Theatre Fundraising Ideas

Are you looking for community theatre fundraising ideas? In this day and age of dwindling arts funding, it’s something on the minds of every board and staff member. If you work or volunteer at a Community Theatre, I think you may find this article of interest.

As a Community Theatre employee, I’ve discovered several profitable fundraising ideas. I’ll outline several ideas that you may not have thought of, and detail the time and volunteer commitment that may be necessary for you to undertake them.

The ideas below are all ideas that I’ve personally tried myself, and have been successful with. The use of internet websites such as eBay, Amazon and CafePress can give you a wider market as well as added visibility for your non-profit.

Theatre Fundraising Idea #1: Become a “Dramatically Correct” Affiliate

The Zazzle Affiliate Program is an easy-to-join system that allows you to earn money by referring our products.

Becoming a Zazzle Affiliate is easy!

  1. Visit the Zazzle Affiliate page on their website.
  2. Create a Zazzle account.
  3. Get your referral ID code.
  4. Begin tracking your traffic and earnings online.

You can simply send a simple link for our site at to your theatre patrons and volunteers.  Every item they purchase for themselves or for cast gifts will earn you 15-32% (15% on all referrals, up to 17% additional with the volume bonus program).  No taking orders, no delivering products–all orders, payments, processing, printing, shipping and customer service is handled by Zazzle.

If you have knowledge of HTML and want to build banner links on your site, I have included two banners for your convenience.

728 x 90 banner:

468 x 60 banner:

Start-up Cash: LOW. $0

Volunteers: FEW. One person to add the link to your site or send in emails to volunteers.

Time Commitment: LOW. Set up your account and send the links.

Don't Just Applaud, Send Money: The Most Successful Strategies for Funding and Marketing the Arts


Theatre Fundraising Idea #2: Sell on eBay

I ran a very successful fundraiser on eBay for for my Community Theatre. Our theatre has a very impressive costume shop, and while it was spacious, there was never quite enough room for everything.  So instead of tossing these things we don’t use, I sold them eBay?  The first few things I sold, a giant box of gloves, made us a couple hundred dollars and I was sold! It took some research and a well thought out presentatioin to the board, but soon we were on our way to raising several thousand dollars each year selling items we no longer needed!

eBay has a special program for nonprofits where they offer reduced fees.  Check out their website for more information.
What should you sell? Well first be sure you have proper licensing if you are going to resell new items.  However, usually donations made to your organization can be sold easily. Vintage clothing is a hot seller, and something people donate to a community theatre often.

If you decide to start your fundraiser, you can open a store at eBay. It does have a monthly charge, that’s not returned through the giving works program. Having a store for us has been more than worth it though. It gives you the ability to list things very inexpensively for months at a time at a fixed price. A great option if you have businesses donate products for you to sell.

Startup Cash: LOW. $10 for initial fees to test out auctions. You can make a separate account and agree not to spend more on fees than you earn. $15/month (estimate) for a store if you choose to use one.

Volunteers: FEW but DEDICATED. This is a time consuming endeavor if you choose to write auctions in-house instead of using a Trading Assistant. Learning eBay is a process, don’t begin with your most valuable items.

Time Commitment: HIGH. If you choose to use staff or volunteers for this project, they will need to be dedicated and/or really enjoy working on eBay. After time, the writing and uploading goes faster, but this is NOT “easy” money. Good money, but not easy.

More Theatre Fundraising Ideas

  1. Create a sponsor package, make it really appealing to be a corporate sponsor. Add tickets and market, market, market. They’re paying for advertising!
  2. Rent out costumes that you build for your shows.
  3. Put on a show! A special performance with a high end reception, or a special dinner theatre show. It should be SPECIAL and EXCLUSIVE.
  4. Add membership perks. Levels of membership should come with different types of benefits. A reserved special seat for a certain night of each run, corsages waiting at the door for donors of a certain level, get creative!!
  5. Silent auction. Put out some of the prop items from past shows. You know, the weird things that are funny but you’ll never use them again. I took home a foamboard carousel horse once for sentimental reasons. People will want a part of the show, give it a shot.
  6. Hold a mom prom. In our area these are becoming more popular. We’re fairly rural, so ladies enjoy a time to get out by themselves, get fancied up and have some silly fun.
  7. Market home party sales that are available. If any of your members sell products like Tupperware or Pampered Chef, you can hold charity parties where a percentage of sales goes to your charity. You could even have a “home party show” at the theatre and host a variety of sellers at one time.
  8. Voting raffles! Buy a ticket for a dollar and vote for who you want to kiss a pig (doing State Fair?) your executive director or one of the lead actors.
  9. Photos with the cast. This works great with “Wizard of Oz”, lots of little girls coming to the show would like their picture with Dorothy. Get creative. Any show with a “famous lead” could work. Grease, Buddy Holly Story, Always Patsy Cline, these are some examples.