Showing movies as fundraisers is a simple way to build excitement and awareness among your community and make a little money for the cause. Video fundraisers are rarely big money-makers on their own but they demonstrate your group’s commitment to the mission and are a great way to connect your skatepark advocacy group with local businesses, venues, skate shops, and so on.
You can plan this project yourself though it will go more smoothly with a partner. During the event itself you will need at least two people for every 50 people you expect to attend. If you don’t know how many people will attend, plan to have yourself and 4 others available to help out.
One person, probably you, should be event’s project manager and will delegate the various tasks to other volunteers. The project manager will be responsible for getting everything done. If they ask someone else to help, that’s great…but the manager must be prepared in case that person forgets or simply blows it off. (Volunteers can be finicky about their participation and not take their commitment seriously because they’re “donating” it.) Be prepared to pick up the slack if someone does not follow through or show up to help.
Keep an event notebook where you write everything down. Start keeping notes at the very beginning of your planning…even if it’s just a rough idea. This same book will be used later for planning the specific details and things to do leading up to the event.
Be sure to keep a list of volunteers and alternates in case someone doesn’t show up. Write down who is supposed to be doing what, (and when). As the event manager it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that everything gets done. Plan and write down who you need to call, email, and make contact with. It helps to copy down email addresses and phone numbers into the notebook even if they’re stored on your computer so that the information can be shared with the other people in your group on the fly. (Also, unexpected things happen to computers all the time. You don’t want to distrupt a big event because you got hacked, or don’t have internet access, or whatever.)
What To Show
Local skate shops will know what videos are coming out. They may be able and willing to facilitate a premier with you or put you in touch with the distributor of the video to authorize a premiere. Lots of distributors are happy to do this because you do all of the organizing and they get to show their product to a perfect audience AND demonstrate their commitment to the local scene. Many distributors will even supply additional product for a product toss or raffle but it’s generally not premium stuff. You can expect stickers, a set or two of bearings, maybe some wheels and a deck. The high-profit products like hoodies and shoes are less common.
It can be fun to mix up the event by showing an older video, maybe even a classic, that somehow is relevant to your region or cause then follow it by premiering a video that is only just released. You’ll want to be careful about some of the vintage skate videos. They may seem kitschy and cool to a few people but lots of people, particularly those who don’t watch a lot of skate videos, may find them boring. If you choose to show something “ironic” or amusing, look for shorter videos so those who don’t enjoy that type of thing won’t have to sit there for an hour.
We chose to start our fundraising efforts showing a skate video that had been out for a few years and did quite well. We made it clear that there was a “suggested donation” at the event. In other words we were not charging people to see the film but showing it for free while suggesting they donate at the door. As long as it is made clear that there is no specific entry fee and people can donate whatever amount they want, showing the video at a fundraiser is not a copyright infringement.
To cover all your bases, you could contact the company and ask permission. Depending on the theater you are using, they may require you to do so.
You will need to contact a venue early, particularly the ones that specialize in hosting events like this.
You are encouraged to negotiate the space for no charge to your organization. This is important because you want every penny that the event makes to go into the skatepark fund. If you start paying for things—particularly out of your current skatepark fund—you’ll find that the the event was not worth it considering the time and effort that went into it. Make this worth it by squeezing every nickel and dime from it that you can.
It’s best to identify venues that will have the equipment and staff available to assist with technical matters. Community centers and theaters will often have everything you need to show a video already configured and ready to go. If you’re comfortable setting up audio/visual equipment you will have more flexibility in the types of places you might consider. If you’re not comfortable with presentation equipment, look for places that will have this stuff already at the location.
When you contact a potential venue, explain what your mission is first then explain what you’d like to do. If you’re dealing with a small theater, playhouse or community center they will have heard all this before and will guide you through the process.
Your end of the bargain is to be in an hour before-hand to make sure the equipment is working and configured correctly. Your volunteers will work the door, usher, manage all of the skate-related merchandise, and maintain order. After the event, your volunteers will clean up. Depending on the videos you’d like to show, you will probably need the venue for 3 hours total. (The event itself will only take 75—90 minutes…the rest of the time is setting up and cleaning up.)
You might offer concession sales to the manager of the venue if they are reluctant to donate the space outright. This means that they can sell soft drinks and snacks. This will give them a few bucks to offset the expense of having someone there to keep an eye on things. If they don’t indicate any interest in concessions, don’t offer! You can make a few extra bucks selling it yourself. Ask the owner about the policy on food and drinks before you go out and buy a bunch of food and drinks for the event.
