Nonprofit dance studios provide a creative shelter for millions of people across the country and globe. Creativity, camaraderie, and culture can flourish, sometimes in the harshest of environments. Keeping nonprofit dance studios afloat financially may require creative and choreographed efforts. The following ideas can help these vital cultural hubs to survive and to thrive.
The Ice Bucket Challenge was a phenomenal success; consider starting your dance studio’s own social media challenge. TikTok has created plenty of dances; use the social media platform to your advantage and challenge the world to a specific dance. You can also get hearts pumping with a push-up challenge, sit-up challenge – anything that will get people moving. For those who pass up the challenge, encourage them to donate to your studio in place of a dance-off. It also helps to raise awareness of your studio and its mission, which can bring in more donations from those who may not have known about your nonprofit previously.
If you have a dancer who has gone on to become fairly successful, reach out to see if they would be interested in teaching a master class at your studio. It’s inspirational for the students, allows the professional dancer to connect with their roots, and provides a boost of income.
If you don’t know a dancer who has risen from your studio, you can always reach out to dancers in the community. Many would be happy to host a clinic with younger dancers, giving them a chance to learn with the pros.
Pro tip: Promote the workshop heavily within your community – the more attendees, the more funds you’ll raise. Create a limit on how many dancers are allowed to keep the clinic from being overwhelming for the professional dancer.
Clogging? Irish stepdance? Crunk? These dance genres are not found at your everyday dance studio. So, add a splash of variety by adding a unique genre for one day a month. Promote the clinic to your studio, then go a step above by posting flyers, sharing on social media, sending email announcements, and promoting it at other fundraisers and sales. It will draw in veteran dancers looking to try something fresh, as well as new dancers trying to find a favorite genre.
Reach out to dancers you know that have experience in your chosen genre – most will be willing to teach for a small fee.
In the era of COVID, virtual performances or concerts are perfect. But an added bonus: dancers’ friends and family don’t have to miss out on yet another performance. Set up a website to purchase tickets and have dancers spread the word through social media. Host a performance on a platform such as Zoom, and only share the link with those who purchased tickets. To intrigue outsiders to the showcase, you can create a teaser video of the dances in advance and share it on social media. You’ll raise a solid amount of funds due to the increased exposure.
Pro tip: Make sure to promote the donation page link – it should be easily accessible to the audience. Make announcements at the beginning and end (and intermission, if you have one) to remind people.
While there are plenty of great ways to fundraise, nonprofits can also apply for federal and private foundation grants. As long as your dance studio is registered as a 501(c)(3), you can apply for funding. Consider what you need and would use the funding for, what your ultimate goals are for the studio (long-term and short-term), and whether or not you are eligible. Donorbox wrote a thorough article on what grants are, and when and how nonprofits should apply for them.
Most studios have classes for younger dancers. For a change, have older dancers teach their choreography to the younger ones.
You can charge for this “dance boot camp” experience. The older dancers can simplify their class’s dance routines or think of their own warm-ups, giving the younger dancers an inspiring glimpse of what the older dance teams do.
In the end, have the younger dancers perform for the adults during a showcase. The little ones will be proud to show off their new moves to their loved ones, and their loved ones will be happy to pay for this event.
Sometimes ballet dancers want to try hip-hop, or Latin dancers want to try jazz. Offer drop-in classes to all dancers. If they fall in love with other dance genres, they’ll sign up for new classes they might not have tried otherwise – perfect if your studio determines rates by the number of classes taken by each student.
For a tight-knit studio, this is a dream. Offer to take parents’ dancers in and entertain them for the night. This way, you can give parents reprieve for a night on their own. Order pizza, put some music on, and dance like no one’s watching with the kiddos (or teach some choreography, if you’re adventurous). For younger kids, bring some arts and crafts supplies to keep them entertained. Make it cheaper than a babysitter, and you’re set to rake in the profits.
