Generally front money comes from sponsors and outright donations for most charities. Typically with haunts it is an individual that has decided it will be a long term fund raiser and not intrested in the changing of charity officials every year trying to get a handle on why anyone should care about a haunted event.
If money is spent before an event, it usually is a small amount to cover expenable expenses like costumes and water for the volunteers, maybe a few decorative items that are expected to be thrown away at the end of a season.
Usually some sicko builds the haunt in their spare time and offers it as an event. This incures real expenses like year round storage, repair of what has been damaged from moving or operating a haunt as well as over time reimbursement for what the thing cost to begin with. If you just get the storage fees you are doing great.
Then each year you call the same routine of potential sponsors and add a little more or upgrade the physical appearence of the event until it is pro quality.
Now, who actually spent all the money or time organizing the building and storage and remains in control of the physical haunt unit kind of ownes it and if the charity decides not to organize volunteers at some point a decade down the line, guess what, you have a haunt.
In my case, my company started with a used haunt and added to it over 5 years. There were no other sponsors money put into it. It was all me. When one year they decided instead of $10 it would cost $8 and it would only be open 4 nights instead of 6 and a major sponsor pulled out that usually brought 1/3rd of the customers in, I pull out. The event was generally indoors and now had to be outdoors too. I sold it. The next year they joined up with the jaycees. Somehow the event over the years was traded from person to person that was either deemed to be incharge or thought they should be in charge. Generally they chose someone that was all of a sudden unemployed and had all kinds of free time supposedly but had no money to attend to all the chores and had a whole other set of problems to worry about at the same time a haunt was suposed to be advertised and set up.
Now reguardless of how the charity works out over the long term, you are supporting the haunt going public, developing a market all the while you are volunteering or being a minor phianthropist. I had this one group while some other guys had the jaycees. Both were upgraded and given quite the experience. In the end both haunts ended up in a year round commercial setting indoors and see 4 times what the two charities combined could attract. My guys and the jaycees I heard hated each other when they got together.
The funny thing is, before the big haunt guys and I began at two charity events, they traditionally were fighting with each other and calling the fire mashal on each other etc. We got everyone to work together. It is so funny they ended up having an event together.
My new way of looking at things if it is a charity I want a whole lot of participating members/volunteers just for set up and tear down. I have heard and seen horror stories as I would help other haunts set up and all the volunteers are 80 pound kids trying to carry 90 pound walls. That isn't going to work. I might never do a charity again or if I do it needs to have like 200 people already working for some cause. None of this here is one other person and their kids.
As a charity you can go after community service help or depending on the town low risk offenders with the sherrif watching like cool hand luke to load and unload trucks. You have to be creative. So may things can be done without money. Plus a non profit big enough is already going to have a large open building with insurance for events. They will already have a few billboards and know who to call for help.
You need a sketch book to communicate ideas, drawings of proposed floor plans, script ideas and if you are a real pro, the walls, lights, fog machines, electric and audio runs, emergency equipment and fire extinquishers. Think of yourself as a party rental store that because it is a charity gets paid a percentage of the actual customers entertained. Or for some small flat fee per year.
I was never comfortable going around the charity to hit up their sponsors so I paid for it all myself like a pay as you go cell phone. If there is no money, there is no money. Right now it is tough enough to pay all the bills let alone giving some charity lots of money to tear up.
Another fabulous post from the U.S.Department of Wild Imaginings, now in spectaclar stereo, sponsored by the Adhesives and Sealants Council, suggesting ways to stick things together since the 1800s. Not fabulous in a gay way. Your results may vary. Illinois residents add 8% sales tax. These posts have been made by professional post makers, do not try this type of posting on your own without extensive training, lovely assistants and a trusty clown horn.