Consider contacting these types of places:
- Fraternity halls (Elks, Masons, Lions, Rotary)
- Locally owned theaters
- Larger libraries
- Local hotels
- Community centers
- Parks Department
- Fire stations
- Performing arts halls (playhouses)
- Country clubs
- Museums and Galleries
Identify your volunteers early. You will have two types of volunteers helping you with the event. Your key volunteers are those who have essential tasks and are expected to identify the best method for doing them. Your “ordinary” volunteers will be helping you do things but you will be nearby to direct them if they have questions. You’ll probably know right away who your key volunteers will be; close friends, relatives, and coworkers. The other volunteers can be people you know from skating and other acquaintances. This is a great opportunity to involve people who have been interested in the skatepark advocacy project but don’t know how they can help.
Your volunteers should be enlisted early even if you won’t need them right away. It will give them time to get excited about the event and help spread the word. Three weeks is a good early commitment. It’s far enough out that people can make plans, adjust work schedules, and so on…but not so far out that they feel like it’s so remote that it’s not worth bothering about.
How Much to Charge
Suggest a specific suggested donation—say, $5—but do not require that specific price. If you are too lenient you may find people unwilling to part with the requested donation and opting for a much smaller amount. Reinforcing that the money is for a good cause will help compliance though it generally isn’t a problem. If people arrive knowing that the event is not really “free,” (even though it technically is), nobody should have a problem donating at the door.
If you combine the video with a product raffle or giveaway, the donation at the door will be further justified. If a person knows that they might win a board or clothing with their donation, it’s easier to part with the cash.
Prizes and Goodies
Sometimes a video just doesn’t seem like enough, especially if it’s not new. You might consider a product raffle between two older videos as a sort of intermission. Your local skate shops might donate some product, (or offer it at cost), for the event. There are lots of ways to manage a product give-away.
- You might have a “product toss” where stickers and soft goods are simply thrown into the audience. This can lead to a bit of excitement if the products are popular so be conservative on what you decide to toss.
- Door prizes are simple to organize and can be helpful in reinforcing a donation. Everyone who donates at the door gets a numbered ticket. (You can also write matching numbers down on two pieces of paper…one is given to the donor and the other is put into a can.) During intermission a number is pulled from the can and the corresponding ticket holder gets the prize. This can be repeated for as many prizes as you have in your treasure chest.
- A raffle is run like the door prize except that the donor gets tickets based on how much they donate. It can be one-dollar per ticket or 10 tickets for a dollar. It doesn’t matter provided that it remains the same for everyone at the event. Establishing a donation price to participate—the price of a ticket—is key. You need a price that is low enough that the prize will be a good deal for the winner and lots of people will play but high enough that you make money on the event.
- Combination door prize-raffle. You can mix-and-match these schemes. If everyone who donates at the door gets a ticket, (door prize), you might provide the opportunity to increase their chances to win by donating more for additional tickets. The best time to announce this is right after you show off the great prizes people will win. That’s when everyone has had a chance to imagine how they’ll feel when they’ve won…and the perfect time to “sell” them more tickets.
- Silent auctions can sometimes raise a lot of money but will require more planning on your part. The product being auctioned might be up and available to bid on for the first half of the event then—after the bidding closes—the bids are calculated while attendees what another video. The winning bids are announced at the end of the event.
It’s great when everyone can go home with something, even if it’s a few stickers. If you offer stickers, be sure to be on the lookout for your stickers around the venue before you leave. (Seeing the backing paper on the ground is a sign that there’s probably a sticker nearby.)
All -Ages or 21-and-Over?
I like all-ages shows because the parents and kids have the cash you are looking for. The twenty-something crowd may not have as much disposable income. Most of the people interested in your event—the average age of a skateboarder—are about 14 years old. All-ages shows are great because everyone can show up. You don’t want to eliminate the largest group of skaters and their parents. Also, all-ages shows tend to be calmer as there’s less to manage. You want to consider using the venue in the future so it is important to leave a good impression. Twenty-one and over shows, while still fun, tend to be more rowdy and pose the potential for security concerns, especially when alcohol is involved.
A video premiere with some pro riders present might generate more attendance. This in turn might generate more funds. But without the kids and parents it can be challenging to get a lot of people there. It has been our experience that all-ages make more money than 21-and-over shows.
The other thing to consider is that with the 21-and-over shows you are “preaching to the choir.” Most adult skaters already understand and support the skatepark cause. For them the event may have more social rewards than philosophical ones. Hip, adult events are cool but they probably won’t do much to advance your mission or grow the skatepark bank account…not like those events that attract all-ages.
At the end of your video be sure to remind everyone what their money will be used for. If you had product to give away or the event simply wasn’t as exciting as you would have liked, this reminder will leave everyone with a good feeling about having come.
Words: Sarah Burgess