• Focus on Fundraising

    Mike Lawson | June 12, 2021Students are coming back to the in-person classroom, and travel spots are filling fast! In the June issue, SBO editor Mike Lawson presents a wide array of helpful hints from some of the great fundraising companies out there to help schools raise funds and get their students back on the road. Read More...
  • Peer to Peer: Fundraising

    Mike Lawson | August 20, 2014

    Directors nationwide share fundraising strategies that work

    Fundraising is one of those peripheral activities that can add a tremendous amount of strain to a director’s already full workload. On the other hand, it also serves to enable fantastic opportunities and resources for individual students and the ensemble as a whole. In an ideal world, the fundraising activity is one that students enjoy participating in, doesn’t take too heavy a toll on either the director or the students in terms of planning and execution, and, of course, brings in enough profit to make it worthwhile. As an added bonus, the right campaign can also be a great bonding experience, as well as a chance to build community awareness about your band.

    SBO recently reached out to music educators around the country, asking directors to describe the campaigns that work best for their programs, how to keep students engaged, and any tips they might have for maximizing the profit-to-effort ratio.

  • The State of Fundraising in a Fickle Economy

    Mike Lawson | August 5, 2009

    Fundraising can be challenging for any school's music program. How does a music educator convince his or her school district to pump money into the music department? How does a band director motivate students and parents to organize a car wash or a fruit sale? How does one convince a community to fund a high school band's trip to China? In the best of times, this can be laborious work for any band director. And, as we all know, the past year has not been the best of times economically. With staggering unemployment rates, crippling budget cuts, and consumer fear, how are school music programs going to secure the funds they need in the coming year? SBO recently contacted band directors who are not only facing this challenge, but are doing so in states that have some of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

    Vince Clayton: Due to the economic crisis, I believe most families in our area are watching their budgets more closely and are being very selective when spending money on the various fundraisers that are offered. Although our school district is in good shape, I do have parents who have lost their jobs. There are other schools and organizations close to us with worthwhile causes. We have to plan carefully and know our target groups.

    We've had to make adjustments to our fundraising efforts. We look for the less expensive ticket items. Instead of the $18 cheesecake, we look for slightly smaller and less expensive items. We use a local fundraiser company. Our booster club raises about 40 percent of the entire budget. Families pay about 36 percent in camp fees, and the school and district budgets make up the remaining 24 percent. We have been fortunate to find a local fundraiser who understands the needs of our program and the community that we are in. We have been loyal to them, and they have been loyal to us. We also have an active booster club with parents who find new ways to meet our needs.

  • The Budget Cut Emergency Action Plan

    Mike Lawson | July 6, 2009

    The effects of the current recession have been felt far and wide, as state budgets have been slashed and spending curtailed. For many schools, these are particularly difficult times. All too often, reduced budgets translate into direct threats to the wellbeing of music programs. While there isn't always an easy answer to stave off administrators and school board officials who are responsible for making the painful cuts necessary to keep schools afloat, this is no time for band and orchestra directors to throw in the towel. But if there simply isn't any money, what is a music teacher to do?

    Dr. John Benham has some answers. A former music teacher and current professor of ethnomusicology at Liberty University, Dr. Benham has spent the last 29 years working directly with music programs to prevent cuts in the face of budgetary crises. In a recent SBO interview, this longtime music advocate provides the outline of an action plan that could spare your music program when those difficult financial decisions are being made.

    School Band & Orchestra: With so much pessimism in the media about the economy, how are school music programs across the country holding up?
    John Benham: I can only gauge that by what I've seen. I've been doing this now for 29 years, and I would say that this year, to me, has been the most significant amount of activity in terms of my work which means that it might be the most difficult for music programs. The most discouraging thing is not even the economic crisis that seems to be stimulating this, but the fact that people seem to be giving up the fight and accepting cuts to music programs.

  • Andy Soucy: The Dividends of Commitment

    Mike Lawson | July 6, 2009

    In the past 12 months, the more-than-300-member Londonderry (N.H.) High School Marching Band has traveled to China, marched at a Presidential Inauguration, performed at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City, and been honored by New Hampshire governor John Lynch, who issued a proclamation for an official Lancer Marching Band Day last October. At the helm of this burgeoning program is music director Andy Soucy, who has just completed his 37th year at, as he says, the only job he's ever applied for.

    It would be a stretch to say that these past 12 months have been the culmination of 37 years of work. However, Soucy does cite a director's commitment to the music program and its students as the foundation upon which a program's success should be built. In a recent conversation with SBO, he states as much: "It takes time to build a program, so the director's commitment to that program is the first step."

