Moving from Events to Other Strategies

Dear Kim,

I am the Director of a small chamber orchestra. We are fully professional, but barely hanging on financially. We need to raise $5000 by December and another $8000 by April. We have tried a variety of dinners, dances, candy sales, tupperware parties, etc. However the only profit making venture has been the wine tasting dinner and auction, but even it did not bring in the money needed to perform our next concert. We are open to any suggestions to make our orchestra stay afloat for the remaining season.
—Great Social Life but No Cash

Dear Social Life,

Your problem is very simple: you are using the strategy of special events to raise money, when what special events are for is building community, raising visibility, bringing in new donors, and lastly, raising money. You need to be using a strategy whose first job is raising money. This strategy is personal solicitation. On our web site we have a number of articles from the Grassroots Fundraising Journal which will help you with this strategy. I’ll give you the Cliff Notes now. You have taken an important first step — knowing your goals and your timeline. Now, take the $5,000 and divide it into gifts of $1,000, $500, $250 and $100. Figure out who loves your chamber orchestra and attach a figure to their name. Ask a few people for $1000, more for $500, quite a few for $250 and everyone else for $100. Tell them you need it by Dec. 31. These should be people who know your work and think it is important. The first group of donors should be board members — they need to give whatever they can afford. Volunteers, parents of students who love what you do, audience members who come to all your performances, are all prospects. You ask them with a personal letter, and call or visit those people you think can give larger gifts.

A lot of people will say no, or will give less than what you ask for. The trick is to ask enough people so that you have $5000 at the end of your effort. Two to three people, working one to two hours a day, should be able to raise this $5,000 in a week or less, depending on how many bigger gifts you are able to get. The cost will be their time, postage and letterhead.