View Full Version : Question for charity haunts

Kelly Anderson
11-30-2009, 09:56 AM
Question for haunts that are ran or overseen by a nonprofit organization.

Our haunt is put on to benefit the Boys & Girls Club. The building we use year round is owned by the club and is getting to the point where it is requiring more and more maintenance and upgrades, along with the fact that we would like to make improvements to our sets, and possibly use more animation to drop our dependency on so many live actors. Though this haunt is technically a function of the club, it is not really ran by club members. Our house staff have nothing to do with the club except for the fact that we contribute much of our own time and money on this haunt, to benefit them.

Over the years it has been an ongoing struggle to get more of the proceeds to stay at the haunt, and officially oversee all aspects of the haunt ourselves, without the interference of the club. We donít just collect all the proceeds, keep a stash for ourselves (the haunt) and cut the club a check for the remainder. All the proceeds go directly to the club and then when it comes time the following year to make repairs and build all new again, its like pulling teeth to get even a dollar to come back to the haunt. We have several very talented and dedicated people who want to see this haunt get even better and more professional. In return should greatly benefit the club. However the lack of funding I feel has been holding us back and very dependent on a large number of actors.

This haunt has grown so much over the past 7-8 years, that Iíve seen since Iíve been involved, yet we operate off of about the same ridiculous amount of funding, considering how much we are making for the club.

I have been considering starting an association of a few selected key members of our haunt for which we would host our own fundraisers to help supplement funding to build this haunt. The donations to this association would be kept directly at the haunt.

We tried a couple of years ago setting up a cash donation can at our ticket booth. Those donations were to stay at the haunt, however the club claimed it as there own donations, which ended up not helping our haunt out at all.

Has anyone else seen this at there charity haunt? How has it been managed? Any suggestions would be appreciated.


11-30-2009, 11:44 AM
I had similar issues, not exactly the same circumstances though.

In my case, the local youth club has put up all the money for the event. All the equipment, walls, costumes belong to the club. I run the event with the help of some board members, but mostly non-board members.

After year one, I wanted to really push the budget big time, but the board was reluctant. So I put together a budget and listed out about 7 areas that the money would be spent for.

Web Page

Then I put amounts to each one. This helped tremendously and I wa approved for about 80% of what I was asking for.

After a very successful year one and two, I wanted to REALLY advance the haunt. So I presented a deal.

I told the board that I needed to reinvest money raised into the haunt to generate more funds later. So I suggested that once we raise an amount equal to this years proceeds, we take 75% of the profit over and beyond that as reinvestment into the haunt. I added a cap, it could not go over x amount of dollars, and I made it very clear that the reinvestment does not count against this year's budget, or next year's budget, it is strictly to be used to improve the haunt.

And you do have a bargaining chip, I would guess that no one at the Boys and Girls club wants to take this on. So you could say nicely "look, if this event does not mean enough to the club to reinvest and make better, then let me take this proposal to another not for profit and see if they could help me out"

Kelly Anderson
11-30-2009, 03:42 PM
That sounds like it was a great solution and must have helped your haunt out tremendously. If you have a board of directors that really want to support your haunt.

Our biggest task is to get the Board members of the club to really want to back us and make the haunt bigger and better. It seems like they are happy getting their check at the end of October and thats it. And if the haunt runs a few more people through great, a bigger check. If we run a few less through, oh well. It seems they just want to put as little money into it as possible and hope for the best.

Although this year we are working towards building a seperate attraction with a seperate charge. Usually these types of things mean the club asks for donations, and all of us haunted house staff invest much of our time building it. My hope is that we could use this as a way to build funding to stay directly at the haunt, even if if was only a percentage, but they probably wont like that idea.

Greg Chrise
11-30-2009, 08:07 PM
With people in the organization or board members, you need to ask questions. After so many years of supporting this event, what exactly is the money going toward so we can further be inspired to give our all. Exactly what was purchased or paid for with the funds raised and what do you plan to do with funds if you can increase the number of customers by putting out a better show?

Then you listen, go away and think a bit. You are either highly disgusted with what had been done with the earnings or you see where it would be best to their advantage to do more pro things. Or both, you are both disgusted but equally opportunistic.

The fact that there is a board of directors and they have spent funds on this or that means they can collect all the money and write you a check for services rendered. This is good. This means you are dealing with a business even if it is by nature not for profit. Even not for profits have to pay rent or buy property if it isn't donated, they don't get free of utility payments or maintenance bills. The plumber doesn't care if it is helping the children or not.

