We are a mixed secondary school in South East London serving years 7 through to 13 with approximately 1700 pupils on the school role. Despite its size and very small catchment area, parental engagement with our fundraising activities is a constant battle. To foster more of a community spirit we have tried to focus on family events.
Another school local to us held a Magic Night and we have no shame in admitting that we copied their idea. It has proved to be very successful and we have now held 3 evenings – over the past 5 years.
1) We approached a local Magic Society, to see whether they would be interested in helping us. Some of them are professional magicians, but some are simply people with a huge interest in magic. They were very keen to get involved and we agreed on a fee of £300.
2) We hold most of our events in the main school hall which has a stage, but for our event we wanted to include food as part of the ticket price, and the hall can seat at least 140 at various tables. Whenever we are serving food we prefer to cover the tables – either with a full banquet roll or at the very least with table squares. We chose a red and black theme, alternate red and black table squares with red or black napkins. As a table centrepiece we bought some black plastic top hats, some A5 packs of cards and some magic wands and stuffed them in the hats with our table numbers. We also use packs of cards which you can buy very cheaply to scatter across the tables. We have been able to reuse these centrepieces for every subsequent event – although we have lost some magic wands and even a top hat along the way.
3) We use paper plates to serve our food, so everyone receives a knife and fork and a plastic cup – but we advise attendees that they are welcome to bring their own glasses if that is preferable.
4) We agreed on a programme for the evening which would include 1 hour of close up table magic followed by an interval during which we would serve our food and sell raffle tickets. After the interval the Magic Society offered too produce a stage show with stand-up magic – with audience participation and some larger props.
5) At each event we have run a limited licensed bar – selling only red and white wine, one brand of lager and bitter. We run only a couple of events each year with a licensed bar so we don’t like to have lots of stock particularly of the lager and bitter which have best before dates. We have found that whenever we have an event for adults they prefer the diet drinks which children are less bothered about.
6) Given the cost of putting on the event (the magicians, the license, the table decorations, cutlery and cups) and the food, we settled on a ticket price in the first year of £10 for adults and £7.50 for children or £35 for any 4 people.
7) At our first two events we cooked pizzas from Iceland at £1 a head in the school cookery classrooms and whilst very profitable was logistically very difficult for the Committee. The first year we didn’t bank on everyone receiving a whole pizza each – but we received some complaints about that so changed the ticket price the following year so it was just £10 each. Cooking the pizzas was so problematic and we no longer have anyone with a food safety certificate this years event needed a change. We either needed to bring in food – or change the offer. Our local fish and chip shop charge us £5.05 for a portion for our events, and our school caterer offered to cook curries and naan breads for £6 a head. This would have meant increasing the ticket price to £12.50 which we felt might be prohibitive, so we opted to reduce the ticket price to £7.50 each and not serve food and advised that everyone could bring their own nibbles but we continued to run a licensed bar.
8) The Magic Society have always compered the whole evening which is a great bonus for us. They have bought their own sound equipment and coordinated the whole evening. The close up magic has involved wallets, handkerchiefs, magic purses, card tricks and sleight of hand etc. and during the hour of close-up magic every table has received about 6 visits from different magicians rotating around the room. The stage shows have been varied but have involved mind reading, puppets, more traditional magic tricks but also this year a washing machine!
9) Every evening has been very popular with between 80 and 140 people and each one has raised between £500 and £850. At each event the Magic Society have bought at least 8 magicians with them so we consider £300 for the entertainment to be good value. We only run the magic night every other year to keep it fresh and appeal to as wide an audience as possible.
By Karen Birkett, Chairperson Darrick Wood Secondary School PSA, Orpington
(Darrick Wood Secondary School is a member of The Stamptastic PTA Rewards Scheme) and received a £30 fundraising voucher for writing this blog post. If you would like to write a blog post for us please join our Stamptastic PTA and Schools Facebook Group to find out more!)
Other PTA Tips Blog Posts You May Find Useful: