Giving Tuesday 2021 Guide: 40+ Theatre-Related Charities Seeking Donations This Year
Follow the lead of Broadway favorites like Brian Stokes Mitchell, Stephanie J. Block, and Capathia Jenkins to support the arts this season.
As the holiday shopping season reaches its apex, Giving Tuesday marks a day to donate to organizations that support causes about which you’re passionate. From foundations that support writers creating new theatrical works to charities that assist everyone in entertainment and arts education programs to groups endorsed by Broadway’s best, there are dozens of theatre-related charities worthy of your generosity.
Check them out below.
FUND MULTIPLE INITIATIVES IN ONE DONATION
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
Broadway Cares funding supports AIDS relief organizations, national disaster relief, food service and meal delivery programs, research initiatives, emergency assistance, and more. Last year, BC/EFA also established the COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund, administered by The Actors Fund, to help entertainment professionals facing health care crises and other immediate needs due to the coronavirus. Donate here.
The Actors Fund
Speaking of The Actors Fund, the 139-year-old organization serves anyone who works in entertainment—not just actors and not just theatre pros. According to their site, “Since March 18, 2020, The Actors Fund has distributed more than $24 million in emergency financial assistance to 17,000 people in our industry. This money is helping people cover basic living expenses, such as food, essential medications, utilities and more.” Donate here.
Since 1968, TDF (formerly known as the Theatre Development Fund) has been committed to making theatre accessible for everyone and sustaining and preserving theatre. In its first year, with money from the Rockefeller Foundation, TDF bought tickets to the play The Great White Hope and gave them away for free to cultivate new audiences. By 1970, this had evolved to the TKTS Booth we all know and love in Duffy Square at the heart of the Theatre District in Midtown Manhattan. Through the Booth and TDF membership, patrons can access inexpensive tickets (from $9–$49) to shows in advance. But over the past five decades, TDF has been about more than just ticketing. Through TDF Accessibility Programs, they have pushed theatres to be physically accessible for patrons with physical differences. They are the organization behind autism-friendly performances, open-caption performances, ASL-interpreted performances, and more. The TDF Costume Collection offers affordable rentals for productions at every level. Through the Wendy Wasserstein Project, TDF welcomes students to the theatre, and, with Create New York, TDF reaches artistically underserved communities to bring them to the theatre and guide groups to discuss what they see and bring it back to their neighborhoods. Click here to donate.
Support a non-profit theatre company.
Make a donation to a non-profit theatre company—whether it produces work for Broadway, Off-Broadway, or your own community. Roundabout Theatre Company, Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, and Second Stage all produce for Broadway and Off-Broadway; MCC Theater, the Public Theater, Ars Nova, and Signature Theatre are all notable Off-Broadway producers. But the list of theatres and theatre companies in New York and around the country is seemingly endless. Find a theatre that aligns with artists you enjoy and work you feel is important, go to their website, and send that check.
SUPPORT NEW WORK
American Theatre Wing
The organization that administers the annual Tony Awards and Obie Awards invests in new work and honors theatrical excellence, specifically geared towards bringing diverse stories and enriching American culture through theatre. Through financial initiatives, educational outreach, grants for writers, scholarships for professionals, and content creation that builds the profile of theatre on a national level, the Wing ensures the future of stagecraft. Click here to donate.
The Broadway League Foundation
The charitable arm of The Broadway League (the national trade association for Broadway), this foundation serves the theatergoing public. The foundation aims to increase the public’s understanding and appreciation of theatre and to provide a forum for conversation about the preservation and promotion of live theatre. With the Broadway Speakers Bureau, they offer distance learning education opportunities centered on non-performance career paths, and with the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (better known as The Jimmy Awards), they emphasize the importance of theatre education in schools. The League Foundation also sponsors benefit concerts and events to raise money and awareness for initiatives like Viva Broadway, the Actors Fund, and more. Click here to donate.
