Everyone with a brain, a newspaper, a neighbor or an Internet connection knows the economy has tanked. The ripple effect on the non-profit and philanthropic worlds is clear, as donations are down and need has risen sharply. Organizations which support arts and cultural institutions, environmental groups, children with disabilities or disease, families in need of affordable housing and at risk youth, are the backbone of a charitable and civilized city, and many struggle as we close our collective pocket books in self-preservation. The well dries up, the wagons draw into circles, but the needs of others don't go away. So what do we do with the treasure chest depleted? This is the question posed to Silver Spur Productions owner, master promoter, and new best friend, Bradley Joseph.
We met last year at a Ballet Nouveau Colorado funder and within ten minutes he gave me three things; a glass of wine, his interest, and a plan to build my business. Why? Because Bradley is a giver: the sassy Mother Theresa of the social set, a savvy marketeer with focus on outreach, branding and identity, he knows what's happening and he knows whose making it happen.
On a Tuesday night at the Capitol Grille we sipped a drink, both spacey and exhausted from our whirlwind weekends, and let the conversation drift to things spiritual rather than social. Sharing similar beliefs set the backdrop for a friendship with the man I would come to know as purposeful, a bit naughty, with an easy enthusiasm and genuine concern. Silver Spur Productions' stable includes the Shining Stars Foundation, Hope Communities, AnthioGen, and the SaddleUp Foundation, all non-profits dealing with human needs.
T: So, what gives in a tough economy?
B: Denver is a generous city and the philanthropic community is pretty close.
B: I wouldn't say that but our circles overlap, even though we favor different issues. There are a lot of energetic people who work hard to support what they believe in, they've got passion and aren't afraid to open their hearts or their wallets. But it's tougher now, for sure. The country is in recession, the city is on a budget and there's a lot of competition for the charitable dollar. We're all looking for new ways to support the people who need us, so it's made us work harder.
T: Same is true now in real estate. I'm working harder but it's making me a better agent.
B: Totally. We've gotten much more creative with our events and how we get people to them.
T: I've noticed a preponderance of theme parties.
B: Right? Even the established organizations feel the pinch, and really, how many 'dos' can you do?
T: It seems to me that secular charitable giving breaks down into five larger categories: arts/culture/education, human need, childrens' issues, animal rights/rescue and the environment. So how do you decide who to work with?
B: Well, I'm naturally drawn to the kids and the basic human needs, but it also comes down to what I can do to help you. Do I have anything interesting or exciting to offer that will separate your group from the rest? I'd rather be inspired rather than emotionally driven. And it's got to be fun; you've got to make it fun.
T: Exactly. How do you work your business clients in the mix?
B: We have to have a healthy business community, if businesses aren't thriving and people don't have jobs... well there goes the neighborhood. I'm lucky because I manage to keep about a 50/50 mix of clients that fit together really well. The services are similar; focus the vision, the identity, and promote, but how you get there can be wildly different so it keeps me on my toes. A lot of my business clients are engaged in my non-profits; TAG Restaurant, Clocktower Events, and did you see that Larimer Associates are doing an event for the Colorado Symphony this summer? An Affair on the Square, you should come.
T: I will. But you gotta throw in the Mile High Music Festival.
We pay the check, step out into the summer night and stroll down Larimer Street in silence. Bradley Joseph has put me in a lot of interesting rooms lately: the annual Autism Society of Colorado luncheon, the Brunch 'n Bowl benefit, a star-studded wine paring/dinner at TAG. Due to aversion to waterproof make up, it's not my style to be teary-eyed, though I've found myself softening as I hear the stories told. It's not the tale of the child battling cancer or the family living on the streets that really gets me, I'm prepared for those, it is the story of the giver that uplifts me. The single mother advocating for her son in the State Senate, able to influence legislation to serve our developmentally disabled community, the anonymous who offer private jets to fly the excited children to their week in Aspen when the rock slide closed I-70, and the countless conversations with the helped and the helpers as the laughter and bowling balls ring and crash in the background. These rooms and the people in them have changed me, made me curious about our giving nature and our need to press on no matter what the odds. They've made me bigger.
T: Hey, you have a line on tickets to the Biennial of the Americas black-tie bash?
B: I'll see what I can do.