4 Fresh Fundraising Ideas That AREN'T Car Washes

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Fundraising for your studio—whether it's to raise money for your competition team dancers, fund a much-needed renovation or offer a family in need a scholarship—can feel like pulling teeth. You've done the bake sales, the car washes, the candy bars. Why not try something new? These four owners stepped up their fundraising game with fresh, fun and, most importantly, profitable ideas.


1. Get Your Glitter On

Photo courtesy of Dance Workshop

When looking for ways to raise funds for her competition team members, Dance Workshop (Performing Arts & Zumba Studio) owner Tara Gardner was in luck. One comp parent, a professional photographer, offered to take photos of kids at their own private glitter party. Parents could pay a flat fee for a 10-minute session and receive five digital, edited photos of their children blowing, tossing or raining down glitter.

Gardner put herself in charge of promoting the event (she created a Facebook event page and opened it up to the public) and gave other comp parents assignments, like scheduling each shoot, collecting payment, assisting the photographer, cleaning up the glitter and working shifts throughout the one-day event.

Costs and materials Glitter; studio space for the shoot; Gardner also provided lunch for the photographer.

Fees $45 for 10-minute sessions

Net proceeds $1,422 in six hours/$158 for each competition team dancer

Word to the wise Gardner opened up the photography sessions to nonstudio kids in her town of Greencastle, Indiana, to reach a bigger pool of customers. “We had them done in time for Valentine's Day—they make great gifts," she says.

2. Adult Arts and Crafts

Photo courtesy of Hailey Doyle

Taking advantage of a recent trend, Hailey Doyle organized a Paint Nite last fall for adults. She contacted a local organizer in Sacramento, and the company set up everything day-of—she only needed to provide tables and chairs. She sold tickets that could be used to purchase beer and wine, plus desserts (provided by her comp team parents) and held a raffle for gift baskets she and parents put together. Local businesses donated items for the baskets—a kitchen-themed basket included a crockpot, cookbooks and cooking utensils. She assembled a studio basket, with an Elevate Dance Center T-shirt and tank top and two tickets to an upcoming show.

The paint night company required a minimum of 35 attendees, so promotion was key. She posted on the Facebook page of her studio, Elevate Dance Center, and handed out flyers for her students to take home. The evening was so successful and easy to pull off that she's planning to do another one this fall.

Costs and materials $30 per person to professional organizer; beer and wine; gift baskets to raffle off; tables and chairs

Fees $45 per ticket; $1 per raffle ticket or six tickets for $5

Net proceeds $1,280 in one night/$43 for each dancer

Word to the wise “I was nervous about selling alcohol, so I talked to some business owners who I knew did a wine-and-yoga night once a month," says Doyle. “As long as it's something you're doing in your venue, you're not advertising that there will be wine and beer, and your guests are 21—we advertised that the event was 21-and-over—it's fine."

3. Babysitting Gone Wild

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rusinko

When Char-Mar School of Dance owner Stephanie Rusinko needed money to renovate her Lake Park, Florida, studio, she thought back to her money-making standby as a teenager: babysitting. Her first large-scale babysitting event was called “Drop and Shop": During Christmas vacation, she offered moms the chance to get some holiday shopping done, sans kids. When that went over well, she planned another—this time providing pizza, ice cream, movies to watch and dance games to play. “It was like a giant slumber party where no one sleeps over," says Rusinko. “We played old recital tapes. We got glow sticks from the dollar store, turned off all the lights and had music going for a 20-minute dance party." For the last hour and a half of the five-hour stretch, she put mats out so the kids could lie down and watch movies. She paid one faculty member a flat fee of $100 and a high school student assistant $50 to help keep an eye on the 40 attendees (ages 3–11).

Rusinko has now held five babysitting events total. “It caught like wildfire," she says. “It's so rare that parents get to go out with other parents without having to find different sitters."

Costs and materials Pizza for 40 kids, $110; ice cream, $85; arts and crafts supplies, $31; staff, $150

Fees $40 per child for five hours

Net proceeds $1,224

Word to the wise “It was also a great opportunity for us to meet new kids," says Rusinko. “We invited the kids to bring their friends. We didn't pitch any classes—we just gave them a great, comfortable environment. We wound up with eight new students, including two who'd left our studio because they'd wanted a place closer to home."

4. Ready, Set, Flock

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Two summers ago, Revolution Arts Center owner Andi Gilbertson directed a particularly profitable fundraiser with her church's youth group: flamingo flocking. People paid to have the front yards of their friends (or enemies) covered in plastic, lawn-decorative flamingos. The more flamingos, the more they paid.