Similarly, you are providing a service to a non profit no different than the plumber. Each individual has spent gas to get there, bought their own costume, rendered certain developed skills. These skils and real expenses for the tools of your trade needs to be communicated and considered properly or a bunch of board members can get it done their way and run it into the ground. Eventually this is what happens with charities. Long term trying to get away with nothing equates in customers also trying to get away with not coming. Usually the customers succeed in not bothering to show up. Attendance flat lines and it takes years of being recognized by the customers as makng progress to see any increase in attendance or justify raising the cost of a ticket.

It seems people get too old to care too much but, being on the board sounds like something self honoring or somehow an achievement. You can make all kinds of dumb decisions that effect everyone else's welfare or motivations.

How much you worry about any of this to me depends on past attendance numbers. If it is low attendance, a percentage of nothing is nothing. If it is a lot of money, lots of attendance, I can list a number of devious ways to bring direct income to you and your crew even if they take 100% of the ticket earnings and stash them in a safe.

Jim Warfield
11-30-2009, 10:59 PM
To just sit back and be handed the check each year, do they even say, "Thank you"?
You have your own good track record to fight against in one way (That may have embedded itself in their minds)
You have been successfully making "Gold" from Water. The old alchemist's dream (and scam)
Of course the main ingredient , "water" is the sweat invested by you and the other workers.
Sweat IS Gold because so few people want to feel any of it on themselves.
If their bank account isn't big enough to hold more money, then tell them I have room in mine.
If there is an invention more frustrating and maddening and time wasting than "The Committee", I don't want to know what it might be.
Visionarys and gamblers don't usually play on committees well, at least this has been my experience.
Good Luck.

The Nightmare Factory
12-01-2009, 01:09 AM
I started our charity haunt 22 years ago, with the understanding that wile all of the money ultimatly went to the dorm and school programs, there needed to be monies put back into the haunt in order tokeep people coming back, common sense really.

I would sit down with the powers here and clear the air if I were you. I mena look you do all this work for free, is that right, heck take you talent and head down the road to some other charity and start over if these people are not willing to work with you.

Also we esablished a committee that decides how the money is used and how much will go back the next year to make improvments.

You need to get them to go to transworlsd, hauntcon or my convention the westcoast haunters convention, there's also the mid west haunt convention, regardless fo where you go, they will see that it takes money to make money.

Hope you have better luck with them in the future...

Kelly Anderson
12-01-2009, 06:58 PM
As I mentioned I’ve been doing this haunt for almost 8 years now. It has just now been the clubs 12 year doing this. This thing started off as nothing more than a thing for the kids of the club to set up in a day and bring there parents back later to go through it. Within a couple of years they had people from outside the club wanting to help out and people paying to go through it. By about year 4 a huge building was donated to the club just for this haunt. There had been so many people that really got into this early on and have helped this grow into the biggest fundraiser the club puts on. When I came on board, I couldn’t believe the cool things people were doing here. You can ask anyone from here that I took it to a whole new level with the “moving room”, the pneumatics I used to run this past years room was insane.

Over the years attendance has continued to go up. Even though a few years ago there was a lot of politics that went on that drove nearly all of the core people away. I was the last of what I would say “the core members” to say I quit two years ago. However the fact that my nephew asked me to mentor him in his high school senior project of building and designing a haunted house, I accepted for this year and now I find my self unable to just hang it up like nothing.

It becomes a life for people to do this. You meet cool people. Hell I got a wife out of this deal……???? But all us diehards want to keep improving and doing different things. We have attended many of the Trans world shows and had bought many things. Although at the time we had a great director for the club that really got into the haunt as well. Now that she is gone we don’t really have the driving force from the club. One of the original board members of the club, it was actually him that brought the club to town and it was him that got this haunt started 12 years ago, he is a major player with the day to day things of the haunt. But he is only 1 of 5 club board members. Heck this new director that he helped hire has more pull than he does.

I know the club is a business like any other and they have things to pay for as well. But the haunt is a major source of income for that club. Why not invest in your source of profit? There are still some good people here that really love this event, and we do it for nothing! Why not give us a little more financial freedom to do what we love, and make a better designed haunt?

We’re basically just stuck having to deal with things as there are until enough of us say to hell with it and start our own haunt. I had half a notion to tell them at our next meeting about how we need to be proactive and start bettering our haunt incase another haunt comes to the area we don’t have to play catch-up, and that a few people sitting around this table might just be part of it!! HA HA!! Oh that would get the new director all fired up!! HA

Greg Chrise
12-01-2009, 08:27 PM
Okay, you re already thinking bigger. What is on the horizon is developing the market for an haunt including the original charity haunt. Nothing says you can't begin a support your local haunt movement.

