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School theater budget cuts HELP!!

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by tech2000, Jul 1, 2008.

  1. tech2000

    tech2000 Active Member

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    So the school district I am a student/tech in is cutting the district budget down by about $3 million for next year. Since the high school theater I work in is obviously a part of this school district, we will not have enough money for getting needed equipment including a $6,000 projector because our old one died a year ago.

    My question is, how would you go about raising funds to purchase equipment?

    I was thinking that if necessary I could try to persuade our theater manager to sell some advertising space in our lobby/display case area and work shop. Many people rent our performing arts center so a lot of people come in and would see the advertising.

    Any help would be great!
    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    I'm assuming you've tried repairing the projector first?

    My district does not give us any money other than the theater space and my salary, which is good because in return I don't owe them anything special. I teach in a very political environment, so that's a good thing. All of our funding comes from outside sources.

    - Ticket sales - I budget my shows to break about even on ticket sales, or there abouts.

    - Does your school charge an activity card fee when students register? I get a small share of this when I remember to ask, and it usually covers a small portion of my lamp budget.

    - Argue for rental fees, or a cut of rental fees. I'm working right now to rent out my gear (department owned equipment, purchased through student funds) separately to rentals. Want a wireless mic? It'll cost you, and the money comes back to us. On top of that, your facility should get a percentage of every rental, since they add wear and tear to your equipment.

    - Tax Credit - I don't know if every state does this, but properly done you can fund plenty of equipment this way.

    - Parent group - My school parent group doesn't raise much money, but a neighboring school in a rich neighborhood funds most of their new equipment through a parent booster group.

    - PTO/PTA - Ask these nice folks for funding.

    - Sell advertising in your programs - doesn't make a ton, but every bit adds up.

    I haven't had to do a traditional fund raiser in several years. Other ideas we keep on the back burner here:

    - Student fees - I don't charge these currently, but I know many schools where kids pay a nominal (or not so nominal $300 at one school) fee to be a part of productions.

    - Theater sponsorships, like many professional theaters, and post a display in the lobby.

    - One school I know memorized monologues and went door to door performing for donations.

    - Sell concessions at school events. Football games usually have a concession stand, but if you can set up next to them with something unique, like frozen icees or something, you can make a fortune. Every event can be an opportunity to sell food.

    - If you have a regular community group that uses your theater, like a church, ask them for a donation.

    My experience has been that school districts tend to have a lot of money, it's just not budgeted very well or you have to know to ask for it. Call around and do some investigating, see what funds you can uncover.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2008
  3. tech2000

    tech2000 Active Member

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    Our theater was built 10-11 years ago and the projection system was installed then. When the system died, we couldn't repair it and called the company that installed it, who actually broke up into three separate companies years ago and they would charge $50-100 an hour to repair it. We just need to update all the video equipment in general along with lighting, sound, fly, etc.

    The district charges a rental fee of, I think, $35/hr. However, this is to only people/groups not associated with the district and most renters are from within the district.

    All those are good ideas, but we also need to use those for our drama club's play and musicals budget because we barely break even at the end of every year.

    Usually at the beginning of each school year we get a facility of approx. $2-3,000, which basically pays for the manager's stipend and any salaries ($10/hr.) for student techs during events.

    I'll have to write down all those ideas you gave me!
     
  4. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    Well, [user]Sayen[/user] has covered pretty much every thing I would say...

    Be creative! Ask other students or teachers for their ideas. Originality usually is the best, because it's not just another fund raiser.

    I don't know if you have a say in this, but try doing a "classic" show because these are usually royalty-free, more income possible from ticket sales.

    When doing advertisements, be sure to send out info to parents, grandparents, and other extended family members - in high schools it is popular for them to buy an ad honoring their child.

    When it comes to the projector... Perhaps apply for a donation from a local office supply store or factory. We got a 3M projector for free directly from 3M because they have a factory in our town and it was an advertising opportunity. (I don't know the lumens but it lights a 16 foot screen very well from 40 feet away with the architectural lights on. Stage Lights, no, but those are closer to the screen.)

    Also, use the search function and see the Theatre Management and Development thread for more ideas (you'll find a lot of ideas about fund raising there.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2008
  5. xander562

    xander562 Member

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    You have no idea how lucky you are. If I were paid at that rate for all the shows I've done with my school, I might actually have a car. (and some good insurance).


    Back to the point: Me and my crew put on a haunted house in the basement of the auditorium as it is already terrifying and didn't require much more than some black paint. We all dressed up as monsters and we made over $1000 in ~2hours. It was during a club fair. If your auditorium is spooky enough you could try that. Imagine how much you would make if you opened it up to the public. :cool:
     
  6. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    My question is obviously, why do you NEED a $6,000.00 projector? That's like saying "we NEED intelligent lights". We never used any projectors, but if we needed one, we would rent one from Christie Lites or some place like that. For anything else, we always made due with the AV Department's multimedia projectors. Not the best but we only needed one a handful of times. Our theatre department certainly didn't hinge on it.

    One thing we would do is have middle school dances. We would advertise the dance at all 3 of our middle schools in town (there are more now), and we would set up DJ Lights and a sound system in our cafeteria and get a bunch of those NOW CD's. We got our popcorn popper out, unplugged the school's vending machines, charged $1.00 for a bag of popcorn or canned drink, and other creative rip-off's and we could make almost $2,000. for the night. The concessions were usually donated by the parents, and I had my own DJ lighting system, which I would charge $125. for the night. At $5.00 a student, it wasn't too bad of a deal for them. We'd usually pack in about 300 and we'd also have a police officer present. I think he was one of the student's dad. It was great fun, sometimes a big headache, but all in all it provided us some nice toys and an extra kick in our show budget. Hope this helps.
     
