The African American Shakespeare Company Fall 2011
My name is Kaine Kenerly and I am a fourth year student at USF, majoring in Accounting. This is my first semester in the PSIP program and I am working with executive director, Sherri Young, at San Francisco’s very own African-American Shakespeare Company.
Thank you for visiting the Fall 2011 African-American Shakespeare Company blog. Throughout the course of this semester, I will be working with the theater company’s executive director to accomplish and improve the company’s administrative and business tasks. Leveraging my accounting and business application skills, I plan on installing organization and process tools that will help the company grow organically.
About the Organization:
The African-American Shakespeare Company was established in 1994 by professional theater artists from the American Conservatory Theatre as an alternative answer to the “Color Blind Casting” initiative that began in the early 90s. The company’s mission is to provide an opportunity and a place for minority actors to hone their skills and talent in mastering some of the world’s greatest classical roles; and to open the realm of classic theatre to a diverse audience who have been alienated from discovering these time-favored works in a style that reaches, speaks, and embraces their cultural aesthetic and identity.
The AASC, founded by the devoted executive director Sherri Young, is now in its fifteenth season and has produced over 30 productions, toured to 85 schools, and reached over 90,000 patrons. Some of the companies most successful productions include: a hip-hop version of Macbeth, Othello set in a law office with an African-American Iago, a gospel version of Antigone, and the seasonal fan favorite AASC adaption of Cinderella. All of the companies productions are geared to re-“represent” these classical works in a different cultural context, while maintaining the integrity of the language.
The AASC is currently on a path of exponential growth after a series of critically acclaimed productions and the addition of a new artistic director. Peter L. Callender, an internationally renowned actor and Juilliard graduate, is entering his second season as artistic director of the AASC and is committed to enhancing and carrying forward the core vision set forth by Sherri Young.
Fall 2011 Projects
Writing and Distributing
Fundraising is an element of operations that should be a core
competency for all non-profit organizations. Because the goal of non-profits is
the enrich or aid communities rather than provide goods and services at premium
or even discount prices, fundraising is the main revenue stream for
organizations in this industry. Although on the surface, fundraising may be
seen simply as kindly solicitating for capital, it is a much more complex
process and takes an understanding of many concepts to be executed successfully.
Because the AASC is operated by two full time staff and a small team of
interns, I have taken the role of assisting Sherri in grasping the core
fundraising concepts and implementing them into the company’s processes. I
began by reading and documenting a text written by Mal Warwick, the chairman
and founder of Mal Warwick Associates (an industry leader in nonprofit
fundraising and direct marketing), titled, How
to Write Successful Fundraising Letters. The text breaks writing
fundraising letters down to a science, and I am in the process of implementing
that science into AASC’s current fundraising program.
My work on this project began with compiling a list of target audiences
the company would benefit from reaching out to. Prior to this project, the
company primarily sent out a few generic appeals to the entire prospect list.
After our research we realized the importance of having a variety of appeals
that cater to specific audiences that are or have been involved with the
company. We then went through the basic structure, laid out in Mal Warwick’s
text, for crafting appeals for certain audiences. In this process, we were
confronted by questions that really made us think and broadened our
understanding of how to effectively ask for donations. I am still currently in
the phase of drafting and revising new appeal letters and we are confident that
the end products will add great value to the company’s general donation
Establishing a Major Gifts
Major gift programs require an even greater amount of effort and
premeditated thought, because these programs solicit affluent prospects for
gifts of $350+. The AASC has never had an official major gifts program, although
they have received some major gifts from generous donors, and I took the task of
trying to implement one. As with general donor programs, I had no prior
experience in this field and had to take some time to learn and understand how
to go about establishing one.
I started gaining an understanding of this process by attending major
gift program seminar hosted by Essex & Drake Consulting at the World
Affairs Center. At this event, one of the company’s consultants walked the
group through how to brainstorm and start building a major gifts program. I
took the knowledge I gained from this experience brought it back to the AASC.
After briefing Sherri on the seminar, we began starting the initial process of
identifying potential major gift donors and developing appeals.
Week 1 & 2:
- Reading and documenting, How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters.
- Audit preparation
Developed Deliverables –
- How to
write successful fundraising letters
- Audit Checklist
- Fundraising Toolbox
- Marketing concept framework
Week 3 &4
- Collect, compile, and edit AASC cast bios for
- Track board member contributions
- Research AASC and AAACC for docent tours at
Developed Deliverables –
- AASC 2011-2012 Biography Booklet
- Board member contribution status forms
- Docent tour guide information sheet
Week 5 & 6
- Attend and document Essex & Drake major gift
- Draft new donor prospect appeals
Developed Deliverables –
- Framework for establishing major gifts program
- Parent donation appeal letter
- New donor appeal letter