Clowns Without Borders USA recently wrapped up another fantastic membership drive, and since members provide the backbone of our organizational funding, it’s a great moment to look at how CWB – USA spends money.
We’re often asked how we do so much with so little. The answer is, with hundreds of thousands of dollars of in-kind donations in the form of volunteer work, plus the generous monetary donations of members, board members, granting organizations, and individuals. Even with that, money—or lack thereof—is a big part of organizing our tours.
For our early 2018 tour to Puerto Rico, CWB – USA proposed a budget of 8,130USD and came in at 7,093USD, $1,037 less than anticipated. It was gratifying to see just how far we could stretch our funding and how much joy we could spread. It was also exciting to see Molly Levine blow through her fundraising campaign, raising nearly three times as much as her original ask. Asking for money is never easy, which is why we make sure to be transparent about how we spend it.
As with all of our tours, paying local people for their services and getting our clowns to the project location makes the bulk of our expenses. But no matter how much it costs to get people to Puerto Rico (or any project location), the payoff is infinitely greater.
Breakdown of costs for Puerto Rico, 2018:
Travel (baggage fees, insurance): $2,452
Travel is often our biggest expense. In addition to airfare, we purchase emergency insurance for each performer. For this tour, we also had to pay baggage fees for each performer. We work with a travel agent, which adds an extra $30 per person.
Transportation/Our Clown Car: $510
Transportation looks different during each tour. In Puerto Rico, we partnered with a local artist who had his very own circus van! We were fortunate enough to have him as our driver and collaborator. CWB paid for all of our fuel and tolls. We paid a stipend of $400 to account for the wear and tear that invariably occurs from using his vehicle as a green room/dressing room/home away from home.
We prefer to spend our housing money within the local community whenever possible, and in Puerto Rico we were able to rent accomodations in a family home in Bayamon, a suburb of San Juan. Our host, Monique, dreams of creating a healing sanctuary for people visiting or completing projects in Puerto Rico. Our financial contribution paid for her to repaint the house, continuing to fix up the damages she suffered during the hurricane.
Dinner Preparation: $400
We were able to hire Monique to cook typical dinners for us each night. We paid Monique a stipend to prepare our dinners, and then we ate whatever she felt like cooking. This was such a gift, and allowed us to always finish the day with a nourishing meal. We saved a lot of money, because groceries are much less expensive than restaurants! After starting our days as early as 5am, performing multiple shows, and driving up to five hours, we were grateful to come home to Monique’s home-cooked meals full of love and the flavors of Puerto Rico!
Food is always the bulk of our expenses on tour, and this was no exception. We came in $200 under budget on food, largely because of our snack experience! Since we knew we’d be having long drives, with short breaks between shows, we prepared ourselves with lots of snacks. Our early mornings started with a stop at a panaderia for coffees and a little breakfast, which normally come out to just a few dollars. We were often generously gifted with meals from our partners or communities where we performed, and on several occasions we had the pleasure of sitting down for lunch in a small town at a typical, family-style restaurant (when we were weren’t too busy with hard boiled eggs or eating the snacks gifted to us by the schools, on the way out of our performances). We fondly came to refer to our trip as the Huevo Duro Tour (the Hard Eggs Tour).
A few additional dollars were spent on things like socks, t-shirts, broomsticks (Clown Antoine broke two over the course of the trip) and shoe glue. As you can see, the cost breakdown demonstrates that this tour was not only relatively inexpensive, but remained so because of the generosity of our local partners, our host, and our colleague who donated his van. By working in collaboration, we’re really able to stretch our dollars. When we network within our communities, we find the best prices while also supporting locals in a way that feels equitable and respectful to everyone. We know that the more we work in this way, the more we can stretch our dollars to create even more programming. Thank you thank you thank you to all of our partners and collaborators in Puerto Rico. It’s an honor to reflect on how our money flows directly to our partner communities!