SBOSurvey: Fundraising

Mike Lawson • Fundraising • October 21, 2006

One of the biggest challenges facing music educators is securing adequate funding for their program. Upcoming performances, projects, and trips all come at a price and oftentimes even the costs associated with the “basics,” such as instrument acquisition and maintenance, exceed the allotted school budget.

Music directors turn to fundraising as a means to subsidize their programs, choosing from a wide array of options and approaches available – the trick is selecting the strategy that best matches a given course’s needs.

SBO recently contacted over 1,200 of our readers to learn what fundraising methods have been meeting with success, how fundraising compares to outright requests for donations, and if there are any new trends that are making an impact.

What types of fundraisers, specifically, do you find to be successful and why? How many fundraising campaigns do you conduct, per year?

“We have conducted three to four each year. We do have a problem acquiring a successful crowd at many smaller functions. Our district is fairly large and, on any given week (all year long), there is some sort of fundraiser being conducted. Generally, the services and products are fairly varied and our administration watches to make sure no one encroaches on a similar fundraiser at the same time. This helps, but doesn’t get the crowd in.”
Jeff Heid
Muscatine Community Schools
Muscatine, Iowa

“We will do three or four. Too many events lead to burnout for everyone involved.”
Bryan Burkett
Crater High School
Center Point, Ore.

“We have about three to six campaigns per year, depending on if we are going on a trip or not. Effectiveness is watered-down if you attempt too many fundraisers.”
Josue Perez
Aurora High School
Aurora, Ohio

How do you feel outright requests for donations compare to fundraising events?

“We do get a few people who will donate, but most people ‘want something for their money.”
Keith Jordan
La Cueva High School
Albuquerque NM.

“Our grant foundation handles both fundraising events and solicitations for donations. Their primary source of funds is outright donations.”
Steven M. Nendza
Deer Path Middle School
Lake Forest, Ill.

“I think it’s a great idea to ask for donations. Many of our local high schools have asked… and received healthy donations. I ask for donations also to allow me to give music camp scholarships. I truly believe that most people would rather do that, than buy another box of candy or a knick-knack.”
Martha Damon O’Neill
Yvonne Shaw Middle School
Sparks, Nev.

Have you attempted any “unusual” fundraisers and, if so, what – and how successful (or unsuccessful) – was the undertaking?

“We do an annual plant sale that is very effective. The local greenhouse gives us an excellent price on spring flowers and we sell them to the community. It is something that people would typically buy, anyway, and they gladly do it in order to support the band – it’s our most successful event every year. We have also started hosting a non-competitive marching contest that produces some income in mid-September.”
Patrick Kearney
Johnston High School
Johnson, Iowa

“Our grant foundation held a golf outing that was a huge success. It brought out community members who would not normally contribute and it gave our 8th grade jazz band an opportunity to perform during the dinner.”
Steven M. Nendza
Deer Path Middle School
Lake Forest, Ill.

“A few years ago, at my previous job, we did ‘Soup in a Jar.’ The concept was simple: you fill a quart jar with the dry ingredients for a soup, attach directions, and sell the item. The cost was fairly low and the profit was fairly high. The problem was that people just weren’t interested. The novelty had worn off before we ever made it to the public. It was a great idea and, I’d imagine that in some areas it could be wildly popular, but it just did not work for us.”
Jeff Heid
Muscatine Community Schools
Muscatine, Iowa

Fundraising that Works!

By Dan North
Madison High School
Rexburg, Idaho

Do you want to hear about a fundraiser that raises lots of money with minimal time commitment? We’ve heard all the promises and the slogans, maybe even bought into a few, but the bottom line is that most of the time we work too hard for too little return. All of this has changed for the Madison Band program. For the past eight years, Madison High School Band has been involved in a fundraiser that has returned large profits for the group, used only a few hours on one Saturday, and provided a service to our community at the same time.

We provided a free car wash for our community. Every car was washed for free, with each participating student getting pledges in advance for the cars we would wash that day. Most of the pledges were for 1 cent, 2 cents, a nickel, or a dime per car WASHED BY THE GROUP that day. We promised those pledging that we would wash as many cars as we could, but we would hold them accountable for up to 250 cars this year. In years past the number has been as high as 700, but we have learned that the secret is in having lots of pledges, not necessarily in washing lots of cars. We’re smarter now, and it takes less time. Now, here are the numbers:

  Date Cars Washed Pledges per Car Total Collected
First Year Sat. Sept. 20, 1997 677 $ 21.23 $ 14,372.71
Minimum Number   500 $ 21.23 $ 10,615.00
Second Year Sat. Sept. 12, 1998 914 $ 21.10 $ 19,285.40
Minimum Number   700 $ 21.10 $ 14,770.00
Third Year Sat. Sept. 18, 1999 763 $ 16.14 $ 12,314.82
Minimum Number   700 $ 16.14 $ 11,298.00
Fourth Year Sat. Sept. 16, 2000 521 $ 17.28 $ 9,002.88
Minimum Number   500 $ 17.28 $ 8,640.00
Fifth Year Sat. Sept. 8, 2001 661 $ 17.77 $ 11,732.75
Minimum Number   500 $ 17.77 $ 8,885.00
Sixth Year Sat. Sept. 14, 2002 501 $ 33.90 $ 16,983.90
Minimum Number   250 $ 33.90 $ 8,475.00
Seventh Year Sat. Sept. 13, 2003 344 $ 28.50 $ 9,804.00
Minimum Number   250 $ 28.50 $ 7,125.00
Eighth Year Sat. Sept. 11, 2004 391 $ 35.26 $ 13,876.60
Minimum Number   250 $3 5.26 $ 8,815.00

This system has worked so well that, for the last eight years, the band has invited other school groups to join us. Now, with the addition of the Choir and Orchestra, we are calling it “the Fine Arts Department Annual Free Car Wash.” The neat thing about this fundraiser is that the more student and parent help you get, the more your pledges total, and the more cars you can wash. So this becomes a cooperative and not a competitive fundraiser. Students can also seek out pledges from people who live far away, like grandparents; It isn’t just limited to our community.

I recommend that you try this great idea in your community. I had no product to sort and box, no returns of faulty items, no students to hassle about collecting money – I just record what the student brings to me in that student’s file in my band account and the student draws on these funds to cover program costs. This works great and rewards those who help and lets those who don’t help get a check from Mommy and Daddy to cover their fees.

Does this sound too good to be true? Well, it works for us . . . and it is all over in one day! Our community has really supported a fundraiser that gives them a return, lets the students be of service, and allows us to generate and keep all of the money. What a way to go!

If you have questions or want further information, contact Dan North at Madison High School, 134 Madison Ave. Rexburg, Idaho 83440 or call (208) 359-3305 or e-mail at [email protected] Happy fundraising!

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