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Give your ideas for bringing in new singers

Our chorus is getting older overall, and we have been having difficulty in the last few years bringing in new singers, especially men.  The most often heard reason for not joining our chorus is that people are "too busy" and don't want to commit to another regular activity.  Our chorus rehearses once a week on Monday evenings from September to December, and then again from January to March.  Most of our members have been dedicated to the group for years, but we are slowly losing singers due to poor health or other family concerns.
      For the last 3 years,  I've sent letters/flyers around the August timeframe to the choir directors of the many churches in our area.  A few of the church directors I spoke to said that their singers' typical response was  "one night a week of choir is all I can fit into my schedule".   I also asked our current choir members to give me names and contact information for people they know in the community who might be interested.   We have 4 new members this fall, but I would like at least that many more to start with us in the spring.   I asked the choral directors at three local colleges for the names of students who graduated this past May, but all those students had moved out of the area.
     I hope you will all be willing to give me your best ideas on how to get the word out to bring in new singers.  Our chorus is a very friendly and fun group of men and women from all walks of life. 
Jane Polett, General Manager, Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association (Quincy Symphony Chorus)
on November 30, 2010 1:18pm
The "getting older" part is a problem.    I've had potential singers call me an ask how old the average age is and tell me that they don't want to sing with a group of "older people".   The ironical thing is that the callers are often older than the average.
Here's a suggestion:  send around fliers or notices that go in the local grade schools (primary schools in Aust and NZ) and pre-school/kindergarten newsletters.  This will reach the parents of young children who are looking for a regular  night off.    
I built my community choir up with about 5 young mothers and 1 young dad this way, and when new members see people who look like them, they tend to feel at home and join permanently.
on January 31, 2011 11:56am
Many ensembles talk of membership growth as if it was a goal. I prefer to think of growth in membership as a natural byproduct of “running on all four cylinders” or keen attention to all areas of your choir’s operations.
I am privileged to lead a small but artistic ensemble of singers here in Music City, and have the pleasure of sharing that experience with my dad and my oldest son.
Nashville Singers was formed 25 months ago. We started with four founding members and have grown to 13 auditioned singers. Our members range in age from 19 to 79. Our average age is 45. We met just twice monthly for the first 10 months and have been meeting three times monthly for the last 15 months. We have developed a repertoire of over 24 (memorized) songs in the last two years. About 1/3 of those songs are holiday songs. 87% of the singers that have joined us are still with us, and 87% of the singers attend any given chorus activity. We’ve produced two concerts that were near sell-outs. These concerts drew attendees from 36 cities in eight states with a marketing budget of less than $300. We released our first CD. The annual budget increased by over 600% from 2009 to 2010. Everyone is a volunteer.
If I had to summarize what I think are the mission-critical elements of membership growth, they would include:
  • ADOPT A PHILOSOPHY FOR SUCCESS:Begin with the end in mind. (Stephen Covey)
  • HAVE A PLAN:Have your mission and vision clearly defined. Work from a long-term strategic plan. If you’re spending any time on activities that do not support your mission and vision, STOP those activities. Have an annual business plan put to paper with a budget and timetable for implementation.
2. GOOD LEADERSHIP -Secure (and Develop the Skills of) Good Leaders:
  • Assemble a core group of administrative worker bees to implement the plan.
  • Develop a succession plan to groom future leaders.
  • Secure an inspirational musical leader that keeps rehearsal interesting and keeps your members coming back week after week.
  • The leadership mission of Nashville Singers is to seek, develop, use and enhance the skills and talents of each member to such an extent that progress seems limitless.
3. HIGH EXPECTATIONS & STANDARDS: Have high expectations of your members and leaders.
  • Groups that have high expectations of their leaders will attract highly competent leaders.
