Raising Money All Year Long

August 29, 2007

When the winners are announced at Nationals it’s no surprise that the teams with the most innovative and exciting routines come out on top. Approaching the task of fundraising with the same enthusiasm as competition can make vying for checks as fun as vying for trophies. Here are some ideas to win financial supporters every month of the year.

January: Winter Social

If it’s their first school dance, fifth and sixth graders will come in droves. When the Raritan High School Rocket Dancers in Hazlet, NJ, organized an event for local middle schoolers last year, coach Robin Beaudry says she was shocked when 400 students came, each paying $5 for admission. Decorations and refreshments (which were sold) were donated and a DJ (who got advertising space in the team’s program) worked for free. The event was held at the team’s high school and took two months to plan.

: Ballroom Workshop

Take the Illinois-based Belleville West Dance Team’s lead and hold an evening of dinner and ballroom dance instruction. “Three instructors each teach a different dance,” says coach Lisa Quandt, who adds that many teachers donate their time in the hopes of nabbing future clientele. The key to making money is getting a space and catering for free or, at the very least, finding a convention center with an affiliated catering service that’s willing to cut you a deal on a slow night. To advertise, post flyers around town, especially at dance studios and gyms, and place ads in the newspaper (call to see if you can get these for free, too). Determine admission price by taking a survey to find out how much your friends and family members would pay for such an event, and then charge on the higher end of that scale.

March: Dance Clinic

For a fundraiser and recruiting tool in one, invite local dancers to learn from your dance team. The Texas Tech Spirit Squad holds an annual one-day clinic at which they teach original dance team choreography in the college recreation center. Press releases are sent to local newspapers and studios by e-mail, so costs are minimal. Admission is $30 for a half day and $50 for a full day (lunch included for both). The University of Illinois Dance Team holds a similar clinic at which DVDs of the choreography are sold for $15, and the price of admission includes a CD of the music used. “I have my own video camera and we tape it in the gym,” says the coach and captain Meredith Minoff.

April: Dance Competition

Creating your own version of “So You Think You Can Dance” can take a year or more to plan, but it can garner between $12,000 and $20,000, once you account for audience admission, competitor fees, and T-shirt and refreshment sales. The George Mason Masonettes Dance Team holds the Mason Dance Team Invitational—an all-star event where studios, schools, and teams compete for prizes. Parents help with registration, concessions and ticket sales, while the team members run the warm-up area, the music and competitor check-in. They enlist professional dancers from all over the country to judge.

May: Kick-a-thon

To boost your bank account quickly, ask friends, family members and teachers to pledge between 2 cents and $5 for every leg kick you can do in one minute. At your dance team’s next practice, each member takes a turn kicking, while everyone else counts off how many she does. Spend the next week collecting the pledge money.

June: Golf Tournament

Find a standard or a miniature golf course willing to donate space and get local businesses to sponsor each hole. In exchange for a few hundred—or thousands!—of dollars, each sponsor gets a sign next to one hole as well as a mention on all affiliated printed materials, including invitations, advertisements and thank-you notes. “When someone becomes a sponsor they can put a team of golfers into the tournament for free,” adds Martin Neier, fundraising consultant with The Ostroff Group. Neier suggests establishing a trustworthy committee to collect money from sponsors, set up refreshment carts along the course and secure the players, from parents to local golfers. Afterwards, hold a cocktail reception, complete with a short performance by your team.

July: Tricky Tray

Set up a booth or table at your local fair, or in the lobby at your next performance. Ask local businesses to donate prizes such as bottles of wine, restaurant gift certificates and electronics. Get creative! Place a large fishbowl next to each item. Sell raffle tickets and instruct buyers to place their tickets into the fishbowl next to the items they want to win. Then draw winners later in the day. Last time coach Cookie Maly’s dance team at Stagelight Centre of Performing Arts in Pequannock, NJ, did this, they raised nearly $8,000.

August: Garage Sale

Three months ahead of the event, begin collecting items—anything in good condition, like artwork, furniture and clothes—from the homes of team members, friends and family. “We sell new stuff, too,” says Lynn Phenix, dance team coach at Northern Valley Regional High School in Old Tappan, NJ. Local businesses, usually those owned by friends or family members of team members, set up booths at the sale and sell their wares—mainly clothing—at wholesale prices. You’ll need a large garage to store everything in and a team of volunteers to tag each item, but, as NVRHS dance team has proven, you can make $5,000 in two days. It can also be a great bonding experience for kids and parents.

September: Silent Auction

This event can be done in a number of ways: The Texas Tech Spirit Squad recently came up with a new angle: auctioning off vintage costumes, jackets and bags from the team’s early years to alumni during homecoming weekend. “We raised about $1,500 dollars in an hour,” says Coach Erin Shinn.

October: Hotdog Peddling

Even if one of your team members doesn’t have a dad connected to the hotdog industry, like The University of Illinois Dance Team does, marking up purchased dogs to hungry co-eds after hours can be profitable on any campus. “Around 11 pm we set up a hot dog stand in front of one our sororities,” says Minoff. “Then, when sales start to lag, we roll my boyfriend’s grill down the street to another spot.”


November: Special Wares Sale

Open your home to small businesses and local artisans such as jewelers, knitters, glass blowers, potters and seamstresses, and sell their wares. “The venders keep a percentage of the money made and you keep a percentage,” explains Phenix. Alert your entire community to the sale by advertising around town, posting flyers, and by telling everybody you know to tell everybody they know.

December: Team Calendar

To make a profit from creating and selling a calendar featuring photos of your team you will need: a photographer willing to do the work in exchange for his logo appearing on each page, a printing press that will give you a discount (try your local university) and sponsors to pay for advertising on each month. It also takes planning well in advance: The Texas Tech Spirit Squad gets their pictures taken in August.

Sara Jarrett, former editor of
Dance Spirit, is a freelance writer in NY.