Fun Fundraising

What would you do … to raise money for your band? Would you sell candy? Would you have a recital? Or would you ride a donkey?

Most of us have been there: washing cars, selling candy bars or maybe even going door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions or entertainment books to support your music program.

If you are like most people in a school setting, nobody has to tell you how challenging fundraisers can be. For some, it feels like raising money comes at the expense of your sanity. Fundraising almost always involves stress, but there are ways to make them creative, efficient and, most of all, fun.

Why Fundraise?

With most music programs across the nation, government funding usually does not fully pay for the program. Some bands provide the bulk of the funding through their parent-run booster organization.

Richard Peters, fine arts coordinator for the East Central Independent School District in San Antonio, explains the process at his school district: “In Texas, funds are distributed to the school districts based on the average daily attendance of the students,” Peters says. “That is why it is so important to keep track of everyone’s attendance in school.”

According to Peters, the state legislature determines the dollar amount per student, and the school district divides the funds based on detailed funding requests by the band director and other group heads.

“Typically, the request is for new instruments, instrument repairs, supplemental staff pay and music,” he says. “Sometimes we get what we ask for, but other times we don’t due to budget constraints.”

Therefore, the band booster organization is critical when the budget is tight. “The band boosters are typically a non-profit entity and usually under less restrictions than school funding processes.” Peters says.

His band tackles the typical fundraisers— selling tamales and burritos, cookie dough, candy bars and pizza kits. The band boosters also host a spaghetti dinner to raise money for their college scholarship funds.

“One of our more unique fundraisers happens during the Fiesta celebration in San Antonio,” Peters explains. “During the Battle of Flowers parade, the band boosters ‘rent’ 150 chairs to parade goers at $7 each. A night and day parade nets $2,100.”

Their most profitable fundraiser nets over $10,000. Each September, the band hosts the Golden Hornet Marching Band Contest involving more than 20 bands from around the state of Texas. After many years, the band boosters have the contest running like a finely tuned marimba.

“The band boosters do an excellent job of organizing, setting up and executing the band contest.” Peters says. “Police provide security, the fire department helps with first aid while parents and student volunteers help sell concessions and host bands.”

Strange but Effective

Some schools have found even more creative ways to raise money. At Mendenhall (Miss.) High School, the band’s most unique fundraiser involved Donkey Basketball. Participants paid a donation to play basketball while riding on donkeys. The basketball fundraiser went so well, the band also hosted a Donkey Softball game in the spring, says Richard Peters, former Mendenhall band director.

Here’s one way to keep money from going down the drain. The East Central High School Choir raised nearly $9,000 in 2006 by going door-to-door, asking residents to replace their toilets with water-efficient ones. When a regular toilet is donated and replaced by a water efficient one, the San Antonio Water System gives a donation to the choir.

At Cardinal Newman High School in Boynton Beach, Fla., the band auctions a car to raise funds for its annual band trip. According to Dave Bayardelle, assistant band director, one of the band booster parents gets a new car donated from the local Ford dealership for auction.

“We are very fortunate to have this kind of support from our band boosters and community businesses.” Bayardelle says. “It helps supplement the money from other fundraisers as well as from our school district.”

Be a Hero

Looking for something to supplement candy bar sales? In Locust Grove, Okla., band director Justin Frazier is organizing his band’s first-ever “Guitar Hero” tournament.

“The buzz around school is pretty high,” Frazier says. “We’re hoping this tournament goes well, so we can do it again next year.”

For a $10 pre-registration fee, contestants are placed in tournament brackets and compete against each other in rounds, with the level of difficulty increasing each round. The winner of each round continues until they reach the final game. The boosters sell concessions to help pay for the top prize: a Nintendo DS.

“We got the event sponsored by RedOctane, the makers of the ‘Guitar Hero’ game.” Frazier says. “They’re sending shirts and game guitars. The students are very excited.”

Dont Be Afraid

Not every fundraiser is fun and games, however. The Effingham Rebel Regiment Marching Band from Springfield, Ga., puts on a haunted house fundraiser that brings in more than $4,000 annually. Participants pay $5 to be guided through a long maze of scenes depicting villains from horror movies and other scary scenes.

Joseph Hasty, the Effingham band director, discusses how the band pulls off its annual freak show: “My high school band used to run one, so when I became director, I pitched the idea to our fundraising chair, and he ran with it.” Hasty explains. “He made up themes for each room, and the students helped design and decorate the rooms that they run each night.”

The haunted house event appears to be a great success. This past October, more than 600 people went through the haunted house during four nights. Many went through multiple times. The students get to use talents other than music and have a great time working together.

“We have done it the past four years, and each year is for things like new instruments and new uniforms.” Hasty says. “This year, the funds are going towards a trip to Chicago.”

In addition to the haunted house, the Rebel Regiment band also hosts car washes, a marching contest and brochure sales.

Team Up

If individuals have trouble getting motivated for a fundraiser, use a team approach. Group goals and milestones give members “buy-in” on the team’s purpose. Prizes and recognition encourages friendly competition among teams to help the groups achieve their goals.Team building is  great way to learn valuable life lessons while improving leadership and communication skills. The process of setting a goal and the excitement of achieving that goal puts the “fun” in fundraising.

About author

Gregory M. Kuzma

Gregory M. Kuzma (, who simply goes by “GM,” is a performing arts consultant for drum and bugle corps and marching bands around the United States. A drum and bugle corps veteran, he is the author of the book “On the Field From Denver, Colorado … The Blue Knights!,” which highlights his 1994 summer tour adventures as a drum corps member.

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