  • Have high expectations of your singers. Good singing attracts good singers. Bad singing scares good singers away. Expect the singers to take a role in running the chorus. Whether they serve on the board, on a committee, or just commit to a single task, like making the coffee, spreads the workload, avoids leadership burnout, and gives them more ownership in the process.
  • Sing great vocal arrangements of great songs.
  • Diversify your repertoire to appeal to a broader audience.
  • You can't go wrong singing songs people already know.
  • GIVE GUIDANCE TO YOUR VOLUNTEERS:Assemble critical elements like job descriptions for the board and committees, and governing documents.
  • RECOGNIZE THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF YOUR VOLUNTEERS:The only three motivators I have found to date are peer pressure, recognition and incentives.
In 2009, we had just two sources of income, member dues and performance fees, 70% of our revenues came from member dues. In 2010, we had over six sources of income – donations, dues, performance fees, events, merchandising, advertising, and in-kind sponsorships.  Only 15% came from member dues.
The resource allocation for Nashville Singers in our first two years looked like this:
24% Individual donations
23% Member dues
19% Events (annual concert)
14% Performance Fees
09% Loans
05% Merchandise (CD) Sales
03% Miscellaneous Income
100% Total
53% Earned Income
47%Contributed income
100% Total
31% CD recording & production
12% marketing & communications
12% event production
09% sheet music licensing, printing, and learning media
07% miscellaneous
06% loan pmts
06% rental fees for rehearsal facility
06% professional and other fees
04% membership recruitment & recognition
03% costuming
02% choral risers
02% office supplies
100% Total
7. GOOD COMMUNICATION:Keep your members informed. Our members and 300 fans of the chorus receive a weekly newsletter from me every Monday. The meeting plan is communicated so everyone knows what to have prepared.
  • THE LIFEBLOOD OF YOUR CHORUS IS NOT YOUR DIRECTOR. IT’S YOUR MAILING LIST:We have grown our list from a dozen contacts to over 1500 in the last year.
  • BUILD A GREAT WEBSITE:The Nashville Singers website was launched months before our first meeting. From "day one" the strategy has been to give any visitor to the Nashville Singers website the impression they were discovering a Middle Tennessee arts organization that was established long ago and NOT look like a start-up operation. The site has grown from five pages to over 40.
  • BUILD A QUALITY BRAND AND PROTECT IT:Nashville Singers, Inc. is chartered by the state of Tennessee as a nonprofit organization. Our chorus name is also protected by a service mark (SM)
    The Nashville Singers website is the critical marketing tool that drives the success of our social media marketing campaign and plan, which has always included Facebook. We added Google Ads to the mix in the beginning of 2010. Our social media advertising campaign targets 85,000 men in Middle Tennessee with any singing-related key words in their Facebook profiles.
    Our current social media marketing campaign has undergone some modifications, but has been running since we held our first meeting in November of 2008. Total social media ad cost over the first 25 months is approximately $1000.00, or $40 per month. This investment has yielded 5.5 million ad impressions, 2500 visits to our website, 33% of our guests and 50% of our new members. I would caution any group against investing in social media paid advertising unless your website is in good shape and makes a good first impression. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
9. CREATE A FEEDBACK MECHANISM:We conduct a membership satisfaction survey of our members once annually. We conduct a survey of our guests at their first meeting. This helps you make course corrections if you're not adequately meeting the needs of your customers or prospects. In 2010, we instituted our first 360 degree leadership effectiveness survey, rating the work of our President and Director of Music. If you're not prepared to modify your plan based on the feedback received, do not waste anyone's time with a survey.
10. HAVE FUN!Make sure your singers have fun at every meeting or performance.

I hope anyone reading this post finds the information provided helpful in growing your membership.

All the best,
Todd Wilson
Executive Director
Director of Music
Nashville Singers, Inc.
615-669-TODD (8633) cell
615-523-TODD (8633) fax
615-825-7778 voice mail
The philanthropic mission of Nashville Singers
is to provide resources and support for music education
in our schools and the community.
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