How to Host a Burning Man Fundraiser Party
It's great fun, connects your campmates, and earns money.
Plus you get to dress up, make friends, and dance.
It helps to ask people about the feeling you want to create for the
party, the community that you want to reach, and how this relates to your
Burning Man plans.
Scout for potential places like local clubs and warehouse spaces.
Talk with the manager about the party. Some good questions:
- rental prices & deposits
- available dates & hours
- crowd capacity
- age limits
- square footage
- public transportation
- handicapped access
- guest list
- in & out policy
- smoking areas
- setup times
- takedown times
- sound systems
- what DJs need
- will the club help promote?
- is the general public allowed?
- can you kick out undesirables?
- are there bartenders & doormen?
- are the doormen off-duty cops?
- do the doormen search guests?
- what's the searching policy?
- is the manager burn-friendly?
Club owners seem to be more flexible with money deals on weekdays.
Club Bas - North Beach - three spaces, each a new vibe, each with bars
Above Paradise - SOMA - cozy couches & fireplace plus a DJ dancing room
Cloud 9 - Downtown - main level bar, upstairs lounge, downstairs for music
Sno-Drift - Far SOMA - dance room & lounge room connected by thin hall
Allow at least two months to plan a big party. Three months is better.
- Club owners may be slow to say yes
- The best DJs may book months in advance
- First announcements are best a month ahead
- Flyers and cards take time to print
An example timeline is below.
When you look for DJs, make sure that your camp members
get to hear them and approve them far in advance. You want
the DJs that are good performers, flexible, reliable, and professional.
Share the ideas for the party with the DJ, so they understand the
goals, what the crowd may be like, and your intentions for the big night.
If you have more than one DJ, tell them about each other so they can it
well together, and arrange the lineup of when they are playing.
Questions for a DJ:
- How much do you cost?
- Can you give a discount?
- How can you help promote us?
- What other DJs do you like?
- When do you play in the lineup?
- Will you want comp tickets?
- Will you want/need to bring anything?
- Do you understand the club sound system?
- How do you want to be described?
- Can we link to your website?
It depends on your party, and your arrangements with the club and DJs.
- ticket prices
- bar earnings
- insurance costs?
- deducting promotion costs
- deducting comp tickets
- do camp members pay?
Example 1: our fundraiser at the Werepad in August.
We set up extensive decorations, had six DJs including Drag'nFly
headlining, and had the entire club for the night. We sold all 100 tickets
to Burning Man friends, so the club was packed with playa people. For
advance purchase we chose Acteva for credit cards, plus PayPal for direct
payments. We split ticket profits 50/50 with the club, and the club got
all the bar profits. We netted about $900.
Example 2: Our parties at Sacrelicious in The Cellar last
year. We mixed our people with the club's normal traffic on Thursday
nights, which made it easy and quick for us to have a full party. We
arranged with the club owners to earn the ticket profits from guests who
said they came for us, and we earned half the bar profits. We netted about
Ticket price ideas are discussed below.
Email announcements e.g. to Craigslist, Squidlist, Jack Rabbit Speaks,
Dioxene, other theme camp leaders, friends of all your camp members.
The promotion leader should follow-up with all the members to make sure
that the announcements actually go out correctly.
Set a goal for each member, e.g. each member is responsible for 5
people buying tickets.
Creating a mailing list so you can add your friends. You may want
to add emails of other Burning Man camps. Ensure that each person only
gets one invitation, even if they are added by lots of friends. Be
considerate about using email addresses-- no one likes email spam.
We're printing business cards and/or 4x6 flyers for handouts. This
typically costs about $150 and takes a week turnaround. We can use art
like our tattoo, or pictures we've taken.
For easy fast cheap runs, like our new business cards, we use Kinkos.
The staffer can help you print your color artwork to the Fiery using
glossy cardstock, optionally printing the backside with black-and-white
A good cheap way to photocopy big black-and-white posters and signs is at
Kinko's, using their enlarger photocopier. It can do four feet wide, any
length, and it's about $1 per square foot. After you print, you can add
color with your own pens, highlighters, tempra paint, etc. You can also
use special large papers from Flax. Ask at Kinko's for details.
Posters tend to be expensive. Prices depend lots of variable like
material (paper cardstock vinyl etc) and ink (black, color, foil) and size
(bigger gets expensive) and run (many makes it cheaper) etc.
To set your ticket price, consider these:
- Presale discount?
- Costume discount?
- Sliding scale?
- Group rates?
- Can the doorman handle complex ticket prices?
- Do you include drink coupons, giveaways, etc.?
- Do your camp members pay? Do their significant others?