A flocked yard included a sign (“You've been flocked by _____!"), instructions (explaining not to touch the flamingos, because “they bite") and an order form, in case the yard owners wanted to pay to flock someone else's yard. Gilbertson and her team of volunteer flockers would pick up the filled-out order form and check for payment when they returned a few days later to remove the flamingos and place them elsewhere.

Gilbertson says it ended up being a great bonding experience for the kids who participated. “We had three teams of 10—always two adults and the rest kids," she says. “Each team went out one night a week, starting around dusk."

Costs and materials Set of 36 flamingo lawn ornaments ($29.98 for a set of 10 at Home Depot)

Fees To flock someone's yard with 6 flamingos, $12; for 12, $24; 24 or 36 flamingos cost more. People could also pay for “insurance" ($5–$15), guaranteeing that they couldn't be flocked in retaliation for a certain number of days (three days, two weeks or the entire time).

Net proceeds $6,000+, over five weeks of flocking, three nights per week

Word to the wise Deciding in what order to visit houses to be flocked took some strategizing. “I used Google Maps," says Gilbertson, who would group nearby addresses and split her flockers up into teams to visit the maximum number of houses in the minimum amount of time. “And stipulate that you can't flock apartment complexes, because they'll get mad at you!"

Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.


"I like to give dancers a phrase of music and choreography and have them reinterpret it," she says, "to be thinkers and creators and not just replicators."

Osato learned this approach—avoiding the natural temptation of the music always being the leader—while earning her MFA in choreography at California Institute of the Arts. "When I was collaborating with a composer for my thesis, he mentioned, 'You always count in eights. Why?'"

This forced Osato out of her creative comfort zone. "The choices I made, my use of music, and its correlation to the movement were put under a microscope," she says. "I learned to not always make the music the driving motive of my work," a habit she attributes to her competition studio training as a young dancer.

While an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, Osato first encountered modern dance. That discovery, along with her experience dancing in Boogiezone Inc.'s off-campus hip-hop company, BREED, co-founded by Elm Pizarro, inspired her own, blended style, combining modern and hip hop with jazz. While still in college, she began working with fellow UCI student Will Johnston, and co-founded the Boogiezone Contemporary Class with Pizarro, an affordable series of classes that brought top choreographers from Los Angeles to Orange County.

"We were trying to bring the hip-hop and contemporary communities together and keep creating work for our friends," says Osato, who has taught for West Coast Dance Explosion and choreographed for studios across the country.

In 2009, Osato, Johnston and Pizarro launched Entity Contemporary Dance, which she and Johnston direct. The company, now based in Los Angeles, won the 2017 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and, in 2019, Osato was chosen for two choreographic residencies (Joffrey Ballet's Winning Works and the USC Kaufman New Movement Residency), and became a full-time associate professor of dance at Santa Monica College.

At SMC, Osato challenges her students—and herself—by incorporating a live percussionist, a luxury that's been on pause during the pandemic. She finds that live music brings a heightened sense of awareness to the room. "I didn't realize what I didn't have until I had it," Osato says. "Live music helps dancers embody weight and heaviness, being grounded into the floor." Instead of the music dictating the movement, they're a part of it.

Osato uses the musician as a collaborator who helps stir her creativity, in real time. "I'll say 'Give me something that's airy and ambient,' and the sounds inspire me," says Osato. She loves playing with tension and release dynamics, fall and recovery, and how those can enhance and digress from the sound.

"I can't wait to get back to the studio and have that again," she says.

Osato made Dance Teacher a Spotify playlist with some of her favorite songs for class—and told us about why she loves some of them.

"Get It Together," by India.Arie

"Her voice and lyrics hit my soul and ground me every time. Dream artist. My go-to recorded music in class is soul R&B. There's simplicity about it that I really connect with."

"Turn Your Lights Down Low," by Bob Marley + The Wailers, Lauryn Hill

"A classic. This song embodies that all-encompassing love and gets the whole room groovin'."

"Diamonds," by Johnnyswim

"This song's uplifting energy and drive is infectious! So much vulnerability, honesty and joy in their voices and instrumentation."

"There Will Be Time," by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal

"Mumford & Sons' music has always struck a deep chord within me. Their songs are simultaneously stripped-down and complex and feel transcendent."

"With The Love In My Heart," by Jacob Collier, Metropole Orkest, Jules Buckley

"Other than it being insanely energizing and cinematic, I love how challenging the irregular meter is!"

For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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