I’ve worked with several nonprofit organizations over the last few years. My most recent stint was with our local school district foundation where my job as treasurer allowed me to help guide the inner workings of fundraising and financial management.
One of my core missions as a teacher and consultant has always been about efficiency. In the nonprofit world one of the best ways to collect donations efficiently is to collect online.
And one of the ways to get donors to give more than they plan to is to make it personal to them.
Stay with me here, I’m going to make a very good point…
You can create your own online band registry where donors can give you money for specific things. Or groups of things. A particular ‘mission’, to use the nonprofit-world lexicon.
What the D51Foundation page looks like. See how donors get to select which to give to?
This is a far better way to collect money rather than just saying, “Donate to our band!” because it makes them have to get personal, and they are giving to something tangible. Also, please please remember this one thing: they are going to make the emotional decision to donate to you then justify it logically. If you want them to give, you have to make them care and make it easy.
The Red Cross donation page. Pre-set amounts to give and they get to select which project to donate to. Check out that cute photo! Way to tap into their emotions!
Thus, I introduce to you the ‘Band Registry Fundraiser’!
You can do this one of two ways: 1) Online or 2) Off-line.
Your Online Band Registry Fundraiser
Everyone’s at least heard of GoFundMe, Donor’s Choose, or Fundly and they can be a good go-to, pre-built resource for you. Costs nothing to set up and it’s all linked up with social media, etc. etc… but I don’t recommend them for you. Unless:
- Your principal has approved those donations
- All of your donors get a receipt with your school or PTA tax ID number so they can take the tax write-off
- You don’t mind being limited to ONE thing you’re asking for. ‘Help us buy our new band trailer’ or ‘Help us buy a timpani’…but ideally you have a select for donors to choose from, right? Like they can give $10 to buy a box of reeds or $10,000 to fund your band tour.
- You’re okay with them taking 5-15% of your earnings. Donor’s Choose allocates 15% to overhead:
Don’t forget that to have someone else host your fundraising page it’s going to cost you some of those donations.
If all of those are a-okay with you then yes, crowdfund it with a site like mentioned above. If not, then do it yourself. It’s not that hard.
Here are the steps for doing it yourself:
- WORK WITH YOUR SCHOOL PTA/PTO or DISTRICT FOUNDATION: See if your school PTA/PTA can host a page for you. Or at least link to your page from their website. If they are willing to collect the money for you and then write you out a check once a month that works even better! It is this organization’s account information that you will use- all the money you collect will go into their account.
- BUILD A DONATION SITE: This can look like just a donate button like this:
Hosted by PayPal, the button is free and they handle all the processing. Need a free page to host it on? Try Microsoft Sway. It’s a single-page builder with a bunch of pre-set templates that look awesome. Just add your PayPal ‘Donate Now’ button and you’re all set.
But what I’d recommend is you just take the plunge and create your own online shop. Still run the financials through your PTA/PTO or Foundation, but by building out your own online shop you can ‘sell’ items you need money for!
For example, add a box of reeds to your online store. They aren’t actually purchasing the box of reeds; they’re giving you money for it. Just like on the AFBands page linked to above you’re telling them what you need and how much it is and letting them choose.
With most people’s affinity for online shopping, this totally works for them! Then if you have extra band t-shirts you want to sell, or concert posters, or even student works, designs, photo downloads… the list goes on and on!
Yes, you’ll still have to pay an online processing fee, but: WORTH. IT.
To have the control, flexibility, and optimization.
I recommend using a website builder that’s easy and already has an ecommerce application plugged in and ready to go. For this, I love Squarespace. Wix and Weebly are also easy builders and integrate with PayPal.
Guys, I know if you don’t already have a website or have any experience building one this might seem like a huge hurdle, but trust me: you are smart enough, there is enough training out there, and most websites are very intuitive to build. It’s worth the $150-200 per year to have your own website. (Another idea: check with your tech/computer teacher at your school and see if they have any advanced students who would be willing to build your website. I’ve found this to be great free labor and the students love it.)
Okay, so let’s say that’s just scary. You don’t have a PTA/PTO or any other way to funnel your funds besides your school office. You don’t want to do online.
This is where your local music store can come to help!
You know how your friends who got married last year ‘registered’ for all those housewares at Target? They said what they wanted and bought it for you.
You can do the same thing with your local music store.
Your Offline Band Registry Fundraiser
Here are the steps to follow:
Step 1: Go make friends with your local music store owner. Ask if they would be willing to collect funds for items and then donate them to your band. If they’re like, “Yeah, buddy!” then awesome! Also, see if they would be willing to create a SKU/Inventory ID number for donations then write you a check at the end of the month for people who donate. Remember that you’re going to ask the music store to basically fund the processing [that 3-5%], but remind them that this fundraiser is going to be something they can use as social media fodder, and they can write off that percentage as well. Technically because they will be taking in all the funds for you then writing you a check they can write off ALL of the donations!
Step 2: Make a list of things that you need- from a single oboe reed to a new gong. Have the music store put a price by each one. Remember that less is more here- go for something like 5-8 items otherwise people will have too big of a decision to make.
Step 3: Tell everyone to go into that store and buy stuff. They can buy right off your registry or donate directly via the SKU/Inventory number the store created for this purpose. Designate a week that you’re going to work really hard to get as many donations this way as possible. Get your students to play outside of the store with their cases open and tell people that in addition to those tips they need to give to your band program. Just really go nuts getting people in there.
Step 4: Collect your donations- either in a check or items or both- and give the music store a huge ‘Thank You’ card signed by all of your band students.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
In case you aren’t already convinced that your fundraising efforts are far better spent on these two options, let me just give you this selling point:
YOUR STUDENTS DON’T HAVE TO SELL ANYTHING.
Just a couple words of caution: make sure that all of the collected money goes to the school or your parent organization or some other organization. Never ever ever take money in your hand unless it is a check written to the school. Doing so is a great way to get fired. Be legit, okay? Get the permission of the PTA/PTO/School/Foundation and use all of their account information.
Last thing, be sure to follow-up. Collect your money and give many thanks- not only to the organizers who help you get all of this set up but also to all of the donors. The more people feel they are appreciated the more those donations will appreciate.
Any way you go, never be afraid to collect money for your program. After all it’s not for you, it’s for the kids- for the growth of music in your school, for the betterment of these kiddos who get to be in your band. Put your ego aside and go for it- you have nothing to lose and everything to gain! ♫
Elisa Jones specializes in helping music educators build, grow, and manage thriving school music programs. With an MBA alongside her degree in music, she is also a coach and consultant to small businesses and nonprofits around the country. With a background in band, orchestra, and general music, she has been teaching for nearly 20 years and currently holds the prestigious position of elementary music teacher at a private K-8 Catholic School in Grand Junction, Colorado. She has been invited to be a presenter at the 2017 NAfME Conference in November. She is also the host of the Music Ed Mentor Podcast and currently serves as the conductor of her local community band. Follow her blog at ProfessionalMusicEducator.com where you can learn much more about finding funding for your program as well as watch video tutorials on how to start.
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