Category Archives: Membership & Development

Talking Square

SD panel (cropped)

Rima (3rd from right) representing CDSS at the 2015 National Square Dance Convention (photo by David Millstone)

We had the privilege of participating in a national organization panel at the National Square Dance Convention, late last month in Springfield, MA. Colleagues on the panel represented: CALLERLAB (, Contralab (, Alliance of Round, Traditional and Square-Dance (, United Square Dancers of America (, Roundalab (, and the Canadian Square and Round Dance Society ( CDSS was invited to be on the panel and we were represented by Executive Director, Rima Dael.

Topics of discussion included:

  • What are the challenges facing folk dancing today?
  • What does your organization consider the greatest priorities to address?
  • Are there possibilities of sharing and coordinating projects to address these issues together?
  • What are your near term goals (next five years)?
  • What needs to happen so that we can expect active participation in the various forms of dance for the next 100 years?

Rima shared that we think the biggest challenge for our dance, music and song communities is time and money. With enough of both, all problems or challenges could be solved, but given that both time and money are scarce resources for all nonprofits and volunteer groups, we focus on three ways to help our communities be resilient:

  • building a pipeline of dancers, callers, musicians and organizers
  • problem identification/problem solving through sharing common issues and best practices
  • communication best practices online and offline

(These are three areas CDSS has identified through the Strategic Direction and specifically articulated in the “CDSS Theory of Change” section in our recent Education Report.

All the panelists shared concerns around time, money and cultivating volunteers needed to help keep our organizations going, and involving the younger folks in stewarding our art forms. Ironically, with many questions raised about how to involve youth, none were present in the conversation. Rima posed that we need to ask our younger constituents how to better engage them, and to consider defining what we mean when we say “youth”—in some instances, it could mean 40 or under, or students K–12, or young adults.

There was a lot of discussion around involving next generation and youth participants. CDSS was the only organization on the panel that promotes intergeneration programs and has weeklong summer camps that teach kids, youth and young adults dance, music and song skills.

It was an interesting discussion as the national organizations represented are all arts service organizations that serve their membership with programs and services from insurance to skill-building and best practice workshops. One thing we can learn from the Modern Western Square Dance groups are how connected many of them are with their local/regional Tourism Boards and the use of assisted hearing devices that are in sync with the caller’s microphone; these are two areas CDSS would like to investigate more. David Millstone, CDSS President, also in attendance at the panel discussion (and, in his teacher/caller’s role, leading several dance workshops at the Convention), shared with the panel and audience the new New Hampshire Art Council social dance map, based on West Virginia’s Mountain Trail Dance Map.

It was great to see so many folks in downtown Springfield, from all over the country, dressed in their formal square dance attire. This was the Convention’s first visit to New England; we look forward to seeing them again soon.


Passport to Joy!

At last week’s Annual Governing Board meeting, the Board affirmed the staff’s first-tier Centennial projects, saying, “Go for it!”  As if that weren’t exciting enough — by the time the meeting concluded, individual Board members had demonstrated their support by committing $42,000 in gifts and pledges for the Centennial.

Both Board and staff spoke passionately of our determination that the multi-year celebration be meaningful, useful, and compelling to individuals and communities across North America.  How can the Centennial Tour build connections and strengthen communities?  How can the Centennial website bring your voices, your history, your photos, your video, audio, and art IN; and how can we joyfully, widely, and effectively broadcast your news OUT?

My favorite moment was when Mary Wesley suddenly said, “Centennial Passports!”  Everyone started talking at once:  “You get your passport stamped at every Centennial event you attend!”  “The person with the most stamps gets a PRIZE!”  “Different stamps for different kinds of events!”  “Morris stamps!”  “Conference stamps!”  “Moneymusk Moment stamps!”  “It’s like a passport to joy!”

Several Board members shared with me that the “Where do you see yourself?” sign I had posted on the wall really helped them in their decision to pledge.  So I’m sharing a version of it here with you.  Soon, we’ll be coming to you asking you to support the campaign for the Next 100 Years.  So be thinking:  where do you see yourself?

