We get asked all the time by other TEDx organizers what our financial model is. We’re thrilled to share it here as we’ve worked hard the last few years to figure what will work best.
We have a special fund at the Columbus Foundation, our community foundation, set up to receive contributions from individuals and corporations that want to support TEDxColumbus. COSI, our local center of science and industry (think children’s museum meets awesome science center) then acts as our fiscal agent, receiving the money from the TEDx Fund and also ticket sales. They in turn, pay all the expenses for the event.
We aim for our expenses for our event match our income. Our major line-items include technology and production; event staging, lighting and sound; food for attendees; parking and printing. We get a massive amount of goods and services donated – such as all of our creative, photography, web support, animation and mobile application. We have a special grant that underwrites basic event coordination expenses which allows the event to be sustainable and is applied to web updates, speaker coordination, sponsorship fulfillment, ticket monitoring, volunteer oversight, vendor coordination and social media and community engagement. At the end of the event if we have overage (income exceeds expenses), we apply it to next year’s event and/or our minimal expenses on our viewing events (TEDGlobal, TEDxChange, TEDxWomen, TEDxKids) and our ongoing outreach efforts (Follow This, our blog, and Readers’ Roundtable, our book outreach series).
Many communities are still at a loss on how to organize with a fiscal agent. As COSI as our host, we are blessed with a symbiotic relationship which helps manage our back-office at no additional cost to us, while allowing us to focus on curating the best event possible.
If you were at the last TEDxColumbus, you might remember Alex Bandar, the “visionary, metallurgist, connector” in the black jumpsuit determined to revive the lost art of making. In his talk, Bandar shared the big idea of the Columbus Idea Foundry (CIF) and his big dream to put it on wheels, park it at a high school and begin to transform American education and, along the way, American thinking, industry and innovation.
But the Idea Foundry is about more than a big idea. As the name suggests, lots of ideas come out of CIF, and in all sorts of sizes. One that Bandar had been bandying about—along with cohorts David and Carrie Chew—became a reality last March. A new conversation community with follow-up built-in, Convergence, as the realized idea is called, is a touch TEDx, but a bit more Kickstarter meets American Idol meets Royal Society of London (minus the wigs…sadly). The event is open to the public and due to repeat every three months or so. The purpose is to converge to examine “theories, struggles, and possibilities” for projects and then make those projects financially doable (by actually laying money on the table) and accountable, as well as, potentially continually supported (by following-up at the next Convergence).
There are some guidelines: The project must be “deemed bigger than a single person”; it should be “group-oriented so that members and potential members can learn beyond their expertise”; and the winner must report back on “how the project went, what worked, what didn’t, and what can be learned.”
The very first Convergence was held on March 1st at the Foundry—just off 5th Ave., where Corrugated Way meets Mobility. With the support of Turnstone and TEDxColumbus, the evening started and ended with tours, presentations, food and general socializing. In the middle, three Foundry members shared their projects. Then, the 100 or so in attendance had the opportunity to vote with their dollars. On the table that night: about $700 (an additional $600 or so was raised for the Cougar Robotics Team, a local high school robotics club).
Of the three projects presented…
A plan by steam-engine enthusiast Chip Rosenblum to build a dual-gauge train track.
A LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) upgrade for Ethan Dicks’ “tourbot” (a remote-controlled camera, microphone and monitor).
And, from event co-founder and co-organizer David Chew, a kinetic blue tree sculpture to be made of various sized pipes, possibly with “flame effects,” and to be outfitted with tree-dwelling creatures that could be controlled with switches and bellows by the audience.
Barbara Fant is a performance poet. While this is true, as descriptions go, it’s a bit lacking; not quite capturing her rapid cascade of imagery, shrapnel-origami-kite-bee-hive-honey-lightning-Crayola, nor the swift and choppy flow of a line like, “It’s about be, it’s about be, it’s about bee, like honey, like gold, like glow, like sky.”
Both examples are from “Handfuls of Honey.” A poem which Fant performed at the last TEDxColumbus and one that speaks pretty effectively to what it is Fant does—from the personification of her words as “a nightmare at the back of my neck seeping through my throat” to the simple and clear-sighted offering: “I don’t know another way—to pray.”
