Many community theater groups are either 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations or not-for-profit organizations. The old adage that theater is performed in order to perpetuate The Arts is why people take the stage – Community theater is an easy and satisfying way to do so. Community theater is not usually competitive and provides a rewarding vehicle where someone can be on stage before your friends and neighbors. The added satisfaction is if a community theater project makes enough money to support the next project, all in trying to keep The Arts going.
Non-profit organizations have an advantage over not-for-profit organizations as they can apply for cultural grants, business sponsorships, and private donations; then, reciprocate with a tax-deduction receipt. To many supporters of The Arts, this is as important as making the donation to the cause. For large philanthropic foundations, it is a requirement to ‘give’ their profits to qualified organizations of their choice; these recipient organizations are usually non-profits.
Not-for-profit organizations have funds available to them also, but the effort to acquire them is more difficult – individuals who donate funds do so for interest in the project, because they know the organization and its work, or see benefit in the success of the project. They usually donate because they don’t need or care about a tax deduction. Some states, Oregon being one, have Cultural Coalitions which provide grants to ‘not-for-profit’ organizations, so check with your state’s Arts Commission procedures.
Here are some things to consider when thinking about putting together a budget for a play or production as a community theater group.
Rarely do our shows make a profit to be carried over to the next show. We rely heavily on our local business sponsors, a few private donors, and out-of-pocket expenditures paid by Dan and Anita, co-founders of New Artists Productions.
Every once in a while we do make a profit – ‘Disney’s The Lion King Jr.’ and ‘Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins Jr.’ were the only 2 musicals where that occurred.
** We produce some plays that are written either by Dan or one of our parents wherein the royalty expense is not a factor; this saves a great deal of money for our program.**
A typical annual budget for our non-profit youth theater program is: $24,500. A typical show budget for our organization is: $8,950. This is for a Disney Junior production giving six performances in the same venue before a limited size audience. Our local theater seats an audience size of 246, but we rarely fill the house more than 50%. Royalties are calculated based on the average ticket price, seating capacity of the venue, and the anticipated audience size, a ‘guesstimate’ of the show producer.
Facility Rental –
- Venue space
- Equipment usage (lighting and sound)
- Janitorial cleanup
- Piano tuning
- Services provided at the venue:
- Ticketing Equipment usage/processing
- Stage crew
- Theater manager fee
- Snack Bar amenities/supplies
- Newspaper Ads
- Posters – design layout, printing
- Fliers/Handouts – design layout, printing (If you live in a tourist area, hotels and motels are great locations to put ‘coming events’ handouts. The registration desk usually has an area set aside for ‘things to do while in the area’ for travelers. Other locations are the Chamber of Commerce, restaurants, and/or coffee houses.)
- PSAs – Public Service Announcements – by edict these are free so try to create a relationship with the editor or section chief of the newspaper and the publicity person at the radio stations. Usually, if you write the copy, they will present it to the public – print copy or radio announcement.
- Promotional Items – T-shirts and souvenirs – some groups uses these items to help advertise the upcoming shows.
Playbills – programs given to patrons at the shows – construction and printing
Cast Party – cake, punch, show souvenirs for the cast and crew (we give out show T-Shirts as a reward for the cast’s hard work)
Show expenses –
- Costumes – made or rented
- Sets and Scenery
- Property used in the shows (props)
- Make-up items:
Royalties to perform the play
- Script rental or purchase
- Performance rights (royalties) to perform the play