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How to raise funds and keep costs down for a small theatre company

How the South Devon Players theatre company fundraises, and keeps costs down, in South West England. Some new ideas, and some old ones, for fundraising, and maximising the use of the money that you do have.

Things you'll need

  • - access to the internet
  • - access to charity shops
  • - good literacy skills
  • - access to a printer
  • - a Paypal account
  • - social networks (as many as possible!)

Think about cutting down on props and costume costs

It is fair to say that props, costumes and set dressing can eat a tremendous amount of money. However, with some planning, the costs can be reduced dramatically.

First of all, consider what the theme of your shows are. Are they period shows? Childrens shows? Modern shows?

This might give you an idea of the kind of things that you need, and can re-use for more than one show. Subscribe to things like your local Freecycle group, where people give unwanted things away - and keep your eyes open.

When planning a particular show, go through the script and set plans in depth as early as possible, and produce a full list of things that you need and don't have.

1) Type up a list of what you need, and add your contact details, and take it around to your local charity shops - very often things that are ideal for theatre, are items that they would usually throw away rather than sell. Build a good rapport by having someone from the theatre company at least once a week to check if there is anything. Also, you can use Freecycle to post a few "wanted" adverts.

2) Can you borrow costumes and props from another group? Maybe in return for a free advert in your theatre programme? Conversley, are you able to loan something to the other group in return for a loan of something of theirs.

3) Look at reclaiming fabric - sheeting, curtains, etc can make surprisingly good costumes in the hands of someone good at sewing. Sheeting and curtains can be bought cheaply at carboot sales and charity shops - and even found given away on Freecycle.


Make your publicity pay for itself

Publicising your shows and auditions, (in fact anything you can possibly make public about your group!) helps to increase audience numbers and hence your ticket sales!

- See if you can negotiate a discount on poster/ programme printing in return for a free advert in your programme, with your local printers.

- Contact local businesses (and then keep in touch, build up a rapport for the future) to sell them advertising space in your programmes. This should raise some money towards the printing costs. Be clear as to what your group is, what the show is, what the print run for the programmes is, and what you want to charge. Always offer them a free copy once printed.

- Once your programmes are on sale, it is better to sell them all. Sell them at printing cost (full print run cost divided by number of programmes) which will ideally mean that you have made some profit (remember selling the advertising space and using that money for the printing?). Final profits can always be fed back into the group funds as a whole.


Hold an annual fundraiser

It is well worth holding an annual fundraiser. This lets members of the public meet you, and find out more about the group as well as raising funds. Find a low cost but accessible community centre room. Have a table top sale of donated second-hand books, clothes, bric-a-brac, DVDs & videos, etc, and don't forget that teas and coffees and cakes go down well too. Last year we ran one, and raised over £500. Ask friends and members to donate unwanted items, to grow some plants, or make some cakes.


Use online auctions to fundraise.

Can any of your members make crafts to sell online? Have you got costumes or props that you want to sell? If so, you may want to look at online auctions.There are several things to consider with this.

Ebay is the obvious choice, with the most users, however, there can be very high listings fees and final value fees, and as with the very nature of online auctions you are not guaranteed a sale - you may need to re-post the auction several times to get a sale. A viable alternative that we use, is Ebid. Ebid is an auction site much like Ebay, but has no listings fees, and low "final value" fees (the percentage of the sale cost that you pay to the auction site as thier commission), as well as the added benefit of being able to set up a free themed online store, to make everything easy to find and advertise.

The lower amount of users on Ebid means that you need to publicise your auctions, using your social networking links, and the free options on that site as well. Sales are slower (although the site is growing rapidly) but you also have less risk in setting up costs.


Crowdfunding a project

A new method of fundraising is "crowdfunding", which means publicising your projects using social networking, to find people who may wish to donate. It is not ideal for ongoing fundraising, but you could create a fundraising campaign for each production that you are planning.

You can set up free crowdfunding pitches on sites like indiegogo. Nothing tried nothing gained. You may receive full funding, you may receive partial funding, or you may not succeed, however, it is well worth trying.


Collection buckets and busking

If you have a free weekend, why not get some members together to busk, or take collection tins for the group into the local town center? You need to contact your Local Authority for their regulations on this, as you may require a licence, although the licence itself should not cost you anything. If it goes ahead, make sure that it is very clear what people are donating to - with labelled collection buckets, and possibly T-shirts or tabards with the theatre company name on.

You could even expand this idea into doing free street theatre with some volunteers walking around with collection buckets.


Donations from online shopping and search engines

There is a very useful site called easyfundraising. This site allows charities and non-profit organisations to sign up to raise either a small donation, or percentage of money spent, when supporters use the links given to shop with major online retailers. Donations can also be earned via free samples and free trials of products or services via the site. Finally, the site also runs a powerful search engine, and donations are raised from each use of that search engine.

Further information

Links you may find useful, mentioned above







Page last edited Jun 23, 2017 History

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