Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wide Eyed goes 501(c)(3): Co-founder + Board chair Liz White breaks it down for us

Liz White
Wide Eyed Productions is proud to announce its official not-for-profit 501(c)(3) status. We caught up with Wide Eyed co-founder and Board chair Liz White to find out exactly what that means for the company and its donors. 
  • In addition to being one of the founders of Wide Eyed Productions, you currently serve as its Board chair. What exactly does that role entail, and what's your favorite part about it? Least favorite part?  
Right now, Wide Eyed is building its Board and bringing in new talents and skill-sets. We are really working on getting out of the “founding” Board stage, and moving into the “governing” Board stage. As a result, my role has been building the infrastructure of the Board by creating functioning Board committees, engaging in strategic planning and requiring full Board participation in fundraising, and so much more.  

My favorite part is working with all the bright and committed Board members. I work with non-profit Boards in my work life and I can say, hands down, this is the most active Board I have ever worked with. It’s a rarity if someone can’t participate.  

I can’t say I have a least favorite part, but there are definitely challenges. The biggest challenge is that our budget is small and we don’t have a staff. As a result, the Board fills in the gaps where a staff member would normally in other organizations. It makes it difficult to get out of the founding Board stage when you still have to operate like a grassroots organization. Slowly but surely!  
  • Wide Eyed has, up until now, been operating under the umbrella of a fiscal sponsor organization (Fractured Atlas). Can you please explain what that means, in civilian terms?
Basically, [operating under] Fractured Atlas allows organizations to use [Fractured Atlas’s] non-profit identification number so the organization can fundraise and give their donors tax receipt letters. An organization would choose to be fiscally-sponsored if they didn’t want the legal responsibility of being a 501(c)(3), were [a] very small [organization], only did programs every so once in a while, and/or didn’t want to go through all the paperwork to be independent. When Wide Eyed first started, we didn’t know where we were headed, so it made sense. Now, we need more independence. It means more work for the Board because we need to have strong financial controls in place and proven Board leadership, but it also means we can apply for grants without going through a third party. We can throw our first annual gala; we can pay people in our shows; we have a direct cash flow and don’t have to ask Fractured Atlas to release funds, etc.  
  • What upcoming activities or funding opportunities can Wide Eyed look forward to now as a 501(c)(3) organization?  
Grants, grants, grants!!! Bigger and better events!!!  
  • Speaking of bigger and better events, Wide Eyed has its first annual gala coming up in September, which we are very excited about. Can you tell us a little bit about how not-for-profit status will benefit our donors?  
With our 501(c)(3) status, any donation we receive is a tax-deductible donation, whether it is for an auction item, or a ticket, or just a general donation. The benefit is going to be rockin’, so be sure to buy your tickets for the gala before the early bird special ends in July!  
  • Did you foresee Wide Eyed becoming at 501(c)(3) organization when the company was first started? How does it feel to know, after seven years, we're "official"?  
It’s amazing! I am always so proud of Wide Eyed Productions and how far it has come. It is definitely the members that have made this happen, and I am super grateful for the amazingly talented and committed people I get to work with at this organization.

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