Fundraising for your group or project

by Rima Dael, CDSS Executive Director

We have been getting many requests of how best to fundraise for a project or for a group. I’ve sent the resources below to a few members but I wanted to post this here for everyone to see.

First, let’s set the context in which you are fundraising. Eighty percent of all philanthropic dollars comes from individuals, 5% from corporations and 15% from foundations. But the Arts only receive 4% of all the philanthropic dollars donated. More information on giving statistics is available through Charity Navigator.

Here is a great tool from the Chronicle of Philanthropy to give you an overview of how individuals give in the US based on location:

For most groups and specific projects I recommend crowd source fundraising* and small project grants as a good way to build a solid donor base for a project. Individual donors are the best way to build sustainability for your group.

Here is a resource on how to cultivate donors:

Here is a link with some grants and funding leads:

And another one:

Here is a link and resource for crowd source fundraising:

And another one:

Once that is started and underway, going the more traditional route to build an annual fundraising plan which would include major donors, I suggest this article about individual donors:

I heartedly recommend signing up for a free account through Fractured Atlas, which is a partner to CDSS, for their free fundraising webinar courses; here is a link to those courses:

Happy Fundraising!

Rima :)

* Crowd source funding and fundraising is networking with people via the internet and word of mouth, to pool money together to support a project or organization. In other words, it’s when you invite your supporters to reach out to their contacts and spread the message, raising money on your behalf.


Gifts In Memory Of/In Honor Of

I’ve just finished the absorbing and humbling exercise of editing the list of 2012 Donors to CDSS.  You can see the full list here.   Its impressive amplitude is a testament both to the generosity of our supporters and to the depth of feeling that traditional dance, music, and song evoke in those who participate and in the communities they form.

I was particularly struck this year by the number of gifts made in memory of or in honor of someone special.  Interspersed in the full list, you’ll see the names of leading lights of traditional dance, music, and song – some long gone, some recently departed.  A gift in their memory speaks of a wish to honor their contributions, and in many cases reflects a cherished personal history between the donor and the honoree.

Others have shined a light on leaders and communities who matter to them now, today, with a gift in their honor.  And many of you made gifts to honor friends and family members who left us this past year.  Making such a gift is a way of doing something positive and forward-looking in a time of grief and loss.  It is also a public gesture of love to bereft families and friends that says, “I remember, and I will long remember.”


Visit to Japan

by Rima Dael, Executive Director

Happy New Year and a warm hello from all of us in the CDSS office. Thank you for your passionate support in helping us end the 2012 fiscal year brilliantly! We are busy placing finishing touches on our budget for 2013. This Friday I will be traveling to attend the Ralph Page Memorial Dance Weekend in NH and then off to Sacramento, CA at the end of the month for our traveling Executive Committee meeting.

Speaking of travels, I just returned to the US — I had been home to the Philippines, taking my daughter on her first international trip to meet family she had never met – and, on the trip back to the US, I had the great fortune to meet members of the international folk dance community in Tokyo, Japan.

Delightful, informative and fun best describe my lunch and meeting there on January 4 with six local Scottish and English country dancers. I must first thank Jenny Beer, CDSS Vice President, for her help and translation assistance in reaching out to colleagues of hers and CDSS Japanese members. My heartfelt thanks go to Obata Masaaki for spearheading the planning and organization of our meeting in Tokyo.

We spent a few hours laughing, sharing stories and getting to know each other and the needs of the dance communities in Japan. I met with Kondo Sachiko, Sato Hitomi, Wakamatsu Yo-ko, Miki Mari, Idokawa Akiko and Obata Masaaki. (Kondo-san is the chair of the Tokyo Folk Dance Federation, and Sato-san is the vice chair of the Japan Folk Dance Federation; they attended the meeting as individuals, not in official capacity.) Of the group, Obata-san was the only male and the only member of CDSS, but at the end of the meeting it was decided those who were there would also join CDSS. They discussed how they could better use CDSS resources for their individual dances and I shared how we could further help them.

