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A view of Ciné movie theatre at sunset on Jan. 21, 2019 on West Hancock Street in Athens, Georgia. Ciné is a local theatre that showcases different genres in special screenings.

After a successful crowd-funding campaign to buy its building last summer, local art house theater Ciné is preparing to launch phase two of its strategic plan.

“The main hurdle was getting the down payment. If we didn’t do that, we wouldn’t be here,” Ciné Executive Director Pamela Kohn said.

The Athens Film Arts Institute — the nonprofit organization that runs Ciné — successfully raised $625,000 in June 2018, enough for the building’s down-payment. Since then, building expenditures have started to add a weight to Cine’s pocketbook. 

In 2018, for every 78 cents AFAI brought in, it spent a dollar. To fight this deficit, AFAI is ramping up its fundraising efforts. Kohn claims that although it’s normal for charities to operate in a slight deficit, Ciné has made plans to fix the problem. 

Swinging into full force in mid-July, Ciné’s new fundraising efforts seek to finance the organization’s independence campaign, a reservoir of money to be used specifically to cover its mortgage payments, building upkeep and other related costs.

Ciné’s current goal is to raise $50,000 for the Independence Fund. As of press time, Ciné has raised approximately $6,500. 

In addition, the theater is hoping to increase its membership and receive more donations. Ciné currently has approximately 600 individual members and is striving to have 1,000 members at least by the end of 2019, Kohn said. 

In the months leading up to the fundraising campaign, AFAI board members and staff have been implementing new ideas. 

Planning and preparation

To better organize its efforts, AFAI added five seats to its board of directors and filled its vacant seats. Now, a total of 20 volunteer members sit on the board. 

Additionally, two University of Georgia students involved in the MBA Leadership Fellows Program collaborated with the board to design a strategic plan for Ciné. A co-instructor for that course, Andrew Salinas, worked with the students and the board.

“Our partnership with Ciné was purely win-win,” Salinas said. “Our student group got an up-close look at the business side of a beloved, local nonprofit and Ciné [got] a comprehensive, strategic plan to help guide their next stages of growth. This was an exceptional collaboration.”

While fundraising is a key aspect, the plan also encompasses staffing and operations. Salinas and the two students hosted two open-ended focus groups where Ciné projectionists, bartenders and other staff came and offered their experience and perspective. Ciné has quickly begun implementing the final plan, which the board and Salinas and his team finished in May.

Although the campaign started in mid-June, Ciné did not heavily promote it during its opening weeks, expecting many people would be traveling then. However, Ciné is on the cusp of moving into “a campaign mindset,” Kohn explained. 

Phase Two: Sustainability

The nonprofit plans to reach its $50,000 goal by actively promoting the fundraiser through social media, its weekly newsletter and in-person before each film showing. Ciné has also partnered with local radio station WUGA to raise awareness about the fundraiser by running ads. 

This summer, AFAI recently introduced the opportunity for corporate sponsorships. For $5,000, a corporate member can send two of its employees per day to the cinema to enjoy a movie with unlimited popcorn, Kohn said. 

Ciné will begin reaching out to more organizations for grants and partnerships. In the past, AFAI has worked with groups such as the Athens Area Community Foundation and the Coolidge Theatre Loan.

“Because we are a nonprofit, a lot of our operational overhead goes to sustaining operations,” Kohn said. “The fundraising that we do is very cognizant towards specific things like the building and its upkeep.”

On top of its responsibility of scheduling programming and continuing community outreach,  AFAI is now responsible for paying the building’s mortgage, upkeep, insurance and other such expenses.

“One does not preclude the other, they both have to go hand-in-hand,” Kohn said.

The nonprofit has scheduled new events and movie series for the summer. One such series — Tarantino Fest — will feature Quentin Tarantino films in preparation for the filmmaker’s upcoming movie, “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.” The series began July 4.

“I’m very optimistic [about the future], we have a fantastic board of directors. We have such an amazing staff,” Kohn said. “The energy and the “can-do” attitude is very tangible.”

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