An interview with Patrick Finger, Executive Director of Folsom Street Events on upcoming changes of magnitude proportions.
BY MARK ARIEL
Let’s get right to the nitty gritty. Is it true that Folsom will not be producing Magnitude this year? If so, why is that not happening?
Correct, we will not be producing Magnitude this year. The big reason is cost. Magnitude has always had high production costs, primarily due to its sheer size (approximately 2,500 attendees). There are no existing night clubs in SF that have that capacity, so we have been working with large scale venues that, in most cases, require a complete build (sound, lighting, stages), and come with an exorbitantly high rental fee – we’re talking $50K to $75K to rent the space. However, many of those venues have either closed, or are unwilling to host the event due to its sexual nature.
In the past, we’ve been fortunate enough to have a space at Magnitude for “getting frisky.” That changed in 2017, EVERY venue we approached was not on board with it, so that aspect of the party had to go away. It wasn’t an easy decision. We got a few complaints, but nothing overwhelming. However, in 2018 there were substantially more complaints. It’s a tough situation, and we certainly understand that people were disappointed. Also to note in 2017, we thought we had found Magnitude’s “forever home” at the San Francisco Armory. However, the building sold and the new owners had no interest in hosting the event.
Magnitude as a party is over 20 years old, and lost money for the first time, affecting the entire organization. We had to reduce our charitable giving amounts and we had to make substantial cuts to our 2019 administration and production budgets. We literally do not have the funds to produce Magnitude this year.
We want to keep it fresh, and with the overwhelming need to find the right venue within our budget to keep the party to our standards, we thought it best to take at least a year off.
Was there consideration to co-produce Magnitude with one of the party promoters?
Yes, we did consider it. There were plenty of pros and cons to the option. We have decided to move forward with a smaller Saturday night event. It will be co-produced with a Folsom Street Events sponsor. We are also working on smaller events for the 2020 roster that cater to other audiences since our fair audience is comprised of so many different demographics now.
Without Magnitude – how will Folsom secure funds to put on Up Your Alley, Folsom Street Fair and other events?
Up Your Alley and Folsom Street Fair almost generate enough revenue to keep us going. However, most of the net income from the fairs goes back to our beneficiaries who provide volunteers to help run our events. What remains, covers our administration expenses. This being San Francisco, those expenses are high. This includes, office rent, payroll, insurance, legal expenses, etc.
This year we have, also, been pushing for additional funding sources including new sponsorships, grants, and an individual giving program (www.folsomstreetevents.org/donate). We want to make sure that we can continue our events into the future.
Most people do not realize that Folsom Street Events is run by only three full time employees and a volunteer board of directors and associates. That being said, I think we do an amazing job producing events that have raised almost $7M for charity and bring in close to $200M in tourism to the city of San Francisco.
Do you feel that the leather/kink community does enough to support Folsom events?
We probably have different definitions of support. To us, support is more than attending the events. We would love it if we could sign up more donors for our individual giving program. Support is, also, donating at our entrance gates (a very small percentage of attendees actually donate). Support is spending money with our exhibitors and on Folsom branded merchandise. And last, but not least, support is volunteering to help run our events.
Does the city donate any of its facilities for Folsom Street Fair?
While we have a good relationship with several city agencies, we don’t get much assistance.
We are working to build relationships with the city and other grant making organizations to see what might be possible that we have previously overlooked, or didn’t know about, as potential funding sources. Although, it has been difficult for us to qualify for traditional grants or funding sources due to the nature of our events.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you would like to share with our readers?
Come to the fairs! Be visible and donate at the entrance gates or to the individual giving campaign! Also, make sure you are buying party tickets for our official events and our official merchandise.
For more info visit: www.folsomstreetevents.org.