First Night collapses

No more First Night.Gone.

Just in from the organizers of our iconic celebration:

The Board of Directors of First Night Boston announced today that the agency does not currently have the funds to continue planning First Night Boston 2014, which should take place on December 31, 2013. The board of directors voted to cease operations for the private non-profit organization that was founded in 1976 and has produced 37 First Night festivals. First Night Boston 2014 would have been the 38th edition of the event.

The Board cites declining foundation and sponsorship dollars as the main reason First Night would not be able to raise the funds necessary to produce this year’s event. First Night will lay off staff and close its offices on June 30, 2013. This will mean the loss of three full-time positions, one part-time position, six year-round contractor positions and various seasonal contract festival production positions. First Night does have a small reserve, and will be able to pay its bills before closing its doors.

The Board of First Night hopes to transfer the First Night Boston trademark to the City of Boston. The Board, recognizing that First Night is one of the City’s signature events, plans to work with the City to identify an organization that can assume the First Night brand and eventually produce an event containing at least some of the elements of a First Night celebration.



Free tagging: 



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No public appeal, just a shutdown?

I had no idea this organization and event were in financial trouble. I wish they'd made a public appeal for support (both volunteer and financial) first, before deciding to go out of business.

Same here

I guess I just always assumed First Night was all publicly funded. I had no idea it was all private. This is disappointing, and I'm sure people would be willing to donate had they given the chance.


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It doesn't exactly speak well of the leadership and direction of the group if they didn't even let people know that they were sinking.

On top of that, if usual corporate sponsors were backing out because they wanted their names in ice or pasted on more flyers or whatever they felt gave them more advertising dollar returns instead of just sponsoring the damn cultural event as community goodwill, so they weren't able to promise as much and thus not get more sponsors...

If that's the case, then let us at them. Unleash the Kraken that is public opinion! Name names. Tell us: "Shaw's usually gives us $20,000,000 but won't this year unless we call it 'Shaw's First Night with StarMarket and Shaw's brought to you by Shaw's'." So we know to get super-pissed at Shaw's and bring the fury, driving their sentiment analyses through the floor and making them freak out and give you the money just to make the pain go away.

Instead it feels like "Well, we called and nobody's going to give us money, so see ya later."

It's a problematic trend

I work in fundraising (primarily corporate fundraising) and nationally, we're still not even close to the pre-2008 levels of philanthropic money given by corporations. Individuals have come back up, but corporations are lagging and show little sign of catching up. The trend now is for the cash given to non-profits to come from marketing money.

My top three partner corporations no longer even require a legal receipt letter because not a dime of the money comes from the foundation - it's all marketing dollars. I'm very lucky to be in an industry that has a coveted audience base, but I'm still competing with sports teams and for-profit events that I just can't match for sponsor benefits because our revenue stream is so much smaller. It's really frustrating and I imagine smaller non-profits are at even more of a disadvantage.


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Maybe they shouldn't be employing ten people year-round to plan a one-night event?

Maybe... don't understand what it takes to run such an event.

I don't either, but I don't go dumping on something I know absolutely nothing about.

Just sayin'

re: Staffing

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Sorry bro, but this isn't somebody's little cocktail party in a downtown apartment. First Night is an event that thousands of people go to, encompassing dozens of performances in dozens of different venues. You think they can plan all that without having ten year-round employees? TEN. NOT EVEN A DOZEN. Ten people to coordinate an event which essentially takes over the city for the night. I'm surprised the organization isn't much larger.

I drive a lot of bands

and you would not believe how many people it takes to put on one show in one venue on one night! So, I'd say ten people on an event citywide is pretty small, IMHO.

anon 3:36am on a thursday

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Maybe you should get off your parents dole. Or the states. Or whatever pays for that basement and daily allowance of Rubinoff.

To be honest, I interned for

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To be honest, I interned for first night and it's amazing how the few employees that they had put on such a large event. Having solely seasonal employees would not have worked because they are back in the office on January 2nd, planning for the next year. The people that were involved were miracle workers and I'm sad to see that they'll be on the job hunt this year.

Ignorance is bliss

Spoken like someone who has never planned a major event. Or a minor one. Or had people over for dinner.


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Wow, an overstaffed, mostly cash business with bad accounting methods goes under? Who would have thunk that?

I sold buttons for First Night on the Common back in the late 80's. Their method of inventory control was to have some "artist", usually some mousy 40 something Oberlin grad, come up to you every 30 minutes and say "Hand me over the money, keep $100 for yourself at the end of night." No receipt, no paper trail, no collection of the extra buttons at the end of the night. (This have many similarities to the on going Boston Cab saga). Even then my tiny teenage brain knew this was a way to keep certain people afloat for months without having to do much heavy lifting for a good chunk of the year.

My god, what about the ice sculptures?

Not suprised you're a teen

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Come back once you hit the real world. Also, no handicap allowed, don't let your parents help. but yeah, keep clutching that copy of Atlas Shrugged.


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Math isn't your strong suit, or grammar, or logic, or reality.

