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School Carnivals 101:  Spend More to Make More!

Many carnival organizers attempt to maximize ticket prices while minimizing spending. It sounds like a good idea - charge as much as you can while not actually spending any money on the event. After all, every penny spent is a penny that isn’t profit, right? Well, not really.

If your school carnival offers little value for the money, parents and kids won’t stay long. If you are charging per-game tickets, they’ll play a few games and leave quickly. If the games aren’t engaging, they may not play them at all. If you are charging for wristbands, parents will feel cheated, and they’ll remember that next year.

Instead, invest in quality entertainment and engaging interactive games and activities. Kids will play more for longer - if a game or activity is really fun, kids will often go back as many as 3 times to play. You’ll not only earn more on your games, but also on any concessions - the longer people stay, the more they spend. Parents will feel they got better value for the money, and when everyone hears how great your event was, you can expect increased attendance at future events.

When you spend on great rentals, they tend to pay for themselves. Choose interactive activities that can accommodate more than one child at a time. Increased “put-through” means increased ticket sales and shorter lines. A win-win. For example, if you spend $400 on a rental activity that accommodates 2 players every minute, you’ll put through 120 players each hour. At a cost of $2 per play, the activity will pay for itself in less than 2 hours. The more players per minute, the quicker the activity will pay for itself and even make a profit for your group. But even if it only pays for itself, it still keeps people at your event longer and adds value for the attendees.

Inside of a dome with the Interactive Light System, from JB Inflatables

You can increase the quality of your games as well. In other blog posts, we have shown how to make great-looking games for your event. But even if you don’t have a handy parent to make games, carnival games are one of the least expensive party rentals. They typically range from about $25-$50 per game, and traditional carnival games have a high put-through of about 150 per hour.

Tabletop game rentals from Kidsmart Carnivals

Finally, don’t ignore décor. There is no need for your carnival to look shabby just because you’re on a budget! Dollar store décor can go a long way. Plastic table cloths secured at the legs with ribbons are an inexpensive way to add a pop of color to your tables. Student desks similarly decorated make attractive sign stands, and pretty (dollar store) foam board signs are one thing you can nearly always find people willing and able to make.

Borrow pop-up tents to create game booths. They can be decorated with colorful paper pennants that are easy to DIY, but which can also be purchased inexpensively at a craft store. Attendees, especially parents who aren’t actually interested in the games, will notice these extra touches that make a big impact.

White tent with carnival fabric draping at Kidsmart Carnivals

If you’re currently working with a $0 budget and are nervous about spending more, do the math. The math never lies! Take a look at previous year’s ticket sales. If you have several years’ worth, you will probably notice that the event takes in a similar amount each year. Figure out what you can expect from ticket sales based on that, and then you know what you can safely spend without losing money. Start slowly - just make a few additions that give you a lot of bang for the buck. For example, get a single, eye-catching rental that you can advertise ahead of time to increase attendance and get people excited. Calculate the cost and the put-through and price tickets accordingly. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by an increase in ticket sales - not to mention all the positive feedback you’ll get!

If you’re still not convinced that you can increase spending without decreasing profit, check out our next blog post - how to increase income without increasing spending.

#schoolcarnivalideas #schoolfundraising #howtoorganizeaschoolfundraiser #howtoorganizeaschoolcarnival

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