It starts with the applause.
Your audience is there, not for you but for your students, who just put on a performance that 6 months ago was a dream. A dream that you somehow- and if you’re like me it feels ‘miraculously’- taught 200+ students to sing, or play, or dance, or all of the above. And it’s come to fruition.
You feel both a sign of relief, and a twinge of hope.
Because you see a little dollar sign floating above every one of their heads.
Wait. You don’t? Well you should.
It’s not your fault that you’ve become, like many other music educators, frustrated and obsessed with money at the same time. We weren’t trained to manage what is essentially a small business.
So today I’m going to be right to the point. You have a prime opportunity with all of those dollar signs floating above all those happy-parent and grand-parent and community-member heads. You have a captive audience and a chance to leverage that.
[Did you just cringe a little? Because I did, too.]
I know that asking for funding is challenging. It’s one thing to fill out a grant, submit it, and pray for the check. It’s another all together to stand before your happy parents and speak….and say….what?
“So, I would really love to not have to break copyright anymore by secretly copying all these choir parts so we don’t have to share 4 to a purchased copy…but there just isn’t room in my budget- or the school budget- for it.”
Or maybe it’s…
“I’m so glad you liked that, even though we’re having to use mallets that are wrapped in my wife’s old pantyhose because the felt is coming off. Surely you didn’t notice the 4 clarinets whose reeds haven’t been switched out for 6 weeks because their parents aren’t supportive [or well-funded] enough to invest in a box of [insert expletive] reeds and I don’t have it in my budget to keep them in stock….so would you mind throwing a $20 in the up-turned snare drum that we can’t use anymore because we’ve taped the head too many times?”
So today I want to share with you the ONE thing that will help you to feel more comfortable, confident, and successful when you have that captive audience, and have gotten permission from your administration to make an ask for funding.
Asking your audience- whether it’s the live one at your performance, or your email list, or your Facebook page for your program, or your neighbor down the street- should be the first step you take when looking for funding.
Why? Because it’s the easiest and has the highest return. You don’t have to spend money advertising. You don’t have to pay processing fees. You don’t have to run a fundraiser or host an event.
All you have to do is ask.
And make it a compelling ask. But most importantly…and here’s your ONE THING…
Make it a powerful ask.
I’ve sat in more nonprofit board meetings than I can count as we’ve come up with fundraising strategies and I’ll tell you right now, the most important thing– the very first step- has to be defining exactly what you need the funding for and how it’s going to affect the people that the potential donors care about.
This isn’t just a first-step for asking your audience, but it’s also for any time you’re asking for money from a potential grantor, foundation, or donor.
You have to be able to clearly, succinctly, effectively, and, if you’re really good, emotionally define what the need is, what the money will be used for, and the outcome of their donation.
Let’s backtrack….you’re standing in front of your audience. You acknowledge their applause. You pick up the microphone and you say,
“Folks, I can’t thank you enough for coming to this performance. It has been a true honor and privilege to be the teacher of these bright and enthusiastic learners. Very quickly, I also want to thank you for your support. You already know the importance of music and arts education in our school- it enhances these students’ lives and encourages their learning in all their subject areas- and unlike any other subject they learn in school, it educates the emotions.
[pause for effect]
Though our administration is very supportive of our music program [turn and acknowledge them, wait for applause to calm down], our funding just doesn’t allow for some of the essentials that we need. Today I’m making a plea for our percussion section. We need 4 new sets of mallets, a new 14” snare drum, 3 new timpani heads, and a new xylophone- since ours has faithfully served our school for 40 years and is ready for a well-earned retirement. Our band is hoping to raise $2,000 to cover these humble needs. We hope you’ll help us raise these funds tonight. The students are now passing around donation envelopes and if you choose to give….well, I just can’t tell you what that would mean to all of us. Words can’t express our gratitude, only music can.”
Then instruct them to fill out the form, tear off the portion for them to keep as their receipt, and turn in the envelope to that old up-turned snare drum. Oh, and tell them to write the check to the school.
What remotely caring and kindhearted audience wouldn’t give at least the cash in their pocket to help? With 200+ students, and 300+ in the audience, you could meet your goal right there.
And some may be willing to go to their business and ask for a donation. Or keep the envelope and send a check later. Or share it with their friends and neighbors.
But without understanding the need- without YOU making a strong case and an emotional and specific ask- they can and will do nothing.
So if you’re ready to get started on this first step- the most essential step- the most effective step in your fundraising efforts of all kinds, use the cheat sheet below and in about 10 minutes you will have defined your need and created a POWERFUL message that will have donors wrenching out their wallets to help you!
Learn step-by-step how with my FREE Online Workshop, “How to Write Grants in 30 Minutes or Less“.