Milwaukee Business Journal: UPAF raises more than $11.6 million, nearly matching 2019 campaign

David Schuyler | September 22, 2020

After extending its campaign several months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the United Performing Arts Fund said Monday that it raised more than $11.6 million for local arts organizations, nearly matching 2019's total.

At a socially distanced campaign finale at Marcus Majestic Cinema of Brookfield Monday evening, UPAF said it raised total of $11,358,693, with an additional $304,000 raised in grant revenue. Check out the attached slideshow to see photos from the campaign finale.

The $11,662,693 raised was just 1.9% short of last year — an achievement for a fundraising campaign that relies heavily on workplace giving during a pandemic that has forced many office workers to work from home. Pandemic-related shutdowns began after the campaign had started, leading UPAF to forecast a potential 8.5% shortfall this year.

The 2020 campaign is the last for retiring president and CEO Deanna Tillisch, who suggested that this year has been the most meaningful as well as the most challenging.

“When I announced that 2020 would be my final campaign, it never crossed my mind that it would take place in the midst of a global pandemic when our stages were forced to go dark,” Tillisch said. “While it has been the hardest campaign, it has also been one of the most rewarding. The UPAF team was energized – daily – by seeing our community come together to protect assets that add so much to our lives."

The pandemic resulted in the shutdown of performing arts organizations across the Milwaukee area and the cancellation of more than 500 performances impacting 200,000 patrons, Tillisch said in April. At the time, she estimated more than $8.3 million in revenue losses for the 14 member groups of UPAF.

The 2020 campaign included $720,000 raised through Kasey’s Fund, a one-time initiative that designates dollars exclusively for arts accessibility in honor of Tillisch’s final campaign. That's nearly three times the original goal for Kasey’s Fund, which was $250,000.

Tillisch said arts accessibility has been a priority throughout her tenure.

“During down economies, arts education and community engagement programs are often the first to be reduced or eliminated so this support is needed more than ever,” she said.

The event at Marcus Majestic Cinema featured performances by the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Florentine Opera Company, Milwaukee Ballet and UPAF’s newest member group, Black Arts MKE.

In remarks, Tillisch thanked the three campaign co-chairs for their significant contributions. The campaign was led by Tami Garrison, community affairs director at Molson Coors; Justin Mortara, principal at the Mortara Group; and Rolando Rodriguez, chairman, president and CEO of Marcus Theatres.

The finale closed with Tillisch saying her farewell after nine years leading UPAF. Her tenure will end Sept. 30.

Original article and photo slideshow can be viewed HERE.