Laughter does you good. It’s a form of stress relief, helps you connect with others and lightens your mood. More than just a fundraiser, a PTA comedy night is a great way to give supporters a chance to switch off from the mental load.
Hold your night in a local comedy venue to create the best atmosphere. If that’s not possible, a local pub, village hall or the school hall are low-cost options. A packed audience makes a comedy night flow better, so select a venue you think you can fill. Make sure everyone can get to the venue easily and that you’re clear about how the profits will be split – some venues charge a fee, but others may agree to a profit share or give you the room for free and make money on drinks and food. Ask the venue about lighting and sound – you’ll need both.
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Many comics have a visual element to their act, so ensure the audience can see them by providing a raised platform or stage. Use lighting to create atmosphere – light the comedians well and leave the rest of the room fairly dark.
Find out if your supporters have any contacts or can recommend up-and-coming local acts – try out open-mic nights to source newer, less expensive talent. If a particular person makes you laugh, speak to them after the show and introduce your PTA.
Ask your acts what equipment they need. At the very least, always make sure a spare microphone is available. Established venues may provide a sound and lighting engineer for the evening. Give this person a list of the equipment each act needs before the show starts.
As with any other fundraiser, keep an eye on the costs. Once you’ve worked out the break-even point, set ticket prices at a level people can afford that will make a satisfactory profit.
- Six months before: There’s a lot of initial leg work to do at the beginning to make this happen, so start early. As soon as you have chosen your date, begin contacting the acts. Book a venue and send a save-the-date email to parents.
- Four months before: Create an online poster to advertise the event and begin selling tickets for it. If you’re holding a raffle to raise extra funds, approach local companies to ask for prize donations.
- Two months before: Continue promoting the event at every opportunity and confirm the prizes for the raffle.
- Three weeks before: Plan the raffle and decide who will announce the winners. Make a list of jobs and start recruiting volunteers. Ask your designer to make a programme for the event.
- Two weeks before: Contact all the comedians to make sure that they can still attend. Check in with the venue. Let everyone know the order of events. Finalise the programme and get it printed.
- One week before: It’s getting close – finalise arrangements with the venue and confirm the number of ticket sales. If there are any unsold, do one last promotional push.
- On the day: Get to the venue early to set up, meet the comedians and answer any questions. Bring drinks and snacks for the acts as a thank you.
- After the event: Tally your takings and update the parents with the grand total. Tell them what the money will be spent on – if they can see where their donation is going, they are more likely to support you in future. Take time to gather feedback from audience members, volunteers and comedians to help you improve next time. Send thank you cards to the comics.
Success story: ‘Our PTA comedy night raised more than £7,200’
‘Our Elm Grove Primary School PTA comedy night was almost a total sell-out, and so successful that we are keen to plan another. But our journey began nearly six months before. I’m fortunate that comedian Jen Brister is a friend and fellow parent at the school. She’d performed at comedy night fundraisers and thought we could give it a go.
Using her industry contacts, Jen pulled in some favours. With a few texts and calls, she was able to sort out a fantastic, star-studded line-up as well as opening a discussion with Komedia, a local Brighton venue renowned for its comedy nights.
Another parent from the school who worked at the venue managed to secure a discount for us on the usual hire fee, which left just £250 to pay. The venue offered to sell tickets through their website and run a bar on the night. It was a win-win situation: they would benefit from a busy event, and we didn’t need to worry about serving drinks.
I designed a poster using Canva and sent it to the venue to use for advertising. They recommended we sell early-bird tickets for £22 before a general release at £25. Imagine our joy when the early-bird tickets flew off the online shelf in the space of an hour!
We thought a small raffle on the night would be a great way to increase our income. A local pub agreed to donate £100 cash as our top prize, and we kept things simple by using PTA funds to purchase the rest.
On the night of the show, I arrived early – full of anticipation and carrying a selection of snacks and drinks for the comics. I headed straight to the green rooms to thank the comedians as they arrived. PTA members placed books of raffle tickets on every table, and we made our way through the crowd with a float and card reader, drumming up sales. In the space of an hour, we took over £500. All too soon, the lights went down and the curtain rose – it was time to begin. The evening was a triumph, and the audience beamed and clapped right to the end.
Jen Brister told us: ‘Being there for the school made it extra special. It was the first time some audience members had seen live comedy. For a comedy night to be a success, the most important thing is having an audience who are really up for it. With a PTA event, this is almost guaranteed as everyone is so supportive. All the comedians want is for you to have a good time and for the punters, that is quite a unique experience.’
The positive feeling continued the following week when we heard we had made over £7,200. The school was thrilled, and the children will benefit from 15 refurbished tablets and two renovated Year 6 classrooms.’
Becs Kent, chair, Elm Grove Primary School PTA, Brighton, East Sussex (420 pupils)
Tips and advice
Becs Kent and Jen Brister’s top tips for a successful event
- Timing: Hold your event on a Monday. Not because Monday has become the new Friday, but because comedians are less likely to already have paid commitments.
- Tickets: Estimate your costs as accurately as possible and keep things reasonable for attendees. If your event is too expensive, you will put people off; if it’s too cheap, you won’t make a profit.
- Boost profits: Ticket sales need not be the only source of revenue. Organise a raffle or plan interval games to supplement your ticket takings. Reach out to local businesses to ask if they will donate prizes – it gives them promotion too.
- Venue: A suitable venue goes a long way to making a successful comedy night. If you hold your night at the school, members of the public are less likely to attend, but you won’t have to pay hire costs. If you do decide to hire an external space, mention that you are holding a fundraiser and ask if they offer any charity discounts. The worst that can happen is they say no.
- Comedians: Not every school will have a comedian as a parent. If you don’t have any contacts, ask people on the local comedy circuit what they charge and see if you can still make a profit. Aim to speak to people directly rather than through agents.
- Volunteers: You may be surprised by the skills your parent community can offer. Tap into what the parents can do. Could you combine comedy with a magic show or balloon modelling?
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