OSF launches fundraising campaign, needs $2.5m to continue with 2023 season

ASHLAND, Ore. – The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is desperately looking for donations, as it looks to save it’s 2023 season, which begins just next week.

“In order to mount the high quality shows that we want to, we need that infusion of money now,” OSF board chair Diane Yu said. “And we really hope people come through because it’s going to be a great season!”

The company is calling it an emergency fundraising campaign, titled “The Show Must go on, Save our season, Save OSF.”

Its goal is to raise $2.5 million, to prevent the season’s closure and layoffs.

OSF said it specifically needs the donations to fill a gap in funding between May and July.

But it must raise at least $1.5 million by June.

“We will need an infusion of $1.5 million by June to sustain us further because we certainly don’t want to not pay people who deserve to be paid,” Yu said.

Yu said the pandemic has hit the non-profit hard.

At the height of it, mixed with the devastating Almeda Fire, OSF was forced to cancel hundreds of shows and laying of staff.

But OSF has already received millions the past few years.

Including, $10 million being distributed at $2 million a year for the next five years from the foundation of one of it’s board members David Hitz.

The Mellon Foundation has also given $2 million and OSF said it secured $5 million in individual pledges.

This is in addition to a $10 million federal grant in 2021.

“All of our expense lines has risen,” Yu said. “But it’s very hard to imagine that a large theater operation like ours could function less than $35 million and you’re right that the 2018-2019 it was in the $42-$45 million range.”

Last year, OSF asked for more financial help receiving $7.3 million dollars from its $40 million endowment fund.

That’s the most ever given from the endowment to the non-profit in one year, according to endowment board of trustees chairman Paul Christy.

The former OSF interim executive director said typically, the fund provides $1.3 million to the festival every year.

But since last year, the fund has decreased significantly due to stock market volatility and the donation to OSF.

Christy said the rest of the money available is restricted, meaning those who donated put specific limits on what it can be used for.

“The remaining $27 million of gifts that we have are all restricted for purposes that cannot be easily released,” he said. “We’ve given all the funds that we have available to the festival and it might take some time, including years, for us to un-restrict¬†the rest of that amount.”

For decades, OSF has become a huge economic driver for the city of Ashland and the Rogue Valley at large.

Neuman Hotel Group, which owns popular hotels like the Ashland Springs Hotel, said they began to change their marketing strategy prior to the pandemic to rely less on OSF.

“Theater and culture is an import part of Ashland,” Neuman Hotel Group COO Don Anway said. “All of the reasons why someone comes to Ashland is different and so we continue to diversify our guests.”

But Anway said OSF’s importance in the community is still strong.

“Having OSF makes our job easier, because they do attract thousands of people but there are other people we can attract,” he said.

OSF’s been busy the last six months or so.

It chopped ticket prices in 2023 and then in January, it cut jobs and executive director David Schmitz resigned amid restructuring.

Artistic director Nataki Garrett then became interim executive director.

But 3 months later, OSF said she’s focusing on her original position, the board’s executive committee will temporarily fill the duties of interim executive director.

But OSF still hasn’t closed the financial gap.

“In our heyday, it was about a 50-50 split between ticket sale revenue and other revenue,” Yu said. “Now it’s closer to 80% outside income contributing income, foundations, grants, government support, and 20% coming in from ticket sales.”

OSF hopes to weather the storm in order to survive for many more years to come.

OSF said it will monitor its campaign closely before re-evaluating in May to determine what the next steps are.

They’re also going to pause planning for the 2024 season, as it awaits results from its fundraising efforts.

© 2024 KOBI-TV NBC5. All rights reserved unless otherwise stated.

NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
Skip to content