by RENEE PATRICK Cascade Business News Feature Writer
The Tower Theatre Foundation, the non-profit organization responsible for operating the Tower Theatre, has recently hired Todd Dickerson as their new development director. With a mission of providing performing arts, civic, educational and social events that enliven and enrich the human sprit, the Foundation is poised to take the organization and its programming to the next level with Dickerson’s help.
Dickerson and his wife Megan are Redmond natives who are moving back to Central Oregon with their two children after 20 years of working around the West in a variety of capacities. “It’s been on the back of our minds to come back here,” he said. “There is something very peaceful and right about being able to come back and be a part of the Tower Theatre. It’s exciting to grow the impact and create the sense of pride of what we are able to do for Central Oregon.”
Dickerson comes to the job with an impressive resume of fundraising and philanthropic experiences. From his position at Portland’s Adventist Medical Center Foundation as director of annual giving where he raised $1.5 million in gifts and donations to development officer at George Fox University where he led and executed a strategic plan for a $6.5 million capital campaign, he will now bring his creativity and flexibility to one of Central Oregon’s premier spots for culture and entertainment.
“We wanted someone strong on the giving side as well as the ticketed rental side of the business,” commented Executive Director Ray Solley. “We did a regional search…and spent the last year making sure we as a staff and the board had a really clear understanding of what we need the development director to do. We, like many nonprofits, are redefining what it means when we ask for money.”
“Todd brought a real integrated approach to fundraising based on relationships and keyed around following up with the people who come here and are members and give them opportunities to move through the ranks: ticket holder, member, high level donor, sponsor to planned giving [etc.]…Because of his background in larger institutions and with the type of databases that we are starting to use [at the Tower], his background made him the top candidate.”
Dickerson’s goal for his first 12 months at the Foundation is to ensure that Central Oregon has a full understanding of the philanthropic nature of the Tower Theatre. “It’s easy to say ‘Tower Theatre’ and not say ‘Foundation,’” he commented. “It’s important the community knows that it’s not just a great place to see a show, it’s a place that is helping to fill a gap with our students in the performing arts, educating students for free and supporting local nonprofits.”
Their civic engagement goal is met through supporting local nonprofits to secure the Tower Theatre for events and meetings at a reduced rate. Last year 41 nonprofits utilized the discounted rates. “We will give and do what we can do to make their shows and meetings successful,” Dickerson said.
“I have flexibility and the ability to be creative,” he continued. “It’s all going to fund these programs. There are plenty of ways we can do it, [I just need to ask the questions:] How do we capitalize on the culture that is already here? What are the groups here and how do I tailor [the message]to them? The ability to be creative excites me. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but it’s not easy either!”
“We are lucky that we have a revenue stream of 45,000 people coming to the Tower, and that goes back to maintenance and operations,” Solley said. “What takes it to the next level is the money and energy and gifts from people that want to see you continue what you are dong; they often just want to be a part of the family!”
In the next few months the Foundation will be launching their annual membership campaign; a record 863 members joined in 2012. “When you have a broad base of people who are participating, you can reach out and make sure they are getting something from the Tower every time they are coming, to make our membership even more vital to our membership needs,” Solley said.
The Tower Theatre is presenting an inaugural and very unique fundraiser this year, the Bend Follies. On April 26 and 27 the Follies will celebrate and underwrite the important role the Foundation plays in the cultural life of Central Oregon. The two evenings will feature a lighthearted, fast-paced variety show starring prominent business, civic, educational and entertainment leaders showing off their singing, dancing and joke-telling skills. A silent and live auction will raise money along with the novel opportunity for audience members to use cash, checks and credit cards to “vote” for their favorite act to receive a “Gratuitous Standing Ovation” each night.