Ad hominem though, no one can assail your ability there.


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Corporations are sitting on record cash reserves. Profits are also at record highs. We can't get any of those who have received huge tax breaks on the public backs to sponsor this event?

Pitiful. Take back the tax breaks now.

Maybe (again)...

...the companies are spending their money on other public projects. Companies change their priorities based on feedback, exposure, and sometimes simply at the whim of the CEO.

Like Kaz mentioned above, a few details might help us.

Really? What projects?

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Sorry, they aren't spending a dime on anything other than naming stadiums and hospital wings(as though Boston doesn't have enough of those).

Many projects

Here's over 100 companies that give to Boston Children's - and not to naming wings:

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Boston would be up shit creek without major support from Bank of America, State Street and Fidelity - and support from many others, too.

400 businesses support the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The Museum of Science has 16 corporations in their highest tier of giving.

What else are you looking for?

Admittedly, big community events are not the draw they once were. Many corporate foundations have gotten more and more sophisticated and now require impact reports that often don't look great for this type of event. But if you think there's no corporate support for non-profits in Boston, you're dead wrong.

However, if you also think naming a hospital wing isn't philanthropy, you're an idiot and I don't know what to do with you. Ask MGH, the Brigham, Franciscan, Children's - any hospital - how valuable those naming dollars are and you'll get a flood of answers. The key there is that they're usually unrestricted dollars, meaning they are free to go to the area of greatest need whether it be unreimbursed care, capital repairs, research on an unforseen project - or to keep the damn lights on so people can continue to receive care in their communities. But, you know, I guess unless YOU hear about it, it doesn't matter.

Honest Question

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How much have these corporations taken in city tax breaks vs the amount they've "given" in donations to public and non-profits?

If they've taken much more in breaks than given back, do they really deserve praise? Honestly, don’t corporations have the same civic duties as citizens? Shouldn’t they, since we consider them persons?

Honest answer

Businesses exist to make money, with which they pay employees and share holders. Asking them to donate goes outside their primary purpose and is a choice on their part whether to give that money away or pump it back into their holdings. They aren't required to give, any more than citizens are.

The city and state have their own reasons for giving tax breaks that may be correct or incorrect. In my opinion, a business that takes them is no more wrong than a citizen taking their personal income tax exemption, or deducting mortgage or student loan interest, or rent. It doesn't take away from the good they do in giving to charity. Now, when a business does a Liberty Mutual and runs off before the city can hope to realize any increase in jobs, etc., that's a different story for me - but in most cases, it won't stop me from hounding them for a donation.

TL;DR: When a business OR a private citizen chooses to make a gift freely and of their own good will, I'll praise them up one side and down the other. It's the right thing to do, and it's how you bring in more donors. Non-profits in this town do a LOT of good, and we need all the cash we can get to serve more and do more.

I remember the very first

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I remember the very first First Night. It's evolved a lot since then but last year I noticed it wasn't being advertised as much, well to me anyways. Stores that usually sold buttons and had signs up were absent.

I am confident someone's gonna step in.

After the first First Night, I think I went one more time but it's not my cup of tea but great for kids and families.

First Nigh, meh!

I've gone to perhaps 3 out of the last 25 First Night's. Here's why:
1. 12/31 is usually damn cold outside in Boston.
2. No interest in kids events or ones in the afternoon.
3. Evening events don't go late and are few.
4. Scattered all around making travel in the cold eat into time to see events.
5. Some stuff is great, most mediocre. Lots of time wasted searching for better events.
6. Why the fanfare on New Year's Eve? Why not do such an event when its warmer, say, for summer solstice?


A fun summer event around the river with music, great food vendors, etc... Less like a big concert (like the summer series at the hatch shell) and more like little pods of fun activities all along the esplanade. Dig it.


I disagree. The whole thing should be shifted to the Greenway, and stretch from Haymarket to Dewey Square. This would give the Greenway some activation in the cold months, even if most of it is just for one day. That would help with businesses down that area, which aren't as lucky in capturing winter foot traffic. It would also put it in prime access for every subway line.

The New Year fireworks occur on the harbor, not the Charles. So with all the festivities occuring, people can filter over to the harborwalk and such.

They could even try having activity over at the Navy Yard, which people could stroll to, or -- as I assume most would do -- utilize the ferry service. See if the Harborside Hyatt would be willing to pitch in with activities of their own, and then extra ferry service to the airport could be provided for them for one night.

Greenway not suitable

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"The whole thing should be shifted to the Greenway, and stretch from Haymarket to Dewey Square. This would give the Greenway some activation in the cold months"

Why do people persist in this thought that "The Greenway" is a place where major events can take place, especially something the size of First Night? Can you imagine the amount of people that show up for First Night trying to squeeze onto that meridian strip?

Close the surrounding streets

If First Night were hypothetically moved to the Greenway, the city could easily close the one-way streets on either side, giving the event some more room to breathe. You could even go further and close some or all of the on- and off-ramps.


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There goes our World Class City status.