Dramatists Guild Foundation
For over 50 years, the Dramatists Guild Foundation has supported playwrights, composers, lyricists, and book writers to, in turn, support the creation of new work for the American theatre. Through Traveling Masters, DGF provides free writing classes and workshops around the country; through Fellows, up-and-coming writers gain professional experience and forge relationships with seasoned mentors; the Music Hall provides free space and equipment for writing; and grants fund writers and their projects. participants of the Foundation's many programs include Tony and Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Tony winner Jason Robert Brown, Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel, and many more. In addition to its mission, DGF has answered the extra need of this moment with COVID-19 Emergency Grants. Donate here.
READ: 6 Musical Writing Lessons Stephen Sondheim, Maury Yeston, and More Taught Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
Best known for its annual Drama League Awards, the organization offers benefits to audiences and artists. Through ticket discounts, education programs, and more, the Drama League works to fortify audience experience; through fellowships, artistic residencies, the Summer Professional Theater Intensive, and more, the League bolsters creators. The league launched the Directors Emergency Relief Fund last year to support out of work artists and continues its usual fellowships, residencies, and stipends supporting stage directors. Donate here.
The Lilly Awards
Named for playwright Lillian Hellman and founded in 2010, The Lilly Awards, according to its mission statement, is “dedicated to developing and celebrating women artists by promoting gender parity at all levels of theatrical production.” The annual ceremony recognizes contributions by women in the industry—as well as one Mr. Lilly—and serves as a fundraiser for their work. By partnering with the Dramatist Guild, The Lillys have been able to fund The Count, an ongoing study that tracks and showcases the work by women in the American theatre. The Lillys partner with SPACE at Ryder Farm to offer a unique Family Residency for female playwrights and their children, so these writers need not choose between family time in the summer or productive creative retreats. The organization also plans to erect a statue of Lorraine Hansberry in New York City. Click here to donate.
For play lovers out there, New Dramatists specifically supports playwrights. The nationally renowned Playwrights’ Lab provides resident playwrights with writing resources and the opportunity to host a reading of their work—a crucial step in the development of a new play—with a director, stage manager, and professional actors at no cost. Click here to donate.
Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation
he Stage Directors and Choreographers union has over 4,000 members throughout the U.S., and its foundation launched an emergency assistance fund to help its members during this pandemic. Donate here.
ADVOCATE FOR THEATRE AND ARTS EDUCATION
52nd Street Project
A community-based arts organization, the Project pairs kids age 10 and up with theatre professionals to create original work that is then presented to the public. Through poetry, photography, design, dance, stage combat, filmmaking, and theatre, the Project uses the arts to enhance life skills and learning. Click here to donate.
Anthony Quinn Foundation
Named for the visual artist and actor, the scholarship program sponsors select young adults to pursue their talents in visual arts and design, performance, media and literacy arts. In 2018, Lin-Manuel Miranda was honored with the Anthony Quinn Foundation Award for his impact on the future of the arts. Click here to donate.
Artists Striving To End Poverty
Conceived by Broadway musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell, ASTEP connects artists with youth communities all over the world in an effort to break the cycle of poverty. Donate here.
Boston Arts Academy Foundation
Boston’s only public high school for the performing arts aims to ensure that talented students have equal opportunity and access to the arts. Donate here.
Boston Children’s Chorus
Founded by Hubie Jones, BCC has 13 different choirs with singers from 110 different zip codes around Greater Boston. The organization aims to harnesses the power of music to connect the city’s diverse communities, cultivate empathy, and inspire social inquiry. Click here to donate.
The League launched Broadway Bridges in 2017, a program that works with the NYC Department of Education to make seeing a Broadway show a part of the tenth-grade experience. Participating producers offer $20 tickets to their shows and the Broadway League purchases thousands of these tickets to offer to schools for half that price. A donation of as little as $10 can send one student to a show—$300 sends and entire class to experience a Broadway show! Click here to donate.
Committed to innovation, collaboration, training, and activism, Deaf West is the artistic bridge between the Deaf and hearing worlds. Founded in Los Angeles in 1991, Deaf West engages artists and audiences in unparalleled theater and media experiences inspired by Deaf culture and the expressive power of sign language, weaving ASL with spoken English to create a seamless ballet of movement and voice. Click here to donate.