There is more than training the core actors to have the appropriate fun for free, there is also training the media available to support the event, creating a website even completely donated so you can gage the actual effectiveness of all these tools in your specific area.

Even with out board direct approval you can get sponsors to provide materials or pay for supplies as a donation to the charity to beef up where the current system is lax. For all of this you might even get some big community recognition. In reality, you are creating a demand for spending more money to properly handle crowds, take care of customers, prvide queue line entertainment.

In the long term, you are investing years into the resources in your specific town. Then as it is YOUR resource, the board is asking you what they should do rather than you having to demand your time with them. Then only once these resources have proven themselves to have experience and great intrest, going independent is no longer a gamble. It is no longer any big question, it is calling 15 to 20 experienced parties with the new deal.

With all due respect to the 12 years time of this event, even this hired lady might get replaced or prove to be a stumbling block. Lots of boards get totally replaced every 2 years as everyone has had enough being on the board as well as dealing with who is on the board.

No one says you can't have a party off season before the haunt to keep the actors and staff on the same page. Everyone including current and past board members should attend. The catch is it costs $10 to come out of their own personal pocket. It raises money and demonstrates who cares and who doesn't. An alliance and bond begins and those not really helping the program are then in the back pedalling mode.

Other steps are you joining the board of directors or given the oversite over that whole event and it's proceeds.

Just the first part, with sponsors and even minor money available you can demonstrate how you totally doubled the attendance. At present they believe they all got where they were and no one specifically did that. Doubling it and it was because of your loyalty and desire, it has your name on it. Then take it away competely and see how the check writing pens come out.

At that point they don't want you or any of your associates out on the streets. They have to begin seriously exploring the entire event as it is no longer a fluke of putting up some walls and it just happens.

There are all kinds of physical hardware and equipment you can buy and bring to make the event a success, more of a success. This stuff has wear and tear and requires maintenance and storage that costs real money. No real money and they don't get any of these toys.

Your sponsors aren't likely to continue giving from year to year if not dealing with you. Your sources for materials and supplies even being totally transparent are not somewhere anyone else would go to or think to go to.

This all has a dollar figure attatched to the tune of 20% of the events money payable every year or it doesn't happen. You just became a philanthropist. One that the next board of directors will be askng what they need to do to support you.

Meanwhile, every item you supply is being demonstrated to other enthusiasts in working situations, impressing friends and family and further inspiring the crew that would be your next haunt or your freindly competition that keeps buying your props because they are cool and cheap having been used for a season.

Another source of income is to actually develop a small midway where after the haunt or before the haunt customers freely spend a few extra bucks to do halloween related activities. Only the haunt only gets 20% or some flat rate rent per booth. Each booth has the capability of generating income from as much as 12% of the customers origionally intending to only pay a pice to see the haunt.

What ever dollar figure each booth would make wether it is glow stick sales or shooting paint balls at zombies makes what times 12% of the number of customers.

A recognizable facade rather than just a banner on a creepy building can easily bring more people that see a new seriousness in the event. Of course you own this thing and just let them use it. It can be sold and refabricated better each year as well or here is the income you had control of with and with out this facinating thing. Yep, it had storage costs that were either met or not. It gets taken away because it isn't theirs. They didn't pay for it, it is yours. It could be theirs?

Not doing anything is not communicating. Not causing a little trouble is not getting noticed or having any control. As an example I sold my haunt this year to the nice competitor, to be a second attraction for them so they can pay the actors. They bought my hearse too so I wouldn't park in front of their lines 3 hours a night with my signs on it while visiting. You want your name here? Buy it! You want me to stop doing something? Pay me.

You want me to build you another one with my own money? Tell me what I win. I'm saying straight out that YOU can become one of their regular expenses even with a charity format. They will pay for your skills and equipment so they don't have to think that hard or devote anywhere as much time and the event is magical somehow, they get some credit but you made a lot of it happen. You don't need recognition, you need funding.

For instance, any store has merchandise. Someone has a stock pile of thousads of these things on the shelf ready to replenish the shelf as soon as a few are gone. Yet some poor person on a wage put the display together as directed in an hour or two and only got $14. Sure, he is the magical merchandiser but, somehow he isn't in on the 50% profit to keep the dust off of something. You have to move up to either the guy who owns the product on the shelves or the guy who owns the shelves.

Sure, every penny can be completely verified, autited and accounted for and totally transparent to any one that wants to know that every dime you made went back into the event. Still, it is yours. Years and years of developing this and it can all be sold too. You want me out? Buy it all. You don't want me to control my own destiny with the event, I sell all the stuff to someone else.