  7. tech2000

    tech2000 Active Member

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    Our theater is used for assemblies, meetings, talent shows, plays/musicals, and even movies every once in a while. (We are basically the AV department). The projection distance is too long and the brightness too dim for an average multimedia projector.

    Plus, our school district has a contract with Epson right now and will only allow us to purchase certain Epson projectors. The district has contracts with many companies and when we tried to buy a camcorder last year, they would only let us buy a really crappy one so we didn't.
    Since we are rented fairly often, we need the projector in case either the renter decides to use it, or the administration spontaneously shows up with an assembly.

    The dance idea seems like it could make some money.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2008
  8. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Then you're stuck to doing what you can until something gives. You can do whatever you want to for fundraising, but in the meanwhile you'll have to accept that if a renter or school function needs a projector, you have to tell them no unless they provide their own. If your school asks why you don't have one, feel free to point out that you don't have any money to purchase something, but not for lack of trying. The important part is "not for lack of trying." People don't like giving money unless they know that the group receiving it is pulling their share of the weight for other sources of income also. If your administrators know you're trying really hard, maybe they can meet you some of the way, just not entirely. My experience has been that $6k isn't that much money in today's world, but that probably depends on the size of your school district and area you live in. You can practically cover that with bake sales and other junk. A really straight forward way to do it, is put on a show that costs you nothing, and sell tickets. Get a group, maybe a band from your school, or something, that will perform for free, or a percentage of profits, and then if you sell 600 tickets at $10 each, you've got your new projector. If that's not feasible, get 3-4 different groups, and then put on 3-4 different shows across a few months and then you've got your projector in 2-3 months assuming you make no other attempts to create revenue.
     
  9. EXQEX9

    EXQEX9 Member

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    My highschool rents out and sells the sets we build. You can try something like that.

    Also, we hold an auction every year. Its a show, with musical selections from any given musical (this year it was "The Music Man"), and between each number we auction off items donated by the students. These range from calanders to dates to car washes to...well...lots of stuff. Thats a good money maker.

    Also, give your district a swift kick in the shin for me.
     
  10. CynicWhisper

    CynicWhisper Member

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    We had a similar problem. We found that the district and administrators were much more willing to help us out when our equipment was in bad shape when we pointed out how much money they make through the theatre, they use it for assemblies, school fundraisers and the like. When they realized that if they didn't help out with the money, their projects would be happening in the dark, they got helpful fast. Plus, you mentioned that you have to pay tech students for the productions. Methinks, if they aren't your productions, say if they're for a student council fund raiser, we make the other organization pay the techs. For performing arts functions, we have a letter point system. Essentially, for every mainstage show, kids get 10 points for being on crew. For a band concert, they get 2 or 3. At the end of the year, kids get awards for having high letter points. That may solve your issue with paying techs.
     
  11. DHSLXOP

    DHSLXOP Active Member

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    Do a talent show among the performing arts kids (or among the entire school). When my school went to mainstage at state thespians a couple years ago, we did a talent show to offset some of the costs. Parents, grandparents, and fellow students love to come out to that sort of thing - try to get other teachers involved - depending on the relationship between students/teachers at your school, more people may want to come if they see that their english and math teachers were also performing. Charge it appropriately to the number of seats in your theatre, and you can raise a good portion of the profit that one show.
     
  12. Kelite

    Kelite Apollo Staff Premium Member

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    I can certainly agree with renting and selling the sets as it's the ultimate in recycling (with cash in hand to boot) and saves the next theater time and labor.

    With the spike in oil prices, I can only imagine how the transportation budget would be burdened. Granted most school corporations purchase fuel for their busses many months in advance, the added expense is crushing the general budget. Ugh.....
     
  13. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    What happens to the rental fees for the auditorium? They should be coming back to the building to pay for it's maintenance. You shouldn't have to worry about the video projector. Tell the administration/district... the projector is broken, a new one costs $6k, until you get us a new projector we won't be able to host any events that require video. Someone will find the money.

    As for the rest of your troubles in general. I ran my high school theater department on my cut of the money they got from the coke machine in the student store. It worked out to about $600 a year. I had to make every show budget balance. By the time I left I left a $5k surplus in my account. You can run a theater on very little money. It's also VERY unlikely that your 10 year old lighting equipment needs replacement. I know a couple places that would kill to have lighting equipment that is less than 25 years old. It's all about perspective my friend. Most school theaters don't get nearly as much as you have been given in the past.
     
  14. Les

    Les Well-Known Member

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    I have to agree with gafftaper. To echo what he said, the theatre department should not be responsible for buying equipment everyone else will use for free.
     
  15. lieperjp

    lieperjp Well-Known Member

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    It's true!!!
     
  16. Dustincoc

    Dustincoc Active Member

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    Why does the theatre department have to buy equipment for everyone else to use? If they want a projector for assemblies any you dont have one for something, maybe they will see that they need to get one. Let the administration look bad a time or two because you don't have the funds and funds usually start appearing. Our building(including the theatre) has old radiator heating, during one preformance when the one of the top school officials had visitors come, the radiators started clanking loudly(as they always have). There was talk of getting a new heating system shortly after. Never happened but the entire space is being gutted and remodeled next year(something about patrons wondering why a program as good as ours doesn't have a better space, the space was a gym that was handed to the department 30 years ago and some seating was built against one wall and a procenuium made of flats was erected. It's been through 2-3 renovations since but its still a gym that functions as a theatre, we've got very little backstage space and the floor drops 3 inches over 10 feet)
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2008

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