Financial Report 2012

by Candice Benge
Playwright/Producer

Elizabeth Haggard and I met at the beginning of December to discuss what to do next with Transient Theater. We found ourselves in the very fortunate position of having come back from the tour with more money than we anticipated. This, coupled with the many successes and great amount of fun we had on the road, made it clear that we should make a go of it in 2013.

Elizabeth and I spent a lot of time talking about the long term goals of Transient Theater and what we see as our core values and mission. We had phone calls with nearly every member of the 2012 Transient team and got a good idea of what worked well and what needs improvement. In the next few weeks we plan on sharing these things with you, but before we do we thought it wise to show you what we did with all that money we raised. This idea came from conversations we had with an actor who remarked that having access to the “books” of Transient Theater was a bonus. You see, while I did a majority of the accounting I did it in a file that every Ambassador and Production Team member had access to, so everyone knew where the money was (or wasn’t).

Financial transparency was something that was important to me from the beginning and I think one of the things that I like about cooperatives vs. more traditional business models. So in that spirit we’d like to share some pages from our “books.” Perhaps it will be helpful to others who are interested in doing something similar. Perhaps you’ll see ways in which we can improve our financial sustainability. Perhaps it will bore you to tears, in which case, check back in next week for posts that are much more interesting.

Before we get into the numbers let me give an overview of how we dealt with accounting because it isn’t the most straight forward. There were two different kind of accounts, the “production” account, and then an account for every city, known as “performance” accounts. The production account was funded solely through donations and paid for everything we needed to get the show up on it’s feet, in a van, and on the road.

Here’s a summary of our Production expenses where you can see what we budgeted vs. what we actually spent.

You’ll notice we spent more than we expected to on Backer Rewards, in part because we had more Backers than we expected. (Can’t really complain about that.) We came in under on costumes, food, lights, rental car costs, set, transportation (read: fuel), and props. We spent slightly more than expected on sound equipment (because we bought our own system instead of borrowing one), web development, and stipends (because we hadn’t built in a stipend for our extraordinary Technical Director, Stormy.) We were able to do this because we were under in so many other categories and because we raised $1,000 more than our goal.

Now, even $13K isn’t much when you’re talking about a 6 week tour with 5 people, which is why ticket sales and donations had to cover all expenses for the “performance” accounts. Here’s how this worked: Each city has its own account and each Ambassador is in charge of managing that account. After expenses are deducted from ticket revenue the profit is divvied up amongst the team. The goal is for there to be enough money at the end for the Ambassador, the 5 members of the Production Team, and Transient Theater to get a profit share of $50. The white numbers in the chart below show what was left for Transient Theater after all expenses and shares had been paid.

You’ll see that we didn’t hit our goal very frequently, but we did earn a profit of some sort in every city except New York. And we anticipated this. (New York is expensive, but it’s a city we almost have to do because it gives us credibility. I’ve got mixed feelings about this, but that’s for another blog post.) We think this funding system for the individual cities makes sense and we’re going to keep the $50 goal the same for next year. Our returning Ambassadors are confident they can improve their numbers now that they’ve got a year of experience to draw from.

So here’s where we stood after all tour expenses had been paid:

Ending our tour with $2,607 surplus was unexpected and awesome! We already knew we were on to something good based on the feedback received from audience members, but coming back in such good financial standing is a feat very few first year theater organizations can boast about. For me this means we aren’t only doing a great job on stage, we’re doing something smart when it comes to the business of making theater.

Of the money left over we’ve spent about half of it investing in things needed for our future productions. We’ve purchased two 1,000 watt lights so that we won’t have to worry about renting them. We’ve renewed our domain name and paid for another 12 months of web-hosting. We also used some funds for travel so that Elizabeth and I could meet to talk about all these things. And, finally, we invested in a new software called Ticket Turtle that will allow us to manage patron relations more effectively.

Well, I think that brings us up to date. We’re entering our second year on solid ground and looking forward to making improvements in 2013. If you have any questions about the accounting or finances you can direct them to me at candice@transienttheater.com.


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