Fundraising provides much needed capital for small, community theaters to meet financial obligations and produce quality productions. Yet with our economy persistently bumbling along, charitable giving is at an all time low. With the glitz and glam of high profile events (and the cost of associated attendance) waning, how do you raise money in challenging times?
Think "FUNdraising" with an emphasis on fun by incorporating an old-fashioned, nostalgia producing event into your mix.
I once read that adults find the most happiness in things that remind them of childhood. I agree. And I need only reflect on the lazy days of summer reading in a backyard hammock, or swimming at Little Pond in Plymouth, or family "cook outs" to recognize that my happiest times as a child took place in the out-of-doors. Corporate America understands the importance of childhood memories and the outdoors, and they have capitalized on those memories and the buying power of nostalgic adults to sell high priced outdoor furniture and bigger and more elaborate backyard grills.
So, the tough economic times have brought about renewed interest by consumers to adopt old-fashioned, value priced, and family focused fun. Fundraising should follow the lead of corporate advertising by focusing on value while attempting to hearken back the days of childhood in capturing plain old-fashioned fun.
The following are examples of real organizations and the fundraising efforts they've used with success:
Harwich Junior Theater, Harwich, MA
All American Family Picnic
Nothing exemplifies old-fashioned family fun than a picnic. Harwich Junior Theater counted on loyal supporters to plan a picnic that included donated hotdogs and fixin's, cooked on donated barbecue grills, and the donated time of jugglers and young musicians to create a fantastic community event. For additional fun, they added a guess-the-number-of-jellybeans game, inflated balloons containing prizes, and a silent auction.
Variations: Consider short skits, old-fashioned events like an egg and spoon race, tug of war, or wheelbarrow racing.
Amount Raised: $5000
Trouble Puppet Theater Co., Austin, TX
Get Yourself Into Trouble
Anyone who illicitly threw a bottle to hear the sound of breaking glass as a child would feel just a bit of excitement to do it again. That is the idea behind Trouble Puppets' fundraiser where attendees purchase bricks to throw through real glass windows.
Variations: What else did we do as kids that might have gotten us into trouble? The ideas for this kind of fundraising are endless!
Amount Raised: Unknown
Warren Community Theater, Warren, MI
Pancakes WITHOUT Santa
After successful breakfast fundraisers during the Christmas season with Santa, Mr. Claus was disinvited for the new 2010 summer fundraiser, Breakfast without Santa, as rumor has it that the jolly elf ate too many cakes in the past. The event, created to help raise money for The Music Man, raised community awareness through print flyers dispersed by cast members, several press releases, and social networking. At six bucks a head, this is family fun, and provides significant boost to the theater's coffers.
Variations: Spaghetti, like pancakes, is inexpensive yet satisfying, and is a staple in the dinner-fundraiser circuit.
Amount Raised: Anticipated $500+
Anthony Theater, Harper, KA
Aluminum Can Recycling
This beautiful, old theater takes the cake on creating great 'old tyme' fundraisers. With bake sales, movies in the park, and garage sales, they've already learned that old-fashioned fun pays off. The aluminum can recycling program consists of a "cage" outside the theater for collecting bags of aluminum cans. (Note: while unbagged cans are more decorative, they learned that in strong Kansas winds, the cans were lifted right out.) The cage is hauled every 2-3 months for collection.
Variations: Cell phones, golf balls, ink cartridges, and old electronics can earn money. Search Google for sites that prove it pays to recycle.
Amount Raised: $1200-1800 annually
Conroe HS Theater
Annual Community Garage Sale To raise money for students traveling to London and Paris for theater workshops, the Conroe High School Booster Club hosts an annual community garage sale.
Variations: White elephants always draw a crowd!
Amount Raised: Unknown
The Group Rep, Lonny Chapman Theater, Hollywood, CA
The Lonny Chapman Theater's vintage seats needed refurbishing, and they chose a traditional bingo night to raise the funds for the job. Door prizes, an auction, and a non-traditional venue, Hamburger Mary's (which, by the way, has great burgers), drew a crowd that raised over $3000 towards their goal.
Variations: Ever heard of "cow chip" bingo? Let young artists create their own cow chips, then use them in a family bingo game.
Amount Raised: Over $3000
Wichita High School East, Wichita, KS
How do you help fund new renovations during renovations? Why, you sell off the seats you're replacing! Wichita East had 1,900 vintage, wood, auditorium chairs and realized there just might be a market for them.
Variations: Sell old sets, costumes, and vintage equipment through a fundraiser, Ebay, or Craigslist.
Amount Raised: Unknown