Follow along with Luma’s blog for event planning ideas, educational content for performing artists, and deep dives into the world of a professional variety entertainer.

4 Ways to Add Circus Entertainment to Your Nonprofit Event

December 7, 2021
Fundraisers like galas, auctions, and concerts can be the main event of the entire year for many nonprofit groups and their top supporters. For the ambitious planners who are organizing these events, the biggest question can often be, “How do I raise the bar from last year?” Incorporating performance art in the form of fire dancers, LED circus performers, stilt walkers, and interactive costumed characters can help to entice new attendees, excite returning supporters, and create an over-the-top atmosphere that impresses all of the guests.

If you’re looking to plan an event for your nonprofit that garners rave reviews, here are a few ways that circus and variety entertainers can be incorporated to wow your guests.

Have roaming performers hand out swag bags for an immersive experience.

What’s more fun – grabbing a bag off of a table or having it personally handed to you by an acrobat or stilt walker? Roaming entertainers can provide functions at your event that already needed to be done, but in a way that creates more magic moments for your guests and donors. For the shy folks that are intrigued by the talent but wouldn’t necessarily approach them, having performers hand out items also creates low-stress opportunities for interactions with as many guests as possible.

Cirque Cadia's mushroom gnomes are beloved by crowds everywhere - especially in the Pacific Northwest!

What: 2-4 stilt walkers or specialty characters

When: As guests enter, during dinner, or during programming transitions

Where: Throughout the venue

Why? Circus performers roaming throughout the event creates a festive, exciting energy. Swag bags and gifts are an investment meant to thank your guests, so why not make the experience of receiving them a memorable moment?

Photo: Cirque Cadia’s Mushroom Gnomes love interacting with guests and handing out whimsical forest gifts.

Take the photo booth to the next level with costumed characters.

Professional event planners all know that when it comes to creating amazing gatherings, the key is designing an immersive experience. This means taking into account all of the details from beginning to end and placing themed elements into every nook and cranny of the venue. Often a photo wall is the first touchpoint for guests as they enter, so why not start off with a bang? Your guests will love having a photo souvenir of themselves with themed stilt walkers, jugglers, or specialty characters.

What: 1-2 engaging performers dressed in your event theme, a matching backdrop, and bonus props for attendees to use in the photos

When: As soon as doors open until programming begins (30 minutes – 1 hour)

Where: At the photo booth

Why? A unique welcome will set the tone by instantly establishing the theme.  As a bonus, many folks will post photos to their social media accounts – giving you a jump start on user-generated content to share back to your audience.

Photo: Luma poses on stilts with a group of guests at a gala event for a nonprofit in Richland, WA.

Place circus performers around the venue to create a gallery of entertainment.

If you want to keep the energy high throughout the length of the event, filling up your empty spaces with talented circus artists is a great way to keep your guests engaged. Whether you’re placing an LED dancer on either side of the stage to create a bigger spectacle during the live band, announcing a hula hoop performance in the silent auction room to drive traffic to the area, or hosting fire performances in the courtyard throughout the mingling portion of the event, providing a variety of specialty moments for guests to experience will make them feel like they’ve been transported into an immersive variety show.

What: 2-4 performers such as dancers, hula hoopers, stilters, jugglers, aerialists, or poi spinners

When: During the silent auction, cocktail hour, or live band

Where: Low-energy spots such as near the line for food, drinks, or check-in; throughout the silent auction room, in the courtyard, or on either side of the stage during the live band

Why? Placing performers in designated locations where they can share acts in 5-20 minute sets will fill the space with activity and energy. Guests moving throughout the venue can be surprised by receiving a show in unexpected places – which adds to an immersive & engaging atmosphere.

Photo: Luma and her stilt partner JPeace provide roaming stilt entertainment in Redmond, WA.

Present a choreographed stage act that leads into the featured speakers or live auction.

Imagine that your guests have just finished their dinner, chatting as they wait for a speaker to take the stage. All of a sudden the lights lower, music begins fading in, and a group of elegantly costumed performers carrying bright LED props take to the stage. Set to an energetic sound track, they perform jaw-dropping circus tricks and create gorgeous spectacles through morphing formations. They hit a wow-worthy finale pose and, as the crowd cheers, point to the side of the stage where the featured speaker of the night enters and takes to the microphone. As the speaker thanks the performers and introduces themselves, the energy of the amazed audience is transferred into an engaged interest in the speaker’s motivating speech.

Luma & her troupe Cirque Cadia perform a 16 hoop LED act.

What: A talented soloist or troupe of circus performers

When: Once guests are seated for dinner, before the live auction, or before the featured speakers

Where: At the venue entrance or wherever guests will receive welcome letters or gift bags, sign the guest book, etc.

Why? An impressive circus act will raise the energy of the crowd, creating a sense of fun and festivity. It also acts as a great way to warm up donors & helps them not to feel as if every aspect of the night is about soliciting donations from them. This moment of thrill acts as the perfect segue into the main programming.

Photo: Luma and her troupe, Cirque Cadia, perform a headlining act with 16 LED hula hoops.

Attendees of nonprofit events are showing their generosity by purchasing tickets, bidding in auctions, and making in-kind donations. Creating an over-the-top experience is a meaningful way to say thank you to donors for their support of your cause. Not only will they feel excited to continue sharing their generosity, they’ll likely invite their friends to join them next year.

When it comes to adding circus performance artists into your nonprofit gala, auction, or concert, there are endless options that can fit any theme, budget, and event flow. If you’re planning an event in the Seattle, Tacoma, or Western Washington area and want to enlist a professional entertainer and performance director who can bring your unique vision to life, contact Luma and her troupe Cirque Cadia for a free event consultation today.

Written by Natale Luma

Luma is a professional event entertainer specializing in fire dance, circus hooping, stilt walking, and interactive characters in Seattle, WA.

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