitious growth in years to come

Margaret Naczek | February 8, 2023

The United Performing Arts Fund kicked off its $10.8 million 2023 community campaign Wednesday evening at the Todd Wehr Theater in the Marcus Performing Arts Center. This year's fundraising total was not only an increase over the previous year but also a step towards an ambitious goal in 2025.

This year's goal is an increase from the 2022 fundraising goal of $10.5 million. UPAF surpassed its 2022 goal, raising $10,782,496 from 13,400 donors.

The increased fundraising goal is the next step with UPAF's plan to increase its annual giving to $12.5 million by 2025. That, UPAF CEO Patrick Rath believes, will lead to a healthy arts sector.

"We know that UPAF is going to be a bridge to that overall growth of the performing arts into that environment," Rath said. "We need support that increases in the public sector. We need support that increases from a private sector on a year-over-year basis."

UPAF supports the 14 member groups of First Stage, Florentine Opera Company, Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Skylight Music Theatre. Members include Bel Canto Chorus, Black Arts MKE, Danceworks, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO), Next Act Theatre, Present Music and Renaissance Theaterworks.

UPAF would also like to see an increase in long-term financial assets in the form of endowments and other investments.

UPAF is using its volunteer base, which it calls Chorus Line, in order to expand beyond the over 160 workplace campaigns that occur during this campaign period. UPAF also has a goal to double the number of workplaces it interacts with within this next year and expand to over 500 companies by 2025.

Rath said UPAF is asking people to come back to "not only what the performing arts mean, but to see themselves in the performing arts."

"That starts with you," he said, "you as a donor, you as a patron, you as somebody who cares about the future of our city. We want to showcase not only what the impact you have but also the benefits that come back to you."

For this campaign year, UPAF has a goal of reaching 15,000 or more donors. The most popular donor benefit is UPAF's SMART Card, which is given to donors who give $150 or more and includes one free ticket with purchase of another ticket at one of UPAF's member groups. The SMART Card also has dining benefits at over 25 local restaurants.

UPAF's 2023 campaign runs from Feb. 8 to May 31.       

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