- Do you have complimentary tickets? (see below for ideas)
- Presale discounts help because they get people to commit early
- Costume discounts work best big e.g. "$10 in costume, $20 in street clothes"
- Sliding scale can be informal e.g. "ask us by July 10 if you need a low-income ticket"
- Group rates are complex to manage; couples rates are not worth adding hassle.
You may have the urge to change your prices midway, for example if
people aren't buying enough tickets. Resist this urge.
Be consistent and stick to your original plan. Any last-minute changes
tend to confuse your campmates, your partiers, and your club owners.
If you still have the urge to change your prices midway, consider
complimentary tickets and half-price tickets for inviting special guests--
see below for ideas.
We can give complimentary (free) tickets to key people. For example,
the leaders of other theme camps, Burning Man employees, dancers, poi
spinners, face painters, photographers, and to the DJs.
Tell them ahead of time how many tickets they get,
and make certain that they're are on the guestlist.
Ask them for help promoting the party, for example emailing their friends.
If your camp is recruiting members, you may want to comp them.
We consider half-price tickets for some groups, like fire dancers. They
are great for the party vibe, and we want to support them joining us.
One person should lead sales & marketing because this ensures
consistent current information. This is called the standard channel.
Camp members should be enrolled to sell and promote because this
encourages participation. Important: the selling and promoting should
direct customers to the standard channel.
Keep an up-to-date list of sales and post it on the members website
because this keeps members on-track, excited, motivated, and better able
to focus on their own projects.
Our experience: a good approach is for members to provide their email
lists to the marketing leader, then the members follow up with personal
Warning: a bad approach is for each member to sell x tickets to friends
because it causes delays, inconsistencies, poor tracking, sub-par results
and fear of failure. Instead, use a leader and standard channel.
If you sell tickets online, be sure to state a cutoff time. For
example, say "online tickets are available until Friday at 6 p.m."
If you sell advance tickets, be sure to state that tickets will (or
will not) be available at the door.
If you have a limited number of discount tickets (like Burning Man) be
sure to track how many you sell and let people know when the discount
tickets are sold out.
Important: if you sell all your tickets, be sure to update your
website saying that your party is sold out. Also consider sending a
courtesy email announcement.
We use PayPal to keep track of who's paid, to provide the doorman
with a guest list.
The guestlist is the people who pay us and the people we comp. Try to
avoid arrangements like "my friend says he wants us to reserve a ticket
and he will pay us later" or "my friend bought four tickets and only needs
three, can we give a refund?"
It typically takes at least five people five hours for decorations like
a centerpiece and a pod like the furry Lucinda Lounge. We can setup at
the Werepad on Saturday afternoon or evening.
Useful decorating accessories:
- glow sticks
- rope lights
- christmas lights
- colored light gels
- disco ball spotlight
- blinking toys
- zip ties
- safety pins
- clothes pins
- extension cords
- power strips
- duct tape
- scotch tape
- masking tape
- electrical tape
Do you need a soundcheck? Ask your DJs and the club owner.
When guests arrive, greet them.
It helps to have them write their email address, so we can send them
party photos, lost-and-found questions, and future announcements.
We greet people by telling them a brief bit about our camp, about the
club, about the party vibe. We also tattoo them.
We also like greeting ceremonies, which may be any combination of short
speech, collective OM, holding hands, introducing camp members, or thanking the
DJs and the club.
Like setup, breakdown also takes five people, and goes faster than
It helps to bring food, juice, and music.
|12 weeks to go ||Propose general party idea to camp. |
|11 weeks to go ||Get feedback on DJs, clubs, themes, etc. |
|10 weeks to go ||Book club, DJs, photogs, dancers. |
|9 weeks to go ||Create PR: web, flyers, tickets, etc. |
|8 weeks to go ||Test PR; get commitments to promote. |
|7 weeks to go ||Finalize PR; get commitments to decorate. |
|6 weeks to go ||Announce everywhere email, flyer, etc. |
|5 weeks to go ||Get each camper to sell at least one ticket. |
|4 weeks to go ||Personally email other camp leaders to promo.|
|3 weeks to go ||Email to touch base with all participants. |
|2 weeks to go ||Fix anything that need fixing; more flyers. |
|1 week to go ||Announce again; phone campers with reminders.|
THE BIG DAY...
|Noon-4 pm ||Setup |
|4pm ||Everyone goes home to eat, sleep, etc. |
|8:30 pm ||Camp members arrive, final decorations |
|9 pm - 2 am ||Party! |
|2 am ||After-party |
|2 pm next day ||Cleanup |
|Share photos with everyone
Thank the club, DJs, dancers, etc.
Ask for feedback from campers & partygoers
Figure out earnings
Update the website
Add any new advice here
All images copyright to the respective photographers.