Capitalize on Fundraising

A photo of members of Archbishop Alter High School’s Marching Knights.

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Effective fundraisers rely on efficient communication to bring communities together.

One organization has nearly monopolized the mulch market in Kettering, Ohio, and it’s not a lawn and garden store. It’s a high school marching band.

Families in Archbishop Alter High School’s Marching Knights sell an average of 11,800 bags of mulch during an annual fundraiser. The band couldn’t execute this massive operation without finely honed communication practices.

Fundraisers play a vital role in the marching arts, and effective communication can propel their success.

Identifying Leaders

Above all, groups should define internal roles and expectations early on, according to Andrew Hrynyshyn, co-founder of Fundraise Genius, a fundraising platform for music programs. “Communicating clearly about those roles and responsibilities from the beginning will give everyone involved the assurance that they’re doing what they need to do,” Hrynyshyn says.

At Alter, a chair for the mulch sale is named a year ahead, and committees leading different components of the sale start meeting about six months prior.

Groups can be successful with their fundraisers whether they have one designated parent leader, a group task force, a band director, or students leading the initiatives, Hrynyshyn adds. The Marching Knights and the Nutley (New Jersey) Music Boosters Association, which hosts an annual “Taste of the World” event, divide responsibilities for their large fundraisers between committees and volunteers.

Nutley’s “Taste of the World” and Alter’s Mulch Sale won Gold and Silver respectively in the 2020 Music for All Advocacy in Action awards in the Fundraising Program category.

Rallying the Band

A photo of Andrew Hrynyshyn.

A photo of Andrew Hrynyshyn.

Most groups have an established fundraising rhythm that repeats every year, allowing groups to set dates and communicate the information far in advance with everyone involved, including students, directors, boosters, administration, and outside fundraising help.

Leaders should differentiate communications toward different recipients. “Instead of blasting everyone at once, send separate messages tailored to each of those groups, and only share what’s relevant and important to each of them,” Hrynyshyn says.

Groups should be careful not to bombard students with administrative information that they don’t need to know, Hrynyshyn adds.

In addition, consider using existing and familiar communication tools. “Don’t add the burden of learning a new communication tool just for your fundraiser,” Hrynyshyn says.

Hrynyshyn also recommends that hosts welcome feedback through their chosen platform. Fundraising leaders might consider tools that provide real-time updates or live metrics. They should also think about holding a few live group meetings to discuss the fundraiser’s progress and any necessary adjustments.

Engaging Customers

A photo of Todd Tucker.

A photo of Todd Tucker.

To get donors and customers excited, both Alter and Nutley use very personal approaches to explain the fundraisers and the impact on their music programs.

Alter puts students to work, making phone calls to returning mulch customers about sale dates, pricing, and delivery. “We tell them about our fundraiser, but we also tell them about our band,” says Todd Tucker, director of bands. “We have a script, but each kid puts their own flair on it.”

Nutley’s event, which showcases multicultural foods and music, relies on donations from local businesses and restaurants for food and raffle items. To get the donors involved, the organization sends out letters and visits businesses in person. Spotlighting the achievements of its music program helps gain donor support, says Salvatore Scarpelli, president of the Nutley Music Boosters Association. “You never know who’s going to give,” he says.

Hrynyshyn echoes these sentiments. “Explain specifically how the money you raise will impact your music program and how it will benefit your students,” Hrynyshyn says. “Not only will it help drive buy-in from students, but it will also give your supporters a compelling reason to support you.”

For publicizing their fundraisers to the public, Alter and Nutley use posters, event websites, social media posts, and emails. The events have developed into core parts of their communities, and the groups benefit from word-of-mouth advertising.

A photo of Salvatore Scarpelli.

A photo of Salvatore Scarpelli.

“People who came five years ago still come because they have such a great time,” Scarpelli says. “We keep outgrowing spaces because it’s just spread through the community.”

The Marching Knights’ mulch sale has an 80 percent returning customer rate. “When it comes down to making the sale a success, it really is community driven,” Tucker says. “It’s kind of become a staple in the spring around here.”

While fundraisers might sometimes feel difficult and time-consuming, they teach valuable life skills in addition to the benefits of monetary gains. “[Fundraisers are] a moment to teach students the important lessons of grit and gratitude and the significance of supporting one another,” Hrynyshyn says.

About the Sponsor

BAND is a free group communication app and private social media hub for teams of all sizes. Schools, music directors, and leaders within the marching arts use BAND to better collaborate and manage their team’s activities. Schedule events, share documents and videos, organize by section, take attendance, send announcements, initiate RSVPs, communicate by chat, post, or live stream, and enjoy a number of other uses.

Photo of the mulch sale at Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering, Ohio, by Cari Wallace and Ilona Kusnierz.
Photo of Todd Tucker by Lauren Tucker.

About the author

Kacie Brown

Kacie Brown was a member of the Broken Arrow (Oklahoma) High School band from 2012 to 2016. She is now pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree in saxophone performance with a certificate in journalism at Indiana University. In 2019, she won the inaugural Elise Hall Competition for Emerging Saxophonists. She regularly performs with the Kanaderu Saxophone Quartet.

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