So you want to take your musical ensemble on a trip?
Your students deserve it, and so do you. Perhaps it’s an annual competition trip, or maybe you and your students have worked hard enough to land a performing spot at a great state convention such as the Midwest Clinic. If so, congratulations!
Here comes the hard part: raising money.
It’s unfair (and often unrealistic) to ask parents to spend upwards of $1000 or more on an ensemble trip, no matter how rewarding it is. Therefore, Directors, parent boosters, and students need to develop innovative ways to fundraise without spending too much time and energy on it that could take away from the learning that got the ensemble to this point in the first place.
The following are some powerful ways to raise money for an important ensemble trip:
Center the fundraising around a performance
One of the more “educationally sound” ways to raise money is by creating performing opportunities for your ensembles. After all, if you are going to ask people for money, they may want to see the product that you are taking on the road! If you create a performance such as a field show, jazz ensemble concert, or chamber music night, you can charge entry fees, admissions, concessions and ad sales in the program booklet. A few of these performances give your ensembles a good “dry run” of their repertoire while raising good money at the same time.
Silent auctions are one of the more powerful (and cost-effective) ways to raise money utilizing the creative capital of your parents and local businesses. The auction can run concurrent with your performances mentioned above. One or two organizers can seek out auction items such as golf outings, sports tickets, etc. to place at a table during the concert. Bidding occurs during the event, and organizations walk away with quite a bit of money for their trip!
The tried and true way to fundraise is often through sales of items. Students can knock money off of their own bill through their own efforts. Sales should be voluntary, and work best when they coincide with a holiday (wrapping paper, pumpkins, flowers, etc.) in my opinion. It’s a lot of work and requires quite a bit of organization, so it’s best for directors to have parental help with this if at all possible.
What if every parent chose to donate their garage sale belongings to a fundraiser? Many schools do this, and have a huge garage sale each Spring. I have seen organizations set up these sales in their school parking lot for a week and have people bring donations; sorted into spots in the various tents as people bring them. The musical organization can accept any large donations (furniture, etc.) through advertising in the newspaper and school email. All of the students can help with the sales and communication efforts. The garage sales are pure profit since everything is donated, and what you don’t sell you can donate to a charity. You can also sell food at the garage sale and have the student ensembles perform.
Online shopping fundraisers
There are many sites out there such as iGive that schools can sign up for fundraising ventures. Basically, parents who shop online at any of the sponsored stores have a percentage of their purchase donated to the music program. Over the course of a year, these funds really add up! Local supermarkets and retailers are often open to working out deals like this, too.
One of the largest up and coming ways to raise money is through crowd funding. This is best done by individual students, as there are different district rules regarding fundraising in this manner. That said, individual students who choose to make compelling videos on a crowd funding site are always bound to raise quite a bit of money for their musical ventures. Directors would be wise to create a “video template” of sorts to ensure continuity and transparency in the students’ message to prospective donors.
Host a community “Night of Dinners”
This is a designated evening where all music parents in the community host dinners at their homes (they can be potluck, BBQ, or anything) and charge a fee (between $25 and $50) to attend. The families then donate that money to the music program. I have seen tens of thousands of dollars raised through these dinners — it is a great community builder and fundraiser.
Need More Ideas?
There are many other fundraising ideas out there, so directors and parent organizations should look around to decide which ones fit their ability to commit time and their values. The fundraisers should not get in the way of their daily teaching duties, and the students should have complete ownership over raising the funds for the trip — they will be that much more proud of their efforts when it is all said and done.
Most important, every student regardless of socio-economic status should have the ability to attend these transformative trips, so choose a great fundraiser and give it the attention it needs to succeed!
Want more Educator Resources? Check out 3 Ways to Score Continuing Education Credits or The Secrets to Recruiting Kids into Band and Orchestra.
Associate Director/Professor of Trombone
John J. Cali School of Music
Montclair State University