Barbara Fant had been a last minute addition to the program. TEDxColumbus organizers (as every speaker forced to rehearse a million times over already knows) are not too keen on last minute anything, but having seen her a day earlier at TEDxYouth, they found five extra minutes plus 45 seconds. Fant made good use of the time; the audience gave her a standing ovation.
One of those impressed was Doug Kridler, CEO and president of The Columbus Foundation. Kridler commissioned Fant to create an original piece—with “no boundaries,” he says—for the Columbus Bicentennial. Fant read the poem at the Foundation as part of the city’s big birthday bash in February. Kridler calls it “an awe-inspiring and multi-hued articulation,” adding, “What an enduring gift she gave to everyone in our community through that poem.”
“Today Beginning Again,” as Fant titled her ode-of-sorts to the city, is part thank you note: “You geography-ed me,” “river-ed me;” “library-ed myself;” “honeyed me into reflection…” And, it’s part reminder card: “You can’t stop now.”
A video of her performance quickly made the social media rounds.
The 24-year-old Fant was asked to perform the poem again, this time by Mayor Coleman as part of the fanfare around his State of the City address. She can also be spotted in a couple of recent videos, “Voices of Columbus” and “Columbus Young Artists,” both sponsored by 200 Columbus (and various partners). Just last month she was a “feature” (invited guest) at a Poetry Slam in Detroit. Oddly, all this is happening at a time when the poet has been scaling back on performing. Her main focus these days is graduate school.
This may be news to many; a lot about Barbara Fant may be news. Added so late, her name didn’t make it onto the TEDxColumbus program, let alone her story. To fill things in, I caught up with Fant, finding her in Delaware, Ohio where she is nearing the end of her first year at the Methodist Theological School.
From “Handfuls of Honey” I know, to her, poetry is prayer, and when I ask how she would describe her work she calls it “poetic ministry,” so seminary school would seem to be a simple matter of connecting the dots, but when I ask, she quickly puts me straight. “Not at all, ” she says.
Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, Fant felt the call to preach at a very young age, and she can’t even remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing. Yet seminary and slams didn’t come into her life till much later, not until after she moved to Columbus for college. “I come from a church where pastors didn’t go to seminary,” she explains, “I didn’t know what it was!”
It was during her last year at Ohio Dominican (she graduated in 2010 with a degree in English) that she first considered seminary, and it was only a few years before that, when she was about 19, that she first performed her poetry. That night was important. It was an open mic, her first, and afterwards, she’d be at the mic three or four nights a week. But when I ask about when she became a poet, she doesn’t mention the mic, she answers by talking about her mom. “She passed away when I was 15,” Fant shares, “I was angry. I had a hard time talking to people…so I wrote.”
Fant wrote—put my pain on pages, as she says in “Handfuls of Honey”—but she didn’t share. While in Youngstown she learned about open mics, saw some on TV, and she knew that as soon as she could find one and get herself there, that’s when she would start sharing. From there, it was only a matter of months before she was competing.
Both as an individual and team member, she’s won a number of Grand Slams, and two years ago, at 22, she published her first book of poetry, Paint, Inside Out, which won the Cora Craig Author Award for Young Women. She’s slowed the pace a bit now that she is in grad school, but Fant still slams and runs the occasional workshop (she’s worked with Transit Arts and Columbus Collegiate Academy, among other organizations). Most recently, she’s been spending some time in the theater—yes, she also acts.
Her approach to writing poetry, Fant says, is to “paint pictures with words.” With “Today, Beginning Again,” for example, she was drawn to the idea of Columbus as a smart and open city, then starts to break that down: “I’ll ask, what does that look like? Open…bursting…firework…and it goes from there…I try to make it come alive.”
Asked, then, about coming from poetry to preaching and the interplay between the two, she sees some commonality, but also a clear divergence: “Both poems and sermons are journeys that the listener allows me to take them on…But I do not perform sermons. I teach and preach sermons. As I minister through poetry, I am able to give people more of me, my journey and my testimony. As a preacher, I surrender myself to being a minister of the Gospel and I allow only God’s word to shine through.”