In 2017, “The Children’s Monologues” at Carnegie Hall brought greater awareness to this international charity. Dramatic Needs provides an artistic outlet to underserved children in South Africa and Rwanda by building arts centers, staffing them, and supplying art-making materials. The charity’s “Children’s Monologues” gives voice to the stories of these children through a one-night-only performance event each year. Click here to donate.
Educational Theatre Foundation (EdTA)
The Educational Theatre Association supports students and teachers by recognizing student achievement, providing professional development, equipment, and more to educators, and publicly advocating for the necessity of theatre education. The non-profit also publishes a monthly magazine for high school theatre students, Dramatics, and a quarterly industry publication for educators, Teaching Theatre. EdTA established its philanthropic arm in 201 to, specifically, provide financial support to improve and expand theatre education programs and access to those programs. The Foundation benefits JumpStart Theatre, a program that build sustainable musical theatre programs in underserved middle schools, need-based grants to schools, merit– and need-based grants to individuals to support theatre teachers. Click here to donate.
Indie Theater Fund
Emergency aid from the fund will support Off-Off-Broadway theatre in wake of the shutdown due to the novel coronavirus. This effort helps the smallest of New York City theatres, those with a capacity of 99 seats or less and an operating budget of $250,000 or less. Donate here.
The non-profit theatre company brings over 40,000 New York City students to performances and workshops to expose them to the arts, as well as their Creating The Magic series, which brings youth to Broadway theatres to learn about the multitude of professions on Broadway—from tech to costumes to acting onstage—in hopes of inspiring the next generation of artists. Click here to donate.
Local 802 Musicians Relief Fund
This non-profit aims to provide over 8,000 professional musician members with reliable assistance in times of trouble and dire need. Through ERF, musicians are helped by a New York State licensed social worker who provides confidential social services to members and their families through the ERF’s Musicians’ Assistance Program, and grants are available to musicians and their families going through hardship. Click here to donate.
No Kid Hungry
Playwright Catya McMullen and director Jenna Worsham created The Homebound Project in support of No Kid Hungry. With schools already beginning to close again, many children who rely on school for their meals will be without food. The Homebound Project unites actors for ticketed readings to raise money and awareness for the cause. Donate here.
The NYC Arts in Education Roundtable
This group supports over 2,000 early-career to senior administrators, teaching artists, and classroom arts specialists who work in every art form from music to theater to media arts. Donate here.
Based in Austin, Texas, this group aims to enrich the local arts community by engaging audiences and exposing them to dance. In addition, Performa/Dance helps to create dialogues that serve to foster cross-cultural understanding and deepening artistic excellence. Click here to donate.
Rosie’s Theater Kids
The mantra of the theatre education program founded by Rosie O’Donnell is “We’re rehearsing for life.” Supported by the New York State Council on the Arts, Rosie’s Theatre Kids was founded in 2003 and impacts students in three in-school phases to expose students to the performing arts, with additional tutoring resources, summer intensives, the Spotlight on Fitness, and more. Provided at no fee or at a large subsidy, RTKids is committed to serving children of all backgrounds. Click here to donate.
Based in New York City and Los Angeles, Story Pirates pairs teachers with performers to convert children’s original stories into sketch comedy musicals. By encouraging self-expression, the organization aims to empower the next generation through the arts. Click here to donate.
The non-profit focuses on supporting theatres across the country. The organization increases accessibility to local theatre and arts education. During the shutdown, Theater Forward will help these institutions stay afloat and recover. Donate here.
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
Now in its 50th year, VLA is a legal aid and education organization dedicated protecting the NYC artistic community’s livelihoods, businesses, and creative works through access to dedicated legal representation and focused education programs. Click here to learn more and donate.
JOIN BROADWAY NAMES IN SUPPORTING
Black Broadway Men
Anthony Wayne collected a group of Black men in theatre to form a racial equality group to support fellow members of their community and industry. Black Broadway Men is open to all self-identifying Black men who work on stage or behind the scenes in theatre. Donate here.
