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How to Plan a Variety-Show Fundraiser

Updated March 23, 2017

Carefully planning your variety-show fundraiser may mean the difference between producing a blockbuster or a bomb. There are more than 1.5 million non-profit organisations in the United States, and they are all competing for the same charitable dollars, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. To set the stage for your variety show, you must juggle talent, volunteers and lots of logistics. While event-planning checklists often include pages of action items, understanding the big-picture concepts will help you plan a successful variety-show fundraiser.

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  1. Recruit volunteers and create a committee to plan your variety-show fundraiser. The energy and expertise of volunteers is critical to the success of any fundraiser, according to "Fundraising Basics: A Complete Guide," by Barbara L. Ciconte and Jeanne Gerda Jacob.

  2. Choose a theme for your variety show. Consider the nature of your charity or cause, as well as your target audience, when you are selecting the theme. Unlike a talent show, which features one unrelated act after another, variety-show producers try to tie acts together.

  3. Select a date for your event and develop a timeline. Event fundraisers with an expected attendance of approximately 500 people typically require four to six months to organise. Book your talent within 60 to 90 days of your event.

  4. Create a budget. Gather cost estimates and set your ticket price. Base your price on the number of tickets you must sell to cover expenses and generate a profit. "Fundraiser Insight," an online magazine for fundraisers, advises selling tickets ahead of time, as well as at the event, to provide a revenue stream.

  5. Book a venue. Factors to weigh when you choose a venue include location, the availability of on-site audio/visual equipment, technical support, staging, seating capacity and insurance.

  6. Audition and book your talent and master of ceremonies. Showcase amateur talent, along with one or two professional variety-show acts. Possible performers include musicians, magicians, dancers, jugglers, speed painters, impersonators and comedians.

  7. Write a script for your master of ceremonies and order the acts in your show. Limit your show to no more than 90 minutes. Each amateur act should last no more than five minutes.

  8. Work with your performers to create theme-focused acts. For example, a variety show with a 1980s theme might include a medley of hit songs, a presidential impersonator and a skit poking fun at the decade's fashions. Rehearse the entire show at least once to make certain everyone is ready for the main event.

  9. Promote your variety-show fundraiser. Because event-based fundraisers rely heavily on ticket sales to generate funds, publicity is essential. Use social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Send a press release to media outlets. List your variety show in community calendars. Include information about your organisation and its mission each time you promote your variety show.

  10. Tip

    Create a contingency plan. Ask merchants to donate or discount their goods and services for your event. Print a program and sell ad space to generate additional funds. Keeping records and creating a detailed event file will help you plan your next variety-show fundraiser.


    Follow your community's rules and regulations regarding fundraisers. Check local event calendars for scheduling conflicts with other events. Avoid volunteer burnout by keeping committee meetings brief and organised. Do not overwhelm your volunteers by overloading them with responsibilities.

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Things You'll Need

  • Volunteers
  • Venue
  • Audio/visual equipment
  • Performers
  • Promotion materials
  • Tickets

About the Author

Ashlyn Etree

Ashlyn Etree was all business as a PR professional for 10 years, but she loves rolling up her sleeves volunteering at animal rescues. She writes for various publications, specializing in business, career and pet-related content. Etree earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Central Florida.

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