  • Arlene Burney’s Passion for Music, Education, and Her Casa Grande Gauchos

    Mike Lawson | June 1, 2009

  • It’s a Seller’s Market

    Mike Lawson | March 27, 2009

  • The Foundation Center A Resource for Grant Seekers

    Mike Lawson | January 19, 2009

    Whether to help with musical instrument or music technology purchases, teacher training and educator workshops, or enhanced opportunities for students and ensembles, securing a grant can work wonders for a school music program. One fantastic resource for educators looking to pursue such auxiliary funding is the Foundation Center.

    This New York City-based organization has amassed a tremendous database of philanthropic entities and developed a broad spectrum of tools and information for nonprofit groups seeking funding. In addition to five central "library/learning centers" and hundreds of affiliated "cooperating collections" located around the country, the Foundation Center also offers a plethora of learning material and helpful grant writing information through its Web site,

  • The Essentials of Fundraising

    Mike Lawson | August 7, 2008

    One of the most vital aspects of many school music programs is fundraising. The cost of musical equipment, travel, performances, and any other of the many projects associated with successful ensembles can overwhelm any school's fixed budget, especially in a flagging economy.

    The challenge of raising funds, more often than not, falls squarely on the shoulders of school music directors. They must decide what the best options are for raising funds, and they also must motivate students and parents to join in the effort.

    SBO recently contacted 10 music directors from all over the country to get their detailed thoughts on fundraising what works and what doesn't.

  • Learning Beyond the Classroom Walls

    Mike Lawson | June 4, 2008

    What's the secret to a successful school music travel or festival experience? Simply put, planning, planning, and more planning though that can hardly be called a secret. The preparations required vary in accordance with the magnitude of the endeavor, but most involve some degree of fundraising and the garnering of administrative and parental support, in addition to the obvious logistical details of transportation and possibly accommodations. And let's not forget that minor detail of preparing the students to perform the music!

    However, in spite of the headache travel or festival planning can be, the potential benefits are vast. From professional adjudication to eye-opening intercultural exchanges, these events often provide the most memorable and rewarding experiences a school music program has to offer for students and teachers alike.

    This latest SBO survey on travel and festivals includes responses from directors who have taken ensembles as far as China and Russia, as well as comments from many others, who, for a variety of reasons, have kept their musical groups much closer to home.

  • Two Birthdays

    Mike Lawson | October 16, 2007

    It's a wonderful coincidence that two of the most supportive charities in the field of music education have both achieved their 10th anniversary in 2007 VH1 Save the Music, and the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation. Both of these fine organizations have similar missions in that they provide instruments and money to help restore music programs and help support music education across the country. Together, they have contributed tens of millions of dollars to over 2,000 public schools, in turn benefiting over one million children. The visionary founders of these organizations, John Sykes, formerly of VH1, and the late composer Michael Kamen understood the importance of a population of children who would have access to a musical education, regardless of their circumstances.

    Not only has this charitable work benefited students directly, but the positive publicity that these foundations have generated has created widespread exposure for the benefits of playing a musical instrument. I mention only these two charities due to their coinciding anniversaries, but there are literally dozens of other foundations doing similar work to help perpetuate music in the schools. If you view the excellent music education site,, which is co-sponsored by NAMM and MENC, you will find a wealth of information about music advocacy, charitable organizations, current government actions, information for parents, a list of music advocacy organizations and companies, and, according to the site, "• effective tips for taking action and the latest evidence of music's importance."

    We at SBO are also doing our part to support music students and schools with our annual essay scholarship contest which you received with the September issue. SBO, along with support from our co-sponsors, NAMM, Hershey's Fundraising,, Yamaha, Alfred Publishing, Zildjian, and Music for All, has awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships, instruments, equipment, and music to deserving students and schools around the USA. If you don't have a copy of this year's essay contest poster, drop me an e-mail and I'll make sure we send one to you: [email protected]. This year's contest also provides an excellent way to make the importance of music in the schools known at the highest levels of government, as the topic is "Dear Mr. President, I am writing to tell you why music is so important to my complete education •" The thousands of letters we receive will be sent directly to the President, so consider having your students participate, as it is certain to have an impact.

  • Passing the Hat in 2007

    Mike Lawson | August 14, 2007

    A Google search for "fundraising" yields over 47,000,000 results, but it can be daunting to sift through that quantity of data to find what really works for music programs. A much easier task is to simply review this latest SBO readers' survey, in which band directors from around the country shared the tactics that they use to put those extra coins in the band's coffers.

    While one's fundraising approach must surely vary depending on a school's community, goals, and character, educators from New York to California, from Puerto Rico to North Dakota boasted some astounding tallies, so take heart and read on for tips that could re-shape your entire year.

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