Funding a Comedy Show
Part 2: Private Granting Institutions and Sponsorships

Posted on 10 January 2012

Going for private granting and sponsorships can be a tricky path to follow. You must be prepared to make compromises. You must be willing to be a poster child for someone else’s interests. You must play the popularity game, and show you will attract a large enough audience to make it worth a sponsor’s while.

What You Are Offering

You can either start with a show you have already developed and try to pitch that, or you can tailor your show to the needs and interests of the sponsors and institutions you are approaching. Granting institutions that were founded by large companies may genuinely be seeking to benefit the community. However, an element of image marketing is always going to be a part of the process. Will helping you make them look good?

Jason Chong created a marvelous show in 2009 called Why The Bloody Hell Aren’t Ya? Its subject was the value of blood donation. The inspiration was the health crisis Jason faced when his father collapsed from internal bleeding and needed transfusions. This show was performed at both the Adelaide and Melbourne Fringe Festivals. It has also been taken to Adelaide schools. It was an original work with great passion behind it, and could easily have been pitched for either government or private funding in order to tour. A step to make this happen would probably be forming a relationship with someone like the Red Cross, so that their name would be on the posters and they would assist with marketing.

Of course a work like this would not tour solely as a comedy show. Nevertheless, it would further establish Jason as a comedian, and one with heart. The high likeability factor would make everyone involved look good, and it would deliver an important message. It’s a win-win for comedian and sponsors.

Certain subjects lend themselves to an easy pitch. My brother-in-law Steven Pam produces a television show called Hound TV. Animals, and especially dogs, are a popular subject. Steven definitely likes dogs. He specifically chose the subject because he knew he could get sponsorship to pay for his learning how to create for the small screen. Soon after he had the go-ahead to run his show, he gained the advertising dollars of a prominent pet-supply chain.

It’s important to note Steven put his show together BEFORE talking to advertisers. So, he wasn’t sucking up to any one company, he simply had something to sell. This meant he still had space to give his personal vision scope on the project. I’ve had direct experience with companies who will want to take over creative control, in order to turn a project into one long advertisement for their company, and often their ego. Any vision, creativity, or soul will be sucked out of such projects, and despite initial funding, will fail. You have to be sufficiently confident and prepared, so that companies won’t try to kill the goose that’s laying their golden eggs.

The less obviously commercial show subjects may be better suited to government grants. However, you might be able to find non-obvious angles. Are your characters Greek or bird-fanciers? A Greek restaurant near your venue might be happy to kick in a few dollars in order for you to encourage people to eat at their establishment after the show. A bird-fanciers association may be happy to pitch in free props for a plug, thereby at least reducing your costs. I have a routine that involves two Tiki god puppets. I casually mentioned them at a shop that used a Tiki as their logo and the shop actually offered sponsorship on the spot.

Where to Go

The Web has made charity sponsorships apparently easier. Some large companies inform you online how they wish to be approached for sponsorship. Boost Juice for instance puts this on their contact page. Be warned that the email forms you are asked to use to pitch your project may be sent through a program, which automatically weeds out requests based on certain key terms. If you don’t hear from these companies in a few weeks, very likely you never will. I would say after three weeks, go ahead and give them a call but don’t expect much.

The Australian Directory of Philanthropy includes a section where individual and corporate donors for the arts are listed. The donors often ask that the particular creation addresses certain issues, such as poverty, the environment, or peaceful international relations. They are also more interested in organisations and group works. You can purchase the directory or subscribe to the online version. I would suggest tracking down a nearby library that has a copy. I know Box Hill and Holmsglen TAFEs both have copies.

The Australian Business Arts Foundation may provide the most help in tracking down a good funding match. They hold courses, events, workshops, and consultations on developing your arts based business and finding money. They don’t directly create matches between artists and donors, but they do publicly list projects by individuals in need of donors through the Australia Cultural Fund.

It may also be worth approaching the Awesome Foundation and perusing ArtsHub, who regularly report on funding opportunities, and Sponsorship News to get an idea of how sponsorship works on the grand scale.

How to Pitch

This deserves an entire article of its own. But I will touch on a few points here and you can keep your eyes peeled for further developments.

When making a pitch be sure to have done your research FIRST. Know what the company or funding institution wants and follow it to the letter. Know your show: know how much it will cost to sensibly produce it, how big the venue is, what your ticket price will be, what your break even point is, plus all other marketing and business details.

Be realistic. If you are clearly a new comedian and yet you are making grand predictions about your success without any evidence to back it up, you won’t get the money. At the same time have a grand enough vision that you are interesting. I know, that’s a tricky balance. Don’t be shy about asking for what you genuinely need. Know what your bottom line is and don’t budge for anything less. Underfunded projects usually fail.

Approach companies and donors confidently and respectfully. Act as if you expect a positive outcome, but be gracious in accepting a “no” when it happens. Regardless of outcome, ALWAYS thank the person you spoke to about funding. They may agree to fund you at a later date, if you haven’t burnt your bridges.

If you take up sponsorship, then you must check with your festival, event, or venue what is permissible in the way of promotional material. Some festivals don’t like sponsorship at all and will make their omission part of the contract for participation. For tours sponsorships, grants, or donations are often essential. So getting a little practise pitching and selling to say, a local business for a show in your suburb, is a useful thing.

Peace and kindness,


Funding a Comedy Show Part 1

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Part 2: Private Granting Institutions and Sponsorships

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