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Making the List
There are so many wonderful, free concerts in the area, it's rare that I'd pay cash, although at a few outdoor mosquito-season venues I've paid with blood.

Until recently, the last paid concert I went to was five years ago at Nissan Pavilion -- I just got out of the parking lot last month. I spent $45 to hear every middle-aged person within 20 rows out-sing Elton John. For all I know it was dubbed.

Most of the free indoor concerts I go to are at my children's school gym, where seating is designed to severely limit one's stay and comfort. Concrete seat cushions would make gym bleachers more comfortable. And then there's the legroom -- airplanes are like La-Z-Boy showrooms by comparison.

A few months ago, I splurged for my daughter's birthday and bought us tickets to a show at a large, public outdoor theater. Luckily the show was dance-based, so it didn't run the risk of being drowned out, although the lady four seats to my left tapped her foot pretty loudly.

During intermission, my daughter noticed a page in the program that was nearly as entertaining as the toe-tapper: the list of contributors. The donors were grouped into categories named Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze.

Although the dollar amount donated was not stated specifically, you don't have to be an Olympic athlete to figure out the degree of generosity.

My daughter and I decided we cheapskates would rank somewhere between Tin Can and Reynolds Wrap.

I can certainly understand wanting to show gratitude for generous acts. As a child I was taught to write thank-you notes, and I've probably written hundreds over the years. But the closest I ever came to creating a donor list was immediately after my wedding, when my mother wrote the cash given on the back of each wedding card (yes, I'm from New York).

But I didn't include a list with the thank yous, although it would have been fun creating categories like $200 Wedding Cake Contributor, $100 Champagne Guest and $25 Pig-In-A-Blanket Freeloader.

The professionals know best, however, and must have found that contributors not only want all the benefits that come with their gift (great seats, advanced tickets, priority parking, newsletters, polished shoes, grape-peeling, pillow-fluffing), they also like their generosity advertised.

Which is surprising, considering that most of us want our names taken off such lists. Platinum, Gold and Silver names are probably sought after by every nonprofit group, grass-root organization and soccer team within 50 miles looking to add them to their lists.

A quick search of area venues found similar rankings. One has groups labeled Presidents, Performers, Executive Producers, Producers and Directors. Such a clever tie-in with the theater is known as a Caste System.

Another sorts donors using Sponsor, Donor, Contributor and, my favorite, Sustainer. I guess Hold-Us-Over, Barely Enough and That's It?! were taken.

It got me to thinking about a food pantry where I volunteer. Maybe they ought to take a page from these professional fundraisers and create their own contributor list: half bag of groceries = Rhinestone; 1 bag = Cubic Zirconia; 2 bags = Opal; 3 bags = Diamond.

Then again, maybe it's best to say that all who donate are gems.

[September 14, 2005]

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