On Fundraising

Or FUNraising, if done right.

I have done a LOT of fundraising in my life.  As a Girl Scout, I sold calenders and cookies.  As a band member I sold World’s Finest Chocolates until people got tired of seeing me.  As a member of various Drum and Bugle corps, I sold various sweets to help offset the cost of my participation and help pay to keep the corps on the road.  I’ve bought and sold candles and popcorn and subs and…yeah.  There is a lot of me going out and doing the door-to-door thing, or sticking a box of something (or a form) on the end of my desk or my mom’s.

But how can a theatre group raise money.  In a world where it seems like the arts are getting the raw end of the deal, and spending money for a night of live entertainment is seen more as a luxury than a necessity, how can they raise funds that they are not getting in ticket sales to keep the building going, get rights to shows, pay the people who get salaries, etc, etc, etc?

One of the groups back home presents an “Audience Choice” show every year.  This voting for this show doubles as a fundraiser and is done online or through their box office.  They present a list of 5 titles for the audience to vote on, and each vote costs $2.00.  I do not remember seeing synopsis of the show, so it was up to the voter to learn more about each production.  This year they are closing their season with last years winner, THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL so it proves that the “trusty dusties” need to be in the mix.  The other shows in the running included:  GODSPELL, WORKING, NUNSENSE, and I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE.

Recently, I was invited to take part in another fund raiser.  For this one, the director picked a group of actors – ones that had appeared at the venue before or that he had always wanted to work with and had not been able to for whatever reason.  For each of the performers he chose 2 songs for them to be featured in.  None of the shows had been produced by the theatre in the last 10 years, if ever.  Tickets were $10.00 at the door and the audience was given a program that featured each song, the show it was from, the performers being featured, and the numbers 1-5.  1 was “I hate it, don’t ever put it in front of me” with 5 being “this better be produced here soon because it was wonderful!”  The difference between the show/song with the highest number of votes and the show/song with the least was 1 percentage point!  One.

So, basically, what does this mean?  To me it says that audiences want to, and are willing to pay, to have a vote in what shows a theatre company produces, and that maybe that input should be valued.  Sure, you can do the same old fundraising dinners and 50/50 raffles (all of which are great ways to raise money), but perhaps you can build your audience by involving them in the process.

But really, that is just my $.02 worth.

ToM

 

ps–if the ballot idea is duplicated in future years, I don’t think a much longer rehearsal period would do it any good.  the performers all had their music a month in advance to start working on it, and too long might lose some of the ….idk, panic, joy, terror, exhiliration??  And new ideas that involve the audience are always great!

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