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I'm trying to think outside the box for one of the adult choirs I work with, and use different forms of fund raising including ones other local groups have had luck with, such as: Fireworks stands, food stands, working at Basecall Games, etc.
I was wondering if anyone could offer some advice?    If you've had a food, or fireworks stand, how did it work?  How did you get started?  What were the results?  Have you provided staffing at local sports games, etc?
Are there any other suggestions you would have?
Christopher J McCafferty
Artistic Director, Illumni Men's Chorale
Replies (11): Threaded | Chronological
on July 15, 2011 7:37pm
Here is a ChoralNet resource on this topic.
on July 16, 2011 3:21pm
Why are you trying to think outside of the box?  Before anyone can be of much help, you'll need to explain how much of the "inside the box" fundraising efforts you've done, and why they haven't sufficed for you.  Also, you are asking questions about some opportunities that are specific to your region (we can't even light sparklers here anymore!), so you're probably best checking with the people in your area that have experience with them.
In general however, you need to be thinking about the relationship of your fundraising to the mission of your choir and the types of programs (concerts, festivals, trips, tours, whatever) you offer.  All of your choir's activities will tend to fall into four general categories:
1. Activities that make money AND support the mission of your choir (concerts, fundraising dinners, Christmas caroling, etc.)
2. Activities that cost money, but that support the mission of your choir (free concerts, workshops, festivals, choir trips, etc.)
3. Activities that make money, but aren't related to the mission of your choir (candy sales, silent auctions, bowling nights, etc.)
4. Activities that cost money, and don't effectively support the mission of your choir.  (?? - hopefully nothing!)

When you spell it out like that, it's obvious that your fundraising activities are best when they fall into category #1 above. For instance, in my choir I'm doing an intimate dessert show, which raises money and also gives my students a performance opportunity.  Later on in the year we will be doing a spaghetti dinner that we're going to dress up as a "Viva Italia" extravaganza of Italian music. These events will help raise money, and they will also strengthen the students' experience with respect to our educational and musical mission.  Some choirs sell CDs, DVDs, etc., and these too support the missions of those groups.
You seem to be considering only fundraisers that fall into category #3.  This is fine, just as the occasional activity in category #2 can be necessary and beneficial.  For instance, I'm having my students sell popcorn and See's candy to pay for their travel expenses.  There's nothing wrong with doing *some* of that kind of fundraising, but you just have to be very careful about how much of the collective time and energy you really want to spend on activities that don't fall anywhere within the scope of your organization's acknowledged mission.  Knowing that the popcorn and candy sales don't support the educational mission of our choir program, I will the choose to devote far more energy into the fundraising activities that do support the mission.
It really is important to have a mission statement that explains what your choir is all about and why it does what it does.  Because then you can use the mission statement as a litmus test for everything that you do, including your fundraising activities. 
on July 16, 2011 8:08pm
I can agree with most of Bruce's comments, except for one:  "Some choirs sell CDs, DVDs, etc., and these too support the missions of those groups."
Recording and manufacturing CDs, etc., is not exactly cheap when you want to do it well, and I suspect that in most cases they do not provide much in the way of positive cash flow, and as such fall somewhere between your categories 1 and 2.  With my university show ensemble my goal was for the sales of each year's souvenir album to be sufficient to support the production of the following year's album, and most years we managed that.  But we also performed an average of around 30 shows a year, which most choirs do not.
All the best,
on July 18, 2011 5:04am
Hi, John.
Thank you! So far we've covered the cost of our first CD and with the last 30 or so of our 200 run, we should be able to pay for another pressing.  Here's hoping they sell!
on July 18, 2011 10:52am
Chris:  GOOD FOR YOU!  My thinking tends to be about as un-businesslike as can be, but too many people tend to think of all the income from something like CD sales as "profit."  It isn't.  As my daughter, the math teacher, pointed out to me, "profit" is the "income" that's left over after "expenses"!!
Gotta love those math teachers!
For what it's worth, my policy for our PR Staff was that they could get as fancy and creative as they liked with our annual Homeshow printed program, as long as they sold enough ads to pay for it.  And we usually printed about 3,000 copies for a 2-night or 3-night weekend!  And our community summer musical organization approaches the printed program similarly.
All the best,
on July 18, 2011 5:00am
Hi, Bruce.
Thank you for the detailed reply!   Specifically, we're looking to get "outside" of the box as the Seattle area itself has over 150 non-church related, non-school related choirs.  (This does not count all of the church & school choirs of which there are many.)   The regular resources (though we are using them) are fairly well tapped out.   On just about any given night, you can find a choir having an auction, dinner, etc.  We do plan on doing an auction later on this year.   But as an example:  the other 5 choirs I work with are ALL also putting on dinner auctions.

