Funding A Comedy Show
Part 3: Crowdfunding & Personal Fundraising

Posted on 16 January 2012

Crowdfunding and personal fundraising are often done hand in hand. You don’t have to use crowdfunding to raise sufficient funds through an event, but you absolutely will have to run events to make the crowdfunding work. So, I will discuss these together.


Crowdfunding is all the buzz right now. It’s often seen as the most positive way to raise money: you are by-passing banks and relying on the community to help you. You should be aware of the caveats.

Crowdfunding is a form of microfinancing. By combining micropayment technology and social media, various organisations have made it possible for projects to solicit for funding in amounts as small as two dollars per investor. If you can then get a thousand people to kick in that much, you will have the two thousand you need to produce a show for Melbourne Fringe. It also becomes a form of advertising, making people aware of your show.

Often project organisers offer something in return for various levels of funding. For two dollars they might list your name on their Website as having contributed. For twenty dollars they might give you a ticket to their show (a form of pre-purchasing). For fifty you could get a ticket and a program. For one hundred the artists/actors/comedians will sign your program and you are invited to the after-party.

Different crowdfunding groups will charge you in different manners for their service. Some will expect a percentage of your income and others ask for a small flat fee. So you will need to take that into account. Also worth noting, some groups use a threshhold system. You ask for a certain amount, say $500, and if you don’t receive $500 by the deadline you have set, all contributors’s money is returned and no funding is passed onto you. You are always aware of how much money has gone into your request for funds, so if you have received $480 in pledges, most crowdfunding sites are happy to let you pay in the $20 difference and receive the monies.

Threshholding sounds hard-nosed, but there is wisdom in it. When you desperately want to get your show off the ground, you want any and/or all money you can get, and may be willing to go forward even though your show is under-funded. This invites disaster and people will become disillusioned with investing, if it means losing money to a failed show. It takes bravery to realise that now may not be the time to put on a certain show and to let it go. If you let it go, no one has lost out and no one feels put out. So, they might be willing to invest again when you are better prepared.

Now anyone who thinks they can just put their project onto a crowdfunding site and expect the dollars to roll in is fooling themselves. Setting up shop is only the beginning. You have to aggresively market your project and the page where people can donate. To do that you should have a plan and a team of helpers.

Your plan will include developing promotional media, such as YouTube videos, that you will post at various intervals. You will be prepared to cross-promote on FaceBook, Twitter, Google+, your fan mailing-list, and a professional Website. You will encourage your friends and family to write about you in their blogs and link to you on their favourite social media. You will regularly post updates about your campaign on the crowdfunding site. You will run events to encourage people to donate.

Sound like a lot of work? It is, and particularly hard for people who are a bit shy, private, or uncomfortable with marketing themselves. The extroverts succeed here. The good news is that funding deadlines work best when they are only between 60 to 70 days, longer than that and people’s interest wanes.

IndieGoGo runs a helpful blog to improve your crowdfunding efforts. Some Australians have successfully used IndieGoGo. However, we do have an Australian crowdfunding site: Pozible which has had many success stories of its own.

Personal Fundraising

Any fundraising you do can be directed toward your crowdfunding efforts. You can make entry into a dunk-tank event, for instance, dependent upon people donating on a laptop you have made available which is connected to your crowdfunding site.

Fundraising usually requires money up front. As an example if you decide to have a fundraising preview show, you will probably need money to rent a venue and sound equipment.

The most genuinely effective fundraising event I ever run is a garage sale. That requires little to no up front money. Ask family and friends if they have items they wouldn’t mind you taking off their hands, put this together with your own stuff. Around a week before the sale, put up posters and arrow signs along your street and nearby major roads. It is useful to put a small ad in your local paper, since that will increase numbers of buyers. Afterward make use of Freecycle to give away the leftovers.

Other events I have run include a chocolate tasting party, where I went to a quality chocolate manufacturing plant and purchased several boxes of their cheap off-shaped chocolates. Keep in mind that people NEVER eat as much chocolate as they think they will, and need a few savouries like carrot-sticks between rounds of sweets. I ran a number of film nights at a community neighbourhood house, where we checked out and ran films from the state film library and sold homemade chocolate chip cookies during intermission (the aromas from baking them during the first half of the evening ensured sales). I also ran tarot and massage days with the help of various friends.

If you run event fundraisers, make sure you have a strong box for the cash—even a small one. It’s not so much about theft, as having a clear place to store funds while you are keeping the event moving forward. Use these events to hand out flyers to your show and to take names and email addresses of people to put them on your mailing list.

At the end of events be sure to count your money then immediately deposit it into a business savings fund. You need a good way to ensure that money is 100% earmarked for your show, with no temptation to spend it on other things.

If you have any other fundraising ideas, please feel free to share them in the comments. It’s mostly a matter of knowing what you have to offer and what your “peeps” would find interesting. If you have been taking belly-dancing classes, have a belly-dancing event where you dance and perhaps teach others a little of the basics. If you are good at photography, have a day where people can get funny portraits of themselves with a giant soft toy. It’s all about making people feel happy to contribute to your dream. And if they are having fun, they will.

Peace and kindness,


Funding a Comedy Show Part 1

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