There are three simple ways to increase your income for an event without spending anything.
The best way is to form partnerships with local businesses and ask them to sponsor your event. Many carnival organizers don’t want to do this; they say they feel uncomfortable asking for money. But you aren’t asking for money at all - you are giving these business people an excellent opportunity for some targeted marketing at a spectacular price. What's more, most local businesses are eager to support the schools in their community. In our many years of requesting such donations, we have occasionally not heard back, but have never had anyone respond negatively. In fact, once you have one or two sponsors, local businesses will likely start approaching you and asking to get involved.
We recommend different levels of sponsorship with different suggested donations. For example, you might do silver donors at $50 in return for mentioning their sponsorship on your flier, and gold sponsorships for $100, for which the sponsor gets a booth space at your event. Most school districts allow this, although you need to check your district’s regulations. These booths do more than just bring in income. They also make your carnival more interesting. It can be a chance for parents to shop local summer camps and after-school programs, for example.
Occasionally, a group can’t give a monetary donation, but offers a service instead. For example, at one carnival a local nonprofit summer camp runs an interactive game for kids during the event, and another business provides free balloon twisting. A piano teacher provides music for the cake walk. These partnerships make your carnival a more vibrant, interesting event.
The easiest way to request sponsorship of your event is to draft a simple letter. Include your group’s tax identification number, because PTO donations are usually tax-deductible. Mail the letters at least a full month before your event, two if possible. Include local businesses that provide services for students in your school, such as lessons and sports. Also include your local grocery stores and big box stores. They are unlikely to want a booth at your carnival, but will often provide you with a gift card that you can use to shop for carnival supplies.
The second way to raise your income is to do pre-sale tickets. Pre-sale tickets increase your income because they don’t significantly reduce your door sales. This is partly because many of those tickets are never used - perhaps as many as 40%. People may also buy more tickets in the pre-sale than they do at the door. In any case, you can add over 25% to your total income with a good pre-sale campaign. That means starting at least 6 weeks before the event and sending out weekly reminders. People tend to put it off until the last minute and then forget - make sure you provide constant reminders of the closing date. Close the sales a week before the event to give yourself adequate time to get the tickets out.
Lastly, advertise. Advertise your event beginning 6 weeks before it happens and continue right up until the day of. It may seem like overkill, but it is necessary to build excitement and anticipation for your event over a long period of time in order to maximize turnout. Choose a theme for your advertising that highlights your star events and gets kids wondering. For example, if you are planning archery, build your campaign around popular characters, like Katniss, Merida, Legolas, or Robin Hood - whatever is popular with your attendees. Let kids know about what exciting new activity will be at your event in a fun way, with catchy slogans.
If you do all three of these things, you will be certain to increase your income significantly. And best of all, none of these ideas will cost you anything!