Caring to Dance
Wednesday, 16th December 2015 at 10:05 am
Faced with the realities of reduced government and philanthropic grants, and increased competition among Not for Profits for funding, Kumari Middleton found a sustainable solution for her dance organisation's financial challenges, writes Ellie Cooper in this week’s Spotlight on Social Enterprise.
For the past six years, Cultural Infusion has been running community dance programs in Australia and overseas, using performing arts to engage with vulnerable and at risk young people.
Dance classes are coupled with life skills and mentoring workshops to provide knowledge and opportunities, and ultimately create positive change in communities.
Kumari Middleton said the social enterprise Care Two Dance was initiated to create a reliable income stream for Cultural Infusion. But the business idea was born from existing market interest.
“Often we’ve had people saying, ‘how can I come and do a dance class’ who are actually wanting to learn how to dance and not be a participant in our outreach programs, so we’ve always thought about whether we should do a dance school,” Middleton said.
“Then the need has become more important now to have a sustainable income stream where we’re not trying to chase donations and grants, so that’s how we came up with trying to have a dance school that has a social impact.”
Care Two Dance, launching in 2016, will utilise a one for one business model. Classes for both children and adults will run on weeknights and weekends in Collingwood, in inner Melbourne, and for every class sold, one will be donated to Cultural Infusion’s programs.
“When someone comes and does a class they’ll be able to choose where they want their donation to go, so who they’re dancing for, and allocate it to a young person in South Africa or India or Cambodia,” Middleton said.
“It was a way of allowing people to have that double impact of coming to do a dance class but it means a lot more.
“If you’re coming to do a dance class you appreciate what it does for you, and you understand that other people, if they don’t have that same opportunity, you can provide it to them. It was a clear way of expressing what we were trying to achieve.”
Middleton was set to become a professional dancer, but after contracting Legionnaires disease in 2007 she co-founded Not for Profit Mayibuye, which merged with Cultural Infusion this year.
Now serving as Global Community and Youth Manager, Middleton said she was inspired to make the benefits of dance available to those whose access would typically be limited.
“Dance has a power to bring people from diverse backgrounds together with a common ground or common language,” she said.
“It breaks down prejudices around gender and culture and allows people to work together on completing a performance and then go out and share their message.
“Also for a lot of [disadvantaged] young people, they don’t have recreational facilities and they don’t have the creativity options to do art or dance or drama through school, which we do here in Australia.
“Just bringing that creativity, self-expression, feeling that sense of belonging and pride through dance will impact their future and they’ll be able to be better at problem solving and be better leaders.”
Cultural Infusion currently operates in Australia, South Africa, Cambodia, India, Egypt and Brazil, and will expand to Indonesia and Pakistan early in 2016.
Middleton said that Care Two Dance will allow the organisation to significantly scale its impact.
“We’re currently working with about 800 young people every week, and with the success of Care Two Dance it would get to about 4,000 within four years,” she said.
“That allows us to sustain our current programs across six countries, but also launch into another six.”
The formal planning for Care Two Dance began with the Social Traders’ Crunch program, which Middleton said, “taught us a lot about business skills and how to create a really good business model around your social enterprise and also access to lots of mentors who really understand the financial models”.
“From there, we created a really solid business plan and went out to pitch for funding, which is a longer journey than most of us desire, because a lot of securing that funding will take quite a while,” she said.
Although the wait for funding pushed back the launch of Care Two Dance to April 2016, the social enterprise has experienced success with both crowd-sourced funding and grants funding.
“We ran a crowdfunding campaign which raised $12,000, it was also a strategy around marketing to get the word out about what we’re planning to do,” Middleton said.
“We got $10,000 from the Qantas Foundation and $10,000 from the Funding Network.”
This December it was also announced that Care Two Dance was one of three social enterprises to receive $10,000 from the Macquarie Group Foundation’s Kick Starter grants.
Middleton said she found one of the major challenges in starting a social enterprise was learning to be patient.
“I’m very much a person who likes to see things moving fast and being actioned, but I’ve learnt a lot of patience with social enterprise,” she said.
“If you want to do it really well you need to take the time and not act before everything is ready.”
“Also for a lot of social enterprises, they’re new. It hasn’t been done before so there’s not a proven model around it yet.
“The flip side is that because it is an innovative and new idea there’s people who are willing to take a risk to see whether it’s going to happen because they believe in potential. So we’ve been awarded some funding.”
Middleton said that, while the funding will enable Care Two Dance to begin initial operations, she is also looking for impact investment opportunities.
“It’s definitely enough to help us progress into that launch and be able to cover our marketing costs and some of the interior design and some of the management costs,” she said.
“We are in discussions with some other people for some larger social impact investment which will allow us to scale a lot quicker.”
Middleton said impact measurement, in addition to determining the success of social outcomes, was key to securing grants funding and engaging with consumers.
“Be clear and concise in applications and really communicate the social impact, because often social enterprises have a few different tiers around that, so really understand what the social impact is,” she said.
“[Measurement] is definitely becoming more and more important, also because social enterprises have a trading arm.
“You’re not only trying to give that information to your funders, but also to consumers who are becoming a lot more ethically conscious, so you’ve got a greater amount of people who want to know what the social impact is.
“With Care Two Dance we’ll be able to do it with the number of classes delivered because it’s really a one-for-one model, where anybody who comes to do a dance class at our school will be able to provide a dance class to a person in need.
“But the deeper information from there (is that) we have a lot of baseline final surveys that we do to track the change that happens long term in their behaviour and perceptions and future.”