Now that you have learned what can happen do you want to play again? Sure you do. This time they will write a check, last time they did too.

I like to think of it like a party rental business. You bring in tables, chairs and table cloths and center pieces that fit the occasion. Everyone takes the centerpieces as a momento of the occasion, they soil and tear up the table cloths but the tables and chairs can be hosed off and rented again or sold when worn out and replaced.

In a haunt, lighting, masks and costumes get trashed every year. The walls and equipment, the big props are a commodity. No one came up with money so you did. Or you developed the sponsors that provided the money or materials to you. It is yours, not theirs. It could be theirs. It could just as easily be someone else's.

Over a number of years, what are you gonna do with all of this crap? I sold a semi trailer yesterday so someone could keep their product from freezing in the weeks ahead. Years of conversations and everyone called me to get all of these things and made perfectly reasonable offers. It's gone.

Time for new tables and chairs. Even with a charity event, I controlled all the merchandise and physical supplies. At some point in time it is in need of being replaced and had a dollar value. All the props were in a way purchased like merchandise from year to year from a percentage of the ticket sales. The more tickets sold, the more items they got to use and keep. They kept the centerpieces and the table cloths. I sold the tables and chairs.

Greg Chrise
12-01-2009, 09:05 PM
Will the charity go buy their own tables and chairs? Hell no. They don't have the work all year attitude. As you say, they won't spend a dime to better their own position.

Will I build them another one? Yes, because they demonstrated they can write checks for expenses.

You run it for years build it up, demonstrate everything like it is a sales floor and sell the stuff. It isn't really devious, it is hard work and like a side job looking for compensation over a longer time of investment. No one else wants to work on such a mystical long term endevor. The world has trained everone to do some work, get a paycheck. No paycheck, no work.

Much bigger deals involve being able to provide all materials and labor to be paid way later after some customer has been completely satisfied. If you can't do big deals, you aren't on the call list. If you act like an employee, or a jobber, you get paid a small amount and you are done. Thanks alot. Provide all the stuff and you are owed.

Even if you lose money every year on what is offered, you keep building more and more until the combined resource increases your ticket revenue percentage. No one else will decide to do this but you.

In comparison? The local pro haunt has done so well in just a few years, the owners have paid themselves nothing. No difference to a charity haunt event rental dude. At some point the pro haunt will hold back a lot of money to buy property. The charity haunt stuff can also be cycled monetarily to by something. The more there is the more you can buy. It is all a percentage of something.

Kelly Anderson
12-01-2009, 09:50 PM
You have some great ideas. I think some of them like the midway with seperate events is an awesome idea. We are thinking of adding a seperate event like that. Problem is getting the club to commit some of that money to directly stay at the haunt.

I think with some very indepth talks to the club about making them commit before I build is the way to go. Other wise it aint gonna happen. Its a give n take. We can both win if we compromize.

I like the idea about having an off season party and charging $10. Get everyone together. Could be good thing. If nothing else make a few bucks to return to the house.

Alot of great thoughts. Im going to go over everyone ideas with a fellow haunter tomarrow night at a meeting. Greats Stuff , thanks again

12-02-2009, 11:56 AM

Have you laid out a budget yet and presented it to the board in person for their approval. Or are you just asking for more.

If you are the #1 fundraiser as you say, they can't function without you. You have leverage.

Go to the next board meeting, educate them about the 12 year history and throw some numbers at them, how much money you have generated over the past 5 years.

Then give them the improvement plan and how that will drive up attendance and thus return on their investment.

Put out a plan on paper and put it in front of them and make them vote on it. The executive director of the club can not nix anything, she has to do what the board decides. The Exec Dir is there for day to day running of the club. The fundraising and long term decisions are what the board is for.

Talk to the one board member that is supportive of your cause and see what he says on how to approach the board with a plan.

Kelly Anderson
12-02-2009, 02:34 PM
Thanks for those tips as well Boni. I have not talk directly to the board. But as a core member of the haunt, I and about 5 others including the one board member that is very active with the haunt and the new club directer, we all sit down at our own meetings to discuss many factors pertaining to the haunt. We discuss the financial parts as well as the programs I want to intigtate this year such as the actor training class as well as an actor incentive program that I have come up with.

Suprisingly the director is very receptive to my ideas so far. However we are all trying to get her to drop the clubs logo from our House of Shadows shirts. We all dicided long before she came to not have the clubs logo but she over stepped us this year and put in on anyway.

