For those considering a theater style popcorn machine for a fundraiser, I have done a lot of the math and will show you how you can make as much as $100/hour selling theater style popcorn with a 4 ounce popcorn machine. A 4 ounce machine can make 85 quarts of popcorn per hour. It will produce 5 quarts per cycle which is about 20 cups. If you assume that a 1 ounce size popcorn bag holds around 3 cups of popcorn that computes to 7 bags of popcorn per cycle. The 4 ounce machine can pop 17 cycles per hour or 119 bags of popcorn per hour.
If you use popcorn portion packs with pre-measured amounts of popcorn, oil and salt, each pack costs 88 cents. As we said above, each pack or cycle produces 7 finished bags of popcorn. If you sell each bag of popcorn for $1.00, that is $6.12 profit. Of course, this assumes that you have volunteer labor and donated electricity. The machine also has to be paid for unless you can get donations for that as well. The machine would be paid for after selling 343 bags of popcorn ($300 for the machine and 343 times $.875 equals $300). So it is possible that after 3 hours of selling popcorn you would have pure profit. That is assuming you are popping and selling popcorn as fast as the machine will make it.
After the machine is paid for and if you have volunteer labor you could be making over $100 per hour. That is based on 119 bags of popcorn per hour with a profit of 87.5 cents per bag. Sounds like a pretty profitable fundraiser to me.
But the bigger question probably is “Where can a person or persons do the fundraising?” Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities. A county fair would be a good place to investigate. There are usually large crowds of people there and they are usually in the mood to treat themselves so a simple bag of popcorn would be a nice treat as they are walking through the various exhibits or strolling among the carnival rides. Another type of event where you would find lots of people milling about would be at an annual town celebration. Most smaller cities and towns (at least where I live) have an annual event stretching over a few days and there are vendors selling everything from jewelry to hand lotion to car insurance at these events. Food vendors are a natural fit for these events.
You might also be able to participate in a church bazaar. Some of your profits would likely be expected to go to the church but it could be a worthwhile event to look into. Often times sporting events such as kids’ soccer tournaments have various vendors on hand. You also might want to check with local retailers to see if they might like to have your presence on a weekend for a special promotion. Most schools have their own concession stands for sporting, music and drama events but if it is a new school they might not have this and you would be adding to their events while also raising funds for your cause.