I work in the nonprofit sector, so I depend on the largess of many friends and supporters to underwrite programs my organization presents. This generosity comes in many forms, and I’m grateful for all of it, but not long ago, I benefited from a novel approach taken by Main Street Landing, a wonderful multi-purpose building on the Lake Champlain waterfront in downtown Burlington.
Since 2011, they’ve screened classic films on a weekly basis - for free. Mariah Riggs, who created this initiative, introduces each title with interesting backstories and context. And although there’s no admission charge, audiences are asked to consider making a donation to benefit a different nonprofit each month. The chosen nonprofit brings concessions, and the audience is invited to “Take what you like, give what you can.”
In this model, nonprofits are considered essential partners and not competitors. There’s no mentality of scarcity - only the refreshing belief that we secure a stronger community by working together, and everyone wins in a sharing economy.
Past beneficiaries have been diverse – from the Vermont River Conservancy and Meals on Wheels, to Women Helping Battered Women and the Intervale Center.
Last month my own organization was a recipient and it was great fun to be part of such a diverse and devoted cross-section of film buffs. Concession donations ranged from pocket change to twenty-dollar bills. And in this congenial environment, the focus isn’t on ‘selling’ anything, but rather, having conversations involving film, the arts, and community.
At one screening during the holidays, in addition to hot cocoa, candy canes, and other food items, a festive spirit was kindled by the audience of 200 singing songs of the season. There was a strong feeling of connection in the multi-generational audience that spanned a broad socio-economic spectrum.
Classic films to be featured this month on Tuesday nights include Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire in Funny Face , James Cagney in Angels with Dirty Faces, and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 : A Space Odyssey.
And this month donations benefit Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.
I can attest that the audience is fun, and seats are comfortable.
But I especially appreciate the philosophy that underlies it all – to take what you like, but give what you can and share it forward – all for the sake of a good cause, and a strong community.