The English country dances are held usually once or twice a month and they have two balls a year. There is a very small international folk family dance that is starting where some English country dances are done. CDSS is also aware of contra dances in Japan, primarily led by the expatriate communities. Both Obata-san and Kondo-san have been to camp at Pinewoods. CDSS members and past board members Bruce Hamilton and Gene Murrow have been to Japan to teach, as have Jenny Beer and Sharon Green, and we know other members have gone to teach or dance in other capacities as well. Our meeting was a small turn out due to coinciding with the New Year holiday celebrations.

It was interesting to discover that our friends in Japan share very many of the same concerns we do here in the US. They are worried about:

  • copyright laws
  • access to dance resources and the need for Japanese translations
  • difficulties of having dances in rural or suburban areas vs. those in urban areas
  • how to better encourage beginners
  • how to engage the next generation
  • how to have more men at dances
  • how to increase arts or folk dance in schools (schools are only mandated to have 3 hours of folk dance a year as part of the PE curriculum in primary and secondary schools)
  • how popular culture influences younger people and how can we reach them to engage them into “our type of dancing,” or, for many people, is this a type of dancing that interests one as they get older, like symphony music
  • that they don’t get together as a group and discuss dance organizer issues as often as they should

I think it was a surprise and also reassuring to the Japanese dancers that many groups in the US have the same issues they face. The group is eager to think about how they might participate in the 2015 CDSS Centennial celebrations at camp, and probably consult on various other topics.

The most important take-away for me to share is that for much of the meeting, and what seemed to be the most important part of the meeting, the group had discourse with each other. As I have discovered in my meetings in different communities, CDSS provides the opportunity and catalyst for a meeting within a community to discuss issues of importance to them and to engage each other in how best to use the resources of CDSS to assist their community. Several times throughout the Tokyo meeting they would apologize since they spoke with each other in Japanese about a topic or issue and did not include me fully. I told them to not worry because part of our organizational mission is to connect individuals and communities to each other on their terms for their needs. In the role of connector and convener, we bring people together — at regional conferences, online and in person — to cross-pollinate good ideas and resources and to create stronger communities and well-organized activities at the local, regional and, yes, international level. We also discussed scholarship opportunities to bring Japanese members to CDSS or other camps in the US.

It was wonderful to leave the meeting with six new friends. So to my new friends in Japan, “Arigatou Gozaimasu…thank you so very much.” We look forward to a greater partnership with your dance communities.

To all our members and friends: May your New Year be a prosperous one filled with the joy of dance, music and song!

MCC logo_full

Advocating for the Arts

Did you know this? According to Americans for the Arts, each year in the United States, the nonprofit arts industry (museums, performing and visual arts, arts councils and others) generates $29.6 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues while government support (federal, state and local) is less than $4 billion annually; i.e., the arts industry generates more than seven times government investment.

Why are we telling you this? We all are part of the arts community and while we recognize arts are underfunded, many of us have a hard time articulating how best to talk about their importance in our communities. Next time you’re stuck, pull out the figures in the above paragraph. And add this: our country’s arts and entertainment are leading exports globally, with estimates of more than $30 billion annually in overseas sales, including the output of artists and other creative workers in the publishing, audiovisual, music, recording and entertainment businesses. The arts are worth supporting, but it needs our continued voices in that support. We hope the above talking points can help us be better advocates.*

CDSS Is a Living Example of State Arts Advocacy

Much of CDSS’s funding comes from you, our members, donors, friends, campers, callers, dancers, singers and musicians (thank you!), and we also receive funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) for our work within the state. The funds that our cultural council distributes to us and other arts agencies in MA comes from an annual appropriation from the State Legislature and funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wallace Foundation, and others. So it’s a lot of MA resident tax dollars at work, and your tax dollars as well, funneled through the National Endowment for the Arts. (Thank you, again.)

