General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

How can a non-profit theater group in a small town raise money?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25804 points ) May 1st, 2012

The largest sources of funding for arts groups are local and state governments. We’ve already been turned down by them for the current cycle, so those ideas are out.

I’m interested in hearing any ideas you know other theater organizations may have used to raise money, or ideas other arts organizations have used that may work for a theater group.

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18 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Perhaps take a booth at local festivals or events and perform scenes and pass the hat.

Alternatively or in addition, you could plan a fancy dinner and charge a per plate fee. (This might or might not have a theme like black and white or something else) Get a restaurant to donate cooking services so you only have the cost of food. Include a charity auction (get donated items like restaurant meals, nights at hotels, golf games, etc.) Throw in the performance of one-act play or a series of great comic scenes, etc.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Have a who-done-it night. Start with dinner, sometime during the dinner have the members of the Theater group stage a murder mystery. Each guest gets to guess who did the deed before the start of the final act, where the culprit will be revealed.

Draw a winner from the correct answers and give that person 2–4 free tickets to your next production.

SpatzieLover's avatar

We have a community theater in our village.

Fund raisers they’ve had:

*Wine tastings
*Beer tastings
*Like @WestRiverrat‘s suggestion, they’ve done a Who-done-it mystery
*Hors d’ oeuvres and cocktails
*A few local charities have used the theater to do fundraisers for community efforts. When they do so, they give a percentage of the funds raised to the theater. (Suring which they usually have a well known local band play, run silent auctions and use the theater with an auctioneer for a live auction).
*The Junior Guild & Women’s Club have done fund raisers for the theater.

To keep funds driven in all year they run acting camps for kids and weekend camps for adults. They have summer classes for kids. Regular storytime (with actors in costumes) for small children and do performances for field trip groups.

The theater also runs small classes & storytimes at the library/rec center.

Another community theater has done sleepover in the theater for children, with small acting groups working together to put on a show the same evening.

Salem88's avatar

@SpatzieLover – Thanks for great ideas for all fundraisers.

For dog and horse rescue, we cater to maybe a different audience but do quite well with activities that cater to families, working people, community favorites.
1. Interview on local TV news, write-ups in newspapers about our plight and where to order and pickup BBQ Plates, Moravian Chicken Pies, etc. In Hawaii, the craved dishes would be different. Sell out everytime

2. Mazes, Haunted Houses, Spook Trails. Great for our more theatrical members. Kids and parents love it. I love making the “sets” and watching the audience scream and run.

Basically, we’ve almost doubled our fund since planning things for the Everyman who hates wine and will not dress for dinner. What does your community find irresistible?

bkcunningham's avatar

What type of budget and line items are you looking to fill, @Hawaii_Jake?

Have you looked to your local newspaper for stories on your group and the need for funding to keep going? You’d be surprised how effective this can be if you have a a good story or a volunteer with a good human interest story.

What is your venue? Is it a historic site or something that could garner interest from the garden club or auxilliaries or some club in your area who would be interested in helping with a joint fundraiser?

Is anyone interested in having a summer camp for kids? You could charge for a two week camp which culminates in a little production for the parents. Each day could be bring your own lunch and drink and consist of a dance lesson, learn a song and make your own costume.

We did something similar at a community college in my area years ago when my kids were small. We did an imitation production of Cats and it was very cute. We charged $110 per child for the two week camp. I think we had about 23 or 24 children attend. We started at 10 a.m. and let out at 2 p.m.

mazingerz88's avatar

Approaching wealthy art patrons in your general area for possible sponsorship?

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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Everyone, these are all great ideas. Thank you. Keep the ideas coming, folks.

@bkcunningham : We’re nearly broke at the moment, so we’re looking at all line items in the budget.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Sometimes a local merchant will help to underwrite a production as a form of advertising and building goodwill in the community.

Sunny2's avatar

A costume party, come as your favorite character. Entertainment from members of the theater group. Food inspired by various shows. (meat pies, anyone?)

YoBob's avatar

I ran across this website recently. Perhaps it might provide a means for alternative funding.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

There was a theater built in my relatively small hometown just over 10 years ago. It has done amazingly well, as far as I know. It has an easy-to-navigate website. The information under the Support tab may provide some ideas on fund-raising. They also rely on a lot of PR or free advertising. Some of these include:
* Local visitors’ welcome centers
* Local hotels and B&Bs
* Maintaining their own website and having information or a link attached to the city websites.
* Building a relationship with the local newspapers and colleges.

The theater also recruits a lot of volunteers to help with production, administration, etc. duties. The local high schools have been a good source.

Anyway, their site might spark some ideas that would work in your area. Let us know how it goes!

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Judi's avatar

My favorite theater has a fireworks stand. Big money in that if you have the right location.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
6rant6's avatar

We’ve done silent auctions in connections with some of our productions. I’m trying to arrange for us to get a small space in a large non-profit annual fundraiser that draws more than a hundred people. Getting donations is the hard work, although sometimes that process raises awareness of our existence. We also do raffles continuously. Neither of these is a mainstay, but they help.

6rant6's avatar

Something we’ve started exploring lately – inviting local restaurants with traveling liquor licenses to cater – and split the profits, of course.

bkcunningham's avatar

Oohhh, I like that idea, @6rant6.

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