The one board member is now convinced that we need to start useing more animation to lessen our dependency on so many actors. So Ive been making them aware that animation will cost them some money depending on how extensive we go. And that I am not paying for so much of this stuff as Ive done in the past. There needs to be some investment on the clubs part.

We are trying to bulid this coffin ride which I have some great ideas for. However I think they are looking to use some of my materials as well such as pneumatic controls. I will set up my own room and other areas of the house with my supplies but the thing is I get them back at the end of the year to use again on something else the next. This coffin ride would be a permanent attraction as long as it makes money. Should be an investment by the club to fund.

This new season is just now starting. Weve already had a meeting to discuss things that didnt go well from last and how to make them better for next. Within a few months if we are going to make changes we need to get going. I would like to see more detail to sets this year. We shouldnt have to completely tear down each year and start over as we've been doing. We dont have the manpower anymore to totally rebuild an entire building each year and have a really well done haunt. However my focal point is building my own room and going all out, usually at my own expense which is fine. But the rest of the house is lacking dramatically. I try and help out where I can but I can only do so much.

This next meeting in mid jan. we'll get more in depth with my proposals. I know the whole core group has my back. Like what was said earlier, I may have to sit down with the entire board to discuss this. So we'll see.

Tonight I have a meeting with a fellow haunter. The son of a board member. Hopefully we get time to dicuss setting up a plan. Laying it out on paper as you say. Try and make our best educated guess as to the pay back. And try and work out a strategy to get more of the procedes to stay at the house.

12-02-2009, 04:15 PM
My advice is to put together an updated business plan. From the sound of it, the board sees the even as a cash cow instead of a growth industry, and you need to show them otherwise.

If they are not investing and the revenues are increasing year over year, you really need to put together the numbers on why they should invest more. What exactly are you trying to invest more in? How will that increase revenues? Will it allow you to increase prices? Will it draw people from a wider area? Will it give you more advertising opportunities? Are you creating new revenue streams? Just asking for more budget isn't enough. They need to see why it's to the advantage of the club to invest more in the event.

Kelly Anderson
12-03-2009, 09:50 AM
Thats just it. This event is not something that is just costing them money. It is the complete opposite. They are making over 22+ times the amount they are putting into it. We are looking for more detail to sets to improve the quality of the haunt. We dont have the help to completeing tear down each year so lets reuse some/most of the haunt but add more detail to the rooms.

We've had major issues with actor commitment. When you have just a few core adult members running this and at times 40-55 kids between 12-18 that you need to rely on to be there to make this work, it proves to be a major problem at times to count on them.

Which at this point every body is in favor of my actor incentive program Im working towards which I hope will make the kids really want to dedicate to this. We tryed to make a signup sheet for the actors to fill out before oct. They can sign up for whatever hours are open. Each night at opening we would check the list and know who would be here.........Well it was a great thought!!

The core members, the director, and most of the board are aware of this problem and realize that we need to vear away from our dependance on so many actors. We are working on plans to design the haunt specifically for fewer actors and make sure that every actor position in the haunt counts for a great scare. However, if we continue to use the entire building as we usually do, then we will have to come up with other things to do in those areas.

We aren't asking for tens of thousands of dollars. We will be looking into a few pneumatic cylinders and solenoid valves, possibly more animation controlers. We have some people who are quite creative, Ive built things over the years as well, so there is no cost to them for labor, its just getting a few more of these kinds of things. And yes they are aware of the costs. Although we will be putting together a plan for the things we will need and it will officially be asked for at a later meeting. Wheather we get 5,6,7,8 hundred dollars to do this........who knows....Ive been part of this long enough now that I dont hold my breath for nothing.

Our final goal would be to have the club raise our haunts funding by at least another $1000. If we need something else over that, then its up for debate again. But this crap we are dealling with now is rediculous. I had a BLUEISH looking flying saucer cause we DIDNT have enough money in our buget to buy anything else. NEED I SAY ANY MORE ON THIS!!!

Kelly Anderson
12-03-2009, 11:16 AM
My advice is to put together an updated business plan. From the sound of it, the board sees the even as a cash cow instead of a growth industry, and you need to show them otherwise.

If they are not investing and the revenues are increasing year over year, you really need to put together the numbers on why they should invest more. What exactly are you trying to invest more in? How will that increase revenues? Will it allow you to increase prices? Will it draw people from a wider area? Will it give you more advertising opportunities? Are you creating new revenue streams? Just asking for more budget isn't enough. They need to see why it's to the advantage of the club to invest more in the event.

But you are definately fight on here!! We will have to address these issues to make a case we can put down on paper before we go infront of the board. Thanks much for the tips and feedback!!