L. Frank Baum, the author of the The Wizard of Oz, couldn't swim. He always smoked a cigar when he was wading in the water so he could tell when he was getting in too deep.
One of the biggest hurdles for any organization small or large, professional or amateur is figuring out ways to pay for all of the production expenses – and hopefully, if all goes well, be able to put some money in the bank or the school fund or the endowment after the show has closed.
For many theatres, relying on individual ticket sales alone to cover the costs of the production can result in a financial shortfall at the close of the production. Besides careful production budgeting, fund-raising can be an integral part of the fiscal health of your theatre, program or class.
We often hear from theatres about interesting and exciting ways they have turned simple fund-raising ideas into successful money-making campaigns. Long gone are the days when a theatre would simply sell ads in their playbills to cover costs – now with a little imagination and creativity, theatres and arts programs are finding new revenue streams to support their productions.
Below are some thoughts and ideas that have been shared with MTI over the years. We’d like to hear from you, too! Email us fund-raising ideas that have been particularly successful for you and we’ll share them with our website community. Send your great ideas to Marketing@MTIShows.com – use “fund-raising” in the subject line!
Here are some easy ideas that have been sent to us by teachers and directors from around the country!
Be Show Specific
- Sell beverages tied to the title or theme of your show, either in design or name, i.e., “Papa Ge Punch” for ONCE ON THIS ISLAND.
- Sell appropriate souvenirs in your lobby.
- Have a theme basket raffle in your lobby – this is an easy way to get local merchants to donate small items that taken together are worth something!
Involve Your Community
- Presell or raffle limited amount of tickets to “BE AN EXTRA” in a group scene of your show!
- Work with local businesses and trade or barter services or goods for program ads or sponsorship (even many “large” corporations, e.g. “Target Stores” can be inclined to underwrite a show – whether professional, community theatre or small school)
- Canvas your local groups... American Legion, VFW, Order of Moose, Elks etc. for donations. Often, these organizations are required to donate money to not-for-profit organizations or groups in need
- Begin a parent Booster Club for your fundraising needs!
Think “Outside the Box”
- Have a local artisan or craftsperson donate an artwork for raffle
- Have students take orders for singing telegrams they can deliver after the show!
- Have a ‘stagedoor reception’ with sweets for sale after the show
- Sell student created autograph books
Follow Through – Fund-raising starts when you announce your show and ends with your final performance!
- Cast photos can be displayed and sold in the lobby on show nights
- Sell single flowers in your lobby themed to show colors for parent/student presentations
- Pre-sell STARS with student names for display in the weeks leading up to your show
- Have a spagehetti supper or chicken BBQ in your school cafeteria before the show
- Create a “Wall of Fame” in your auditorium, cafeteria, or lobby – people or businesses can purchase a show-related image and put their name or the name of someone they want to acknowledge or honor involved with the show during your performances
- If Logo Tees or other merchandise are available, sell them in the lobby to support your show (remember, ALL merchandise bearing the logo or title of the show must be approved and licensed by the owners of the copyright)
Don’t Forget the Playbill!
- Students can sell sponsor, patron, gold patron personalized messages or names for your show program
- Local business can purchase space for cast well wishes
- Have students make and sell buttons to advertise their production
- Sell bumper stickers advertising your show
- Have students host a car wash to raise money
- Have students collect pop cans and recyclables to turn in for proceeds
- Investigate grants to help fund your show (A good place to start: Google ‘Foundations’ and go from there)