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20 Essential Fundraising Ideas

A few creative approaches to help you bring in the moolah!

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The biggest mistake a performing arts organization can make is to be timid about its fundraising.

So don't be timid. Be bold.  You're providing something essential to the community, and you need money to operate. You can't get what you don't ask for. So ask. Be creative, charming and outgoing (without being pushy). And do so year-round, versus once a year. Make it fun, and you may just be surprised at what comes back to you. 

With this in mind, following are twenty ideas that just may help you raise funds for your organization, and in a way that's actually fun for all involved.

1. Sell window cards or posters signed by the entire cast

Photo © Flickr user Torisan3500

The next time you print up promotional posters, postcards, or window cards, be sure to save a few back, then have them signed by the entire cast!  These items are great keepsakes, and make great items for auction.

You can also do the same with T-shirts signed by the cast, as well.  Make sure everyone uses permanent Sharpie markers, for longevity.

2. Throw an exclusive, swanky cocktail party with the cast

Photo © Flickr user Ron Sombilon Gallery

Sell admission (by invitation only) to an exclusive, swanky cocktail party with the cast whose theme ties in with the show's. Get RSVP's, see if you can get a caterer to donate food, and have the cast attend in full costume.

3. Auction or sell signed copies of cool production stuff

If you can get the blessings of the appropriate designers, auction off sketches or signed computer-generated images of your costume designs, set designs, or light plots, all autographed by the designers themselves.

4. Trade out ad space or credit for auctionable goods or services

Trading out a little ad space, a production credit, or a special-patron thanks is a smart and savvy way to get some goods or services that you can then auction off as part of your fundraising efforts. Such goods and services might include:

  • Trips from a local travel agency
  • Dinners for two from local restaurants
  • Desserts or goodies at local bakeries
  • Floral arrangements
  • Food baskets
  • Housecleaning or handyman services -- and more!

5. Stage and sell a romantic evening...

Auction off a romantic evening created by your cast and crew! Join up with a local restaurant for the meal itself, then serve the meal on a beautifully appointed table on your stage, under the 'stars' and against a beautiful backdrop. Have select members of the cast 'serve' the happy couple and serenade them throughout the evening.

6. Auction off those hats and canes!

For dance groups involving a bit of glitz, like tap or jazz, for instance, auction signed tap shoes or taps, top hats, canes, scarves, or other jazzy accoutrements.

7. Get a little more life out of those old dancing shoes

Photo © Flickr user Renee Silverman

For ballet companies, auction off old pointe shoes from the principal dancers, and autographed by them. For a dramatic touch, mount the shoes on a doll stand before selling at auction.

8. Sell a free dinner with the cast...

Auction off an intimate dinner with the leading actors after a show. Everyone loves the chance to meet and talk to performers!

9. Turn old strings and programs into shadowboxed art

For symphonies, make shadowboxes of programs or concert posters, and incorporate everything from batons to cello or violin strings, and more into the pieces -- then auction them off at a premium. Don't forget to get special guests or principals to sign them!

10. Auction off a few choice costumes or set pieces

Photo © Flickr user Michael Lehet

As a variation on the previous approach, if your storage or costume shop is overflowing with costumes, props, or set pieces, consider auctioning off certain set pieces or props, as well. Again, you could have these signed by designers or cast principals, depending on the items involved.

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