Black Theatre Coalition
This organization is working to increase representation by 500 percent before 2030. T. Oliver Reid, Warren Adams, and Reggie Van Lee co-founded the group in response to the lack of visibility on Broadway, where Black artists and leaders have accounted for less than one percent of the makeup of directors, choreographers, and lead producers in their respective fields. Donate here.
Black Theatre United
This coalition of performers, directors, writers, technicians, producers, stage managers, and more aims to inspire industry-wide reform and to combat industry-wide systemic racism. Among the founders are Brian Stokes Mitchell, Audra McDonald, Billy Porter, LaChanze, and Vanessa Williams. Donate here.
Broadway Advocacy Coalition
Formed in 2016, BAC is an arts-based advocacy nonprofit dedicated to building the capacity of individuals and organizations to use storytelling to dismantle racism and the systems that perpetuate it. Over the summer, the group held a number of summits to help the industry heal and grow, and launched a fellowship to support artists whose work is grounded in activism. Donate here.
Broadway for Racial Justice
Brandon Michael Nase created BFRJ on two pillars: an emergency fund that artists of color can apply to for financial assistance regardless of credits or union affiliation, and a hotline where BIPOC can report racism in the workplace to a fellow person of color and be assigned an advocate to resolve the issue on their behalf. Donate here.
Since opening their doors in 1972, Covenant House has saved more than 1 million homeless youth. The organization provides services and housing to homeless youth to help get them off the streets. For years, performers like Capathia Jenkins, Stephanie J. Block, Darius DeHaas, Audra McDonald, and more have supported their efforts, culminating in the annual Broadway Sleep Out—now the Stage & Screen Sleep Out. For the second year in a row, celebrities joined a national-wide digital Sleep Out to raise awareness and funds for homeless youth. Donate here.
Only Make Believe
Located in New York City and Washington, D.C., Only Make Believe uses theatre to heal and inspire ailing children. The non-profit creates and performs interactive pieces for kids in hospitals and long term care facilities. Last year, the organization celebrated its 20th anniversary with a gala honoring founder Dena Hammerstein. Click here to donate.
Sing For Your Seniors
Founded by Jackie Vanderbeck, Sing For Your Seniors brings music sessions to elderly residents in long-term care facilities. Averaging 60 performances a year from 150 volunteer singers and 20 volunteer pianists, Sing For Your Seniors has also included sessions by Broadway shows such as Bandstand and Fun Home to bring joy and healing through song. Click here to donate.
READ: Sing For Your Seniors: A Performer’s Outlet, A Life-Changing Program
Shields for Heroes
The non-profit provides PPE to medical professionals and essential workers, who have experienced a shortage of supplies needed to keep them safe. In addition, the charity connects suppliers of raw materials with manufacturers and manufacturers with healthcare providers to establish a pipeline of safety. Original Annie Andrea McArdle as well as Sarah Jessica Parker, Norm Lewis, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Alan Cumming, Capathia Jenkins, and more created a music video as part of #TomorrowTogether to raise awareness and funds for the organization. Donate here.
The only organization offering crisis intervention and suicide prevention to LGBTQ people under age 25, The Trevor Project is a network of outreach, counseling, and peer-to-peer social networking for those in need. The Project also provides educational materials to other youth-serving organizations and hosts an advocacy department for pro-LGBTQ laws and to fight anti-LGBTQ philosophy and legislation. Click here to donate.
You Gotta Believe
Supported by Seth Rudetsky and his husband, James Wesley, through their annual Voice for the Voiceless Concert: Stars for Foster Kids, You Gotta Believe is an initiative to find permanent parents for teen and young adult foster youth who may have “aged out” of the system. Click here to donate.
Portions of this piece have been retained from a 2019 article written by Ruthie Fierberg, Playbill's former executive editor of features and branded content. She is also a freelance writer, moderator, and podcaster. Find more at RuthieFierberg.com.