Pro tip: Promote this directly to parents with flyers, emails, and social media posts. Sometimes the younger ones don’t remember to inform their parents, so take care of that aspect with targeted promotion.
While most studios have end-of-the-year performances, consider hosting holiday performances as well. Teach students short dances for holiday-specific songs and throw a celebration. You don’t need to perform for all holidays – but Halloween and Christmastime showcases, for example, are always fun. (On Halloween, you can host a costume contest!) You can also look for raffle prizes and sell them at the door, then host the giveaway during an intermission. Everybody likes winning, and dancers always appreciate the chance to show off their skills.
Many restaurants will pair up with and give a percentage of their lunch or dinner funds to nonprofits. Reach out to local businesses and ask if they’d be interested in working with your studio to split the profits. Emphasize that you will be promoting their restaurant to the entirety of the dance team and their friends and family directly and through social media, then make sure your entire studio shows up for the meal. Generally, restaurants will donate a portion of the proceeds during one specific day, so consider when the best time is for the biggest turnout.
A classic gift following a showcase is a bouquet of flowers for the dancers. Consider buying bouquets in bulk and selling them at the front of the venue. That way, audience members don’t have to remember to bring them on their own, and the profits go directly to the studio.
Another fun way to celebrate dancers’ pre-show: candy grams. Sell small treats – lollipops, kisses, a fun-size skittles packet – with notes from the attendees, wishing their dancers good luck. You can also buy these in bulk to help save costs.
Remember the costumes that were only worn once at the final dance show? Or what about the dancer who bought jazz shoes – only to quit after a month? A costume and dancewear sale is the best place to sell your old clothes. Parents and dancers can bring costumes, leotards, shoes, hairpieces – anything they no longer need or fit in. It’s more affordable than brand new tap shoes, and you can split the profit between you and the dancer, therefore giving them pocket money while also raising funds for the studio.
Competitive dance teams usually have their own team names. Order sweats, shirts, and/or jackets with the team name and last names of the dancers – it builds unity and makes for fun photo-ops at competitions. Common workout attire will also build brand awareness – not only at the studio but also in everyday situations.
On the same note, create stickers, pins, and magnets with the logo of the studio. Dancers and their friends and family can rep your studio in a variety of ways, therefore bringing awareness to your nonprofit.
Photo days are fun for the dancers – they get to try on their costumes and immortalize each year at the studio. Have one day solely dedicated to taking photos of each class, and offer the opportunity for individual photos as well. You can then create photo packages and sell them to family and friends.
If you’re wanting added fun, the photos don’t have to do entirely with the dances – dancers can wear glitter, try on old costumes, take candids, and so on for unique photos.
While people may joke about bake sales, there is a reason they have had long-term staying power. Everybody loves a good bake sale – no one can resist sweet temptations. To be more cost-efficient, have dancers and their families bring food potluck-style. Whether they’re homemade or store-bought, they’re bound to sell. Should your studio be located in a space without much foot traffic, find a more public street corner, or work with a local grocery store a-la Girl Scouts and sell them outside.
Create a dynamic and inspiring ask, demonstrating the need for your studio and some of the success stories it has engendered. Create donor tiers that include ways to recognize your supporters based on their level of giving. These might include special thanks on your website or social media sites, an ad in a performance program, a special performance just for studio donors, or even the creation of dance in honor of your major donors.
As a “thank you”, create a short dance and either perform it live, or record it and send it to the donor. They’ll be honored that you took their donation to heart, and it will encourage them to donate again in the future.
Another option is to send major donors a recording of a routine you’ve been working on, giving them a sneak peek behind the scenes prior to a performance.
Nonprofit dance studios provide a vital source of creativity and community, yet their financial survival is challenging during these very difficult times. Documenting the need for the studio and its positive outcomes for participants will position you to raise funds no matter which strategy you select.
The arts elevate and inspire us. With the same passion in fund development as that required of dancers, studios will be positioned to train and inspire dancers now and into the future.
At Donorbox, we are helping numerous clubs and organizations to maximize their donations.
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