I want to share that the MA House Ways and Means Committee approved an amendment last week to reverse the proposed budget cut to the MCC. Yippee!! Huzzzah! This bodes well for the arts in Massachusetts! We’ll be meeting with the MCC this week and we want to offer a resounding round of applause and say a BIG “Thank you, Massachusetts Cultural Council, for your support of our work!” (For our fellow MA residents, let your elected representatives know that you’ve benefitted from funding of the MCC grant to CDSS!)

For ways to talk, email, write or call your elected representatives, check out the Arts Action Center on the Americans for the Arts website. Also check out the Arts Action Fund, a sister organization to the Americans for the Arts for more information on advocating for the arts.

* Thanks to Americans for the Arts for the talking points; they are a wonderful resource for advocacy and information on the role of Arts in our schools, communities and across the U.S.

Member spotlight: violin maker

Ever wonder what your friends from CDSS camps do in their regular lives? CDSS member Sam Zygmuntowicz, a regular attendee of our Campers’ Week program and member of contradance band Grand Picnic, was recently featured in this interesting video, as posted on Gizmodo: You’ll Wish You Were a Violin Maker By the Time This Video’s Done.

Filmmaker Dustin Cohen is creating a series of short films entitled Made in Brooklyn featuring talented artists and craftsmen living and working in New York. Episode one profiles Samuel Zygmuntowicz, a violin maker, and by the end of the video you might be tempted to swap your keyboard, hammer, or whatever tools you use to make a living for a set of carving instruments and a small workshop.

The Violin Maker from Dustin Cohen on Vimeo.

Do you have a video to share about your activities beyond CDSS? Let us know!

Thanks, everyone!

Let's reach further!Strong finish in 2011

I’m delighted to let you all know that we met and surpassed our goal for end-of-year giving to the annual appeal!  Your generous donations, along with the Board’s matching challenge in May, successful fundraising for Scholarships & Special projects at camp this summer, and a surge in membership in the last quarter of the year gave CDSS a strong finish in 2011.

Full steam ahead for 2012

We are off and running in 2012!  Steve has just posted the latest camp information for 2012 on the web and registrations are coming in; Jeff has reopened the store with lots of new inventory; Pat and Nils are madly editing another collection of singing squares; Caroline has sent the Members Directory to the printer (for those who wanted a copy) and is working on the camp brochure; Linda is reviewing more than a dozen grant applications that came in before the January 1 deadline; Mary will soon be heading to Tapestry Folkdance Residency as a  co-consultant, with Ethan Hazzard-Watkins, to their youth outreach campaign; and the Search Committee of the Board is preparing to interview candidates for the Executive Director position.

It’s going to be a GREAT year.  With your help, we will continue to reach further!  Many thanks, dear friends, for your continuing support.

New Year’s Deadlines: Grants and Gift Memberships

“Happy Almost 2011” from the CDSS office! A few timely notes….


Just a quick reminder that the next CDSS grant deadline is January 1st, so finish up those applications and get them in.

If you are interested in applying for a grant in the future, here’s what you need to know:

  • Deadlines are quarterly, so the next deadline is coming up April 1st. (All the dates: January 1st, April 1st, July 1st and October 1st.)
  • CDSS provides grants, loans, and financial backing.
  • Kinds of projects we have assisted: dance weekends, mentorships and training, conferences, and more.
  • Our goal is to assist projects that will benefit the dance and song community. If you are in doubt about whether you qualify for CDSS assistance, please just get in touch.

If you’d like to find more, read the full guidelines, see a selection of projects we’ve assisted, or download the application (pdf).

Gift Memberships

Just a reminder that New Year’s eve is the last day our gift memberships are available with our holiday discount. A great gift for students, young families, new dancers, the musicians or organizers in your community — the possibilities are endless! Support CDSS and the work we do.