I do like what you said about relating to the mission.  Well put.  We've done that with CD sales and will look to do a festival, open sings, etc in the future; but are not quite there yet.

I guess, reflecting more on it, my hope is to find something where our supporters can also help the choir (like running a ____ stand at the Fair, etc), and more specifically: something we can do during the summer hiatus, and away from most traditional concert weekends.  

Thank you for your thoughtful Feedback and input!


PS - Part of our mission statement is to bring choral music to audiences that are not regularly exposed to it - I think we could work that into some of these fundrasising ideas!  Chris
on July 17, 2011 6:51pm
Minority viewpoint:
Our two sons were involved in music organizations that raised funds, as well as the school PTO which sold sausage and cheese, wrapping paper, etc. to fund school convocations.
Somehow the idea of selling "junk" never appealed to me.
I really didn't want to buy any of this stuff and I didn't want our sons bothering the neighbors. I simply wrote a check to the PTO for what I felt I could contribute, and then I didn't have to figure out what to do with sausage and cheese that I didn't want. I felt the same way about their other organizations. If I would have let our children sell to the neighbors and our friends, then I would have been obligated to buy from all of those children. At the time I thought: "If we can't support these organizations that we believe in, why should we ask our neighbors and friends to do that?
For a while some groups sponsored an "Unbake sale." People were advised to sit home, relax, avoid baking, and simply write a check for the amount you could contribute. I suspect this idea has run its course, but may return eventually.
One son now has his own foundation (Cultures in Harmony) and he asks for donations to support the work of CiH. He does not sell sausage or cheese or wrapping paper.  (He writes thank-you notes.)
I realize this is a tricky issue. Schools need more money than taxes provide, and small organizations need more money than dues can provide. And some people really like creative fundraisers. Our youth orchestra asked the kids to find sponsors, and these sponsors would get their names in the program. I did let our sons do this. We went to businesses that we regularly patronize--as I recall a sponsorship was $50. Our dentist also became a sponsor. (The orthodontist refused.) But I noticed in the programs that many sponsors were grandparents, aunts, and uncles. And that is fine.
I like the idea of musical organizations doing concerts to raise money, but that can be tough also. Money is hard to come by these days, especially for the arts.
I will admit that I have changed course. In my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I was the top magazine sales person in my school. But as I got older, I decided that this was "exploitation of the students" and I wouldn't sell again. Yes, the school was very disappointed.
All musical organizations need more money than they have. And we all wish we could get funds from someone besides the students and their families. Tough issue!
Susan Raccoli
on July 18, 2011 5:07am
Hi, Susan.
Thank you.  I actually love the idea of the "un-bake" sale!  

The Sponsorship is a great idea.   We've explored it a little bit with our first CD, and at our last Christmas concert: folks were able to sponsor a song and put a message in the program - usually a note to a loved one.  (Great Christmas gift!).  We had some moderate success.  It's good to hear of other folks having luck with it as well.

Thank you!
on July 18, 2011 10:44am
A lot of the typical school fundraising products is "junk."  Specifically, junk food.  My mailbox is always stuffed with organizations selling candy, beef jerky, etc.  And not the good stuff, a lot of it is just junky candy bars and stuff you can readily buy in a store.  Especially with teen obesity being such a terrible problem in our culture I would agree that this issue needs to be approached with sensitivity (we chose popcorn for our first fundraiser of the year partially because it was a lot healthier than the other options).  But I couldn't disagree more with your idea that we are "exploiting" the students.  Giving them the opportunity to work for something that they value is certainly one of the most positive things we can give them, which is a life lesson that goes above and beyond the musical or educational goals.  Getting them out of their comfort zone, knocking on doors and calling on relatives, is a tremendously valuable experience.
On a practical level, if I get my students involved independently and individually with the choir's fundraising needs, that means I've got 75 people out there raising money and raising awareness of the choir in the community.  If we don't get the students involved independently as fundraisers, that means we have only one fundraising agent - basically, the choir program itself. And we would be limited in our fundraising efforts to the people who come to our concerts already.
on July 18, 2011 2:01pm
 We had good experience utilizing the Kickstarter modality.
on July 18, 2011 2:40pm
Thank you!   We've been really thinking about that.  (I've been aware of kickstarter since the early days from my film work).  I would love to hear more about your opinions & experiences.
Is it alright if I contact you?
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