Broadway Cares' Post-Show Red Bucket Fundraising is Back March 15 | Playbill

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Broadway Cares Broadway Cares' Post-Show Red Bucket Fundraising is Back March 15

Find out what happens to the money raised through Broadway's biggest fundraiser.

Lindsay Mendez, Daniel Radcliffe, and Jonathan Groff fundraise for Broadway Cares following a performance of Merrily We Roll Along, this season's top Broadway fundraiser Rebecca J Michelson

Starting tonight and until April 28, Broadway audiences will get a special after-show appeal on behalf of theatrical non-profit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It’s fundraising time on Broadway, which means the iconic Red Buckets of Broadway Cares will be out in full force as you exit the theatre, ready to take any and all donations, large and small.

But what happens to those donations after they fill the Red Buckets?

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS was born of two smaller efforts that joined forces in 1992. Both organizations were founded to fight the then-raging AIDS crisis: Broadway Cares by a group of producers and Equity Fights AIDS by a committee within the actor and stage manager union Actors’ Equity Association.

“Both groups came out of a profound sense of fear, anger, anxiety, and sorrow in the theatre community,” says Broadway Cares Executive Director Tom Viola. “We were literally watching our friends in the business, outside the business, getting sick and dying, sometimes in just a matter of weeks. And worse, they so often were also victims to the services we expect in those moments, thanks to deliberate negligence in local and federal government, not to mention societal stigma. People were worried about losing jobs or getting evicted from their homes, of being cut off from their families. Something had to be done.”

Through the AIDS crisis, the Broadway community learned they can be a powerful fundraising force with Broadway Cares. In addition to the in-theatre Red Bucket appeals, the community has rallied behind a myriad of the non-profit’s special events, like the burlesque spectacular Broadway Bares, the fan favorite annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction, the only annual Broadway event created for the LGBTQ+ community in Broadway Backwards and Broadway’s official game night Broadway Bets.

Broadway Cares, often referred to as “the philanthropic heart of Broadway,” has emerged as the best way to organize these efforts, streamlining fundraising campaigns and leading the charge to disperse those funds via grants. The Red Buckets’ reach has extended over the years thanks to efforts to bring Broadway-style fundraising to theatres around the country via national tours and even local productions. 

Last year, 42 Broadway, Off-Broadway, and national tours raised $3.6 million during the spring campaign. This year, in a first and in lieu of the organization's Easter Bonnet Competition, Broadway Cares will celebrate the shows that participated in the Red Bucket campaign this December in its first ever Red Bucket Follies, the variety show that will take place at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

Members of Broadway national touring companies Rebecca J Michelson

Thanks to advancements in medications, HIV is not the death sentence it once was. Supporting those living with HIV/AIDS remains an integral part of Broadway Cares’ mission, but the changing landscape has allowed the nonprofit to dramatically expand into other areas of need, too.

Viola says that shift created challenges for the organization, but also unlocked new potential. “Keeping people engaged when they feel like HIV/AIDS is no longer an issue and think that is all we are about is a struggle,” he says. “There are so many things that result in people becoming isolated, disadvantaged, or left behind. Anywhere that’s happening, addressing it is vital to our mission—which means we have to expand our reach beyond a single cause.”

The non-profit’s expanded mission really kicked off with the advent of the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, established by the Entertainment Community Fund (then The Actors Fund) in 1996 from a grant from Broadway Cares. What started as helping to produce a benefit concert ended with a much closer relationship that added supporting women’s health to Broadway Cares’ mission.

In fact, Broadway Cares has become the largest single funder of the Fund, which uses money raised from those Red Buckets to fund a safety net of services for entertainment workers, including health care, insurance resources, substance abuse programs, support groups, and emergency financial assistance. Last year, Broadway Cares awarded $7.6 million for all the programs of the Fund. Already in 2024, Broadway Cares has provided the Fund with $4.4 million so far, pushing the total past $140 million since 1988.

The organization's lens extends across the country. One growing focus of support has been food insecurity, with $2.8 million going to food service, food pantries, and meal delivery programs so far this year. In 2023, the National Grants Program provided $9.1 million for meals and medication, and health care.

Broadway Cares also helps out in national and international humanitarian crises, including recent donations to provide immediate, on-the-ground support for medical care, food banks and emergency supplies after hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, and war.

Altogether, Broadway Cares has been responsible for raising more than $300 million since its inception, making it one of the most powerful fundraising and grant-making forces out there.

And so, if you are so inspired, dig deep and give a little back the next time you see a Broadway show. Thanks to Broadway Cares, even a couple of dollars can have a Broadway-sized impact.


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