Raising the Bar on Raising Money

In a difficult economy, nearly everyone has been forced to make cuts or find ways to bring in more income. With the end of marching season, high school bands still have an off-season filled with fundraising to help prepare for next year’s parades and field shows.

The marching bands of Oswego (N.Y.) High School, Timber Creek High School in Orlando, Fla., and Mayfair High School in Lakewood, Calif., are separated by thousands of miles. However, these three bands share a common denominator not only among themselves but also with hundreds of bands around the country: Fundraising has become a lifeline in this ailing economy.

Brainstorming Events

Each of the bands admitted that the hardest part about fundraising is getting the ball rolling.

Rick Brown, fundraising co-chair at Timber Creek, is open to any opportunity. “I have looked on other band websites for ideas, but I mainly ask the parents what they would want to get behind and be willing to sell,” he says. “It’s the parents that really drive our fundraisers, and without their interest, we won’t have much success with any fundraiser out there. We are always open to new ideas, and as long as it has a nice profit share, it will always be considered.”

Sometimes finding the best fundraisers also takes trial and error. “It is true that some fundraisers work better than others,” says Julie Frye, the president of Timber Creek’s Band Parent Organization. “If it’s not a big seller, move on. Don’t let it get you down.”

Mayfair High School has created an entire subcommittee of booster parents to raise money and to manage it. Due to the recent strain in the economy, Mayfair’s marching band no longer receives the majority of its funding from the school; the band is now at least 95% autonomous. “The Ways and Means Committee has really been an essential addition to our Booster Club and band as a whole,” says Jeff deSeriere, current assistant director of Mayfair’s marching band. “We have found it extremely helpful to have a committee in place that’s constantly coming up with new ways for us to raise the money we need to operate.”

As for the Oswego marching band, it follows a specific mantra when deciding on its fundraisers. “Instead of doing a ton of events, do a few small, successful fundraisers,” says Bill Palange, the previous director. “As much as people may want to help, they will grow tired of constantly being asked for money.”

Spring Flings

All of the bands have their own major fundraising events they host during the off-season: for Mayfair it’s a Hotcakes and Jazz event; for Timber Creek it’s the annual golf tournament; and Oswego cooks a BBQ Chicken Dinner. Held every spring, Hotcakes and Jazz is a pancake breakfast that features multiple performances by the Mayfair Jazz Band throughout the morning.

The band also runs a fireworks booth the week before the 4th of July.

In addition to these off-season fundraisers, Mayfair holds car washes, sells items from the Cherrydale Farms catalogue and hosts three field show tournaments during the marching season.

Because the Oswego High School marching band is inactive from November until July, it tries to limit the amount of fundraising it does in its small 15,000-person community. “The majority of the fundraising we do actually happens during the season,” explains Palange. “Also, we venture outside of Oswego as often as possible to fundraise; this is a small town, and as much as people would like to help, they may become a bit annoyed if they are constantly being asked for money.”

However, the program does hold a BBQ Chicken Dinner. “We reach out to the community as well as our band families,” says Debbie Bartholomew, the president of Oswego’s Band Parents Association. “We pre-sell tickets for dinners, then we cook the chicken on school premises— after marinating in a secret recipe for a couple of days! Buyers pick their dinners up there, or we deliver larger orders. Our dinners include half a chicken, salt potatoes, baked beans, a roll and a cookie, which our band parents donate.”

The members of Oswego marching band also sell candy, Avon products, Longaberger baskets and Sara Lee pies throughout the year to raise money.

Like Oswego and Mayfair, Timber Creek hosts a menagerie of events including a golf tournament in April and a spring community concert; however, the band also sells products like Sally Foster wrapping paper, Yankee Candles and World’s Finest Chocolate to supplement this income throughout the year.

Big Moneymakers

Despite all of the fundraisers these schools do, particular events bring in the majority of their money.

For Timber Creek, the sale of Entertainment Books has raised a total of $17,000, and no one sells more of them within the Central Florida market! Its fall field competition typically brings in about $11,000 from ticket sales, concessions, vendor booths and entrance fees. And the golf tournament brings in about $10,000. Field tournaments are also a boon for Mayfair. “Field show tournaments bring in a lot of money because of the vendors who rent spots, the admission fee, the cost of the programs, concessions, etc.,” explains deSeriere. “Doing three of them really helps out.”

This past fall, the band also entered and won a contest sponsored by radio station Power 106 to host the station’s All-Star basketball team in a game against the high school team. All of the ticket proceeds went to the band, which also sold concessions at the event. Celebrity guests rap/hip-hop duo The New Boyz and rapper Lloyd Banks made appearances. Mayfair was also given a total of $5,500 by the radio station and TMobile as part of its prize.

Oswego’s band typically engages in fundraisers that offer at least 35% to 40% of the profit. Its most successful fundraiser involves volunteering at concession stands for a portion of the revenues at the Carrier Dome and Alliance Bank Stadium. (Timber Creek has a similar relationship at Amway Stadium.)

“This method of fundraising is extremely successful, and it’s nice that we’re not confronting the same people in our community for donations,” Palange says.

While fundraising can be challenging, time consuming and emotionally draining, knowing that it all goes to a good cause makes it worthwhile, Palange says.

“Have fun with it!” he says. “And stay upbeat about it. The money and time and effort you’re putting into it will ultimately benefit the kids, and that’s what’s important.

About the Author

Kellie Graham is a sophomore majoring in public relations at the University of Southern California. She has been playing the trumpet since the fifth grade and is a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band. After graduation, Kellie plans on joining a major public relations firm in Los Angeles or New York.

Sidebar: Fundraising While Spreading Music

Tired of selling pizza or candy bars? Now you can raise funds for your music group by spreading the joy of music with the sale of music-themed products. Art Strings Publishing, featuring Music Art of Karen Cannon, has partnered with Hal Leonard Corporation—which had already been distributing its products—to create one of the only music fundraising programs designed by the music industry.

The idea for this program began four years ago but only recently came to fruition in September 2010. “Four years ago, we were at the Texas Bandmasters show and saw the whole industry of fundraising,” says Brent Hawley, president and program manager of Art Strings Publishing. “None of the companies had anything to do with music, and it bothered me. I wanted to try and develop a fundraising program that sent a positive message of music.”

Cannon’s musical artwork adorns posters, greeting cards and mugs, just to name a few of the popular gift items. Both Cannon and Hawley are active musicians, playing guitar and mandolin respectively.

The fundraising program also includes musically themed products from the Hal Leonard Corporation Gift Line—including personal music instruction books and track packs loops for Apple GarageBand software—as well as national magazine publications from American Publishers Hearst.

Sales can be made door-to-door or online. Groups receive 40% proceeds on all sales (excluding applicable tax) with no minimum sales or upfront costs. Music dealers can also make 6% of the proceeds by signing up schools into the program. “This program is designed by the music industry for the music community with products that send a positive message of music,” Hawley says. “What profits there are stay in the music industry.”

For more information, visit www.artstringsfundraising.org.

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