Milwaukee Business Journal: UPAF raises over $10.7 million in 2022 fundraising campaign

Margaret Naczek | September 27, 2022

The United Performing Arts Fund surpassed its $10.5 million 2022 fundraising goal, raising $10,782,496 from 13,400 donors.

The total included $10,121,262 in campaign fundraising dollars and $661,234 from a bequest, the largest in the organization's history, given directly to UPAF's reserves.

UPAF launched its 2022 campaign virtually on Feb. 22 as a result of inclement weather. It had originally planned its first in-person campaign launch since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic at the new Bradley Symphony Center. UPAF concluded its campaign with an in-person celebration Sept. 27 at Next Act Theatre. It was the organization's first fully in-person campaign celebration since 2020.

"The most important thing is it is for the arts community," UPAF president and CEO Patrick Rath said. "This is a time in which we need as many people as possible to continue to invest and appreciate what we have in the performing arts. It’s a sector that has given so much to the quality of life in our community. It is still recovering from the difficulties that we faced in Covid and the complete shutdown that we had for 18 to 24 months for many of our organizations."

UPAF recently reported that its performing arts members and affiliates faced a collective loss of $38 million over the past three seasons.

Of the $10.7 million donated in this year's campaign, $8,267,000 was given to 47 performing arts organizations in eastern Wisconsin. Of that $8.2 million, $7,976,806, or 96%, is given to UPAF's 14 member groups.

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.

Included in the total fundraising amount was also a one-time Covid-19 relief distribution of $700,000 from UPAF's reserves to support UPAF members. In addition, 4% of the funds or $290,194 was distributed as one-year grants to 33 UPAF affiliates for unrestricted use, and a one-time distribution of $50,000 was given from UPAF reserves to expand UPAF's affiliate programs' diversity and geographic reach.

UPAF also received the $661,234 bequest from Nancy Balcer. It was the largest bequest in UPAF's history.

Balcer left bequests not only to UPAF but some of its member groups.

"She was from my purview really a lifelong donor not only to the United Performing Arts Fund but to many of those member organizations. In her last final activity as part of UPAF’s Encore Society, she made this incredible gift," Rath said. "It was a tribute to see someone like that who gave so much of herself and attended the performing arts on a regular basis."

UPAF also saw a 3% year-over-year increase in workplace giving participation. It was the first increase the organization has seen in the last five years.

"People were coming back to the offices," Rath said.

UPAF also saw the return of its Chorus Line, which is its volunteer program. Rath said UPAF had over 300 volunteers help to fundraise this year.