Chances are high that either as a student or teacher, you've attempted to sell cookie dough, chocolate, wrapping paper, popcorn or coupon books in order to raise funds for your music program. As tasty or handy as these items are, have you ever felt like there must be another option?
Just today, I watched a young, excited sales team convince students that they can get a free Frisbee if they raise $50 for their school. "Will the school get the other $49.50?" I asked myself. Today's assembly inspired the following list of ways for music teachers to fundraise without selling anything.
The easiest way to create revenue without significantly increasing your workload is to charge admission to your concerts. Whether you use a professional service such as TicketSource or ask parents to volunteer, a reasonable fee to attend your concert can be the start of your rolling budget.
Not every community is accustomed to paying for school events so consider distributing three or four complimentary tickets per student to encourage attendance. Whittle the complimentary tickets down each year until the demand matches your community’s accessibility and needs.
Complimentary and discounted tickets are a fantastic way for students to invite community members to your next concert!
While making a guest appearance at a concert in Georgia, I witnessed a band director send around a student with a bucket that had a dollar sign spray-painted on it. During the intermission, the director announced, “If you enjoy what you’re seeing right now, make a donation so we can do it again!”
Patrons of this concert did not pay an entry fee but the average donation per person exceeded the cost of what I would have charged for general admission. This model allowed those who are able to support the program to shine while also allowing all community members to attend. The bucket successfully covered the cost of the concert, allowing the director to bring out more guest artists the next year.
Consider the guaranteed expenses your music program endures every year and decide which of them can be supported by families paying a small yearly fee. Departmentalize your small and recurring expenses such as reeds, pencils, guitar picks, rosin and valve grease into a category that is funded by an ensemble fee.
Having extras of necessary items on hand will be convenient for students and families, and you no longer will have to make as many emergency trips to the music store. If you’re able to create a healthy stockpile of items, use the dividend to improve your classroom. Label this money as funds that are meant to better the student experience.
If you enjoy running an extracurricular music club, be sure to calculate not only the value of your time but the cost of competing clubs in your space.
When I started my first after school music club, I added the cost of a club shirt, our concert space and snacks to come up with my club fee. After distributing the paperwork, I discovered that the dance class next door was charging eight times as much and didn’t even provide snacks!
It was a hard lesson learned because it turned out my club cost less than the onsite daycare, which led to lots of participants! Since then, I’ve found my balance of welcoming yet competitive prices that allow my program to grow year after year.
Large food chains and local restaurants are happy to profit share in exchange for increased drive-thru business and in-restaurant patrons on less busy nights. Restaurants, such as Chipotle and Raising Cane's, have programs in place to share 15% to 33% of their profit during school fundraising campaigns. After the paperwork is completed, have your students spread the word that having a family dinner night out will support your program.
If you prefer to keep your efforts local, reach out to business owners in your area who are interested in profit sharing. If space allows, put on a chamber performance inside the venue to bring more attention to everyone’s favorite eatery. Use your knowledge of the community to decide if food, goods or experiences are the best way to get community members out and willing to spend money.
Mini golf competition, anyone?
While on the topic of businesses in your community, do any of them want to have a banner at your next event? Many marching bands have figured out how to sell banners, logos on their yearly shirts and trailer wraps to local businesses, but the other ensembles are often left wondering how they can cash in on advertising.
Selling ads in concert programs is a staple of the concert experience but is there something more exciting?
I have a few instruments in my classroom that are permanently labeled with the name of the funding party, so that the students and I can always acknowledge where that instrument came from. Local businesses receive a plaque of appreciation presented at the concert, so their support can be on display in their place of business.
With a parent-signed release form, students were able to make a “thank you” video for a local veterinarian donor who used the footage in its next online advertising campaign.
Eliminate the need for some of your budget by directly asking for the items you need in your classroom. I’ve tried Donor’s Choose and GoFundMe — which are great fundraising platforms — but there is a real joy in having a community member randomly purchase an item that you need without having to beg your friends on social media.
Include your Amazon wish list in your email signature, your dojo messages, your school’s website and social media. It is absolutely impossible for parents to help out if they don’t realize that your wish list even exists!
If everything on this list seems like one more thing for you to do, then I offer you the “everything” deal. At the very beginning of the school year, construct a flyer that promises parents one thing: If they pay one price for everything you want, you will leave them alone for the rest of the school year. You can avoid nickel and diming parents by rolling all your future campaigns into one.
For example, during the school year, parents might be asked to help out in various ways — volunteer at the snack shack, pay an instrument fee, drive the carpool, organize the uniforms, collect ticket stubs at the door, etc. — OR they can pay $100 up front with the guarantee that they will be left alone for the rest of the year. That’s right. I’ll take their names off the volunteer list and put them in the Elite Gold Status Club that receives four tickets to every event. It’s the perfect deal for the parent who prefers to write one check and be done.