I ran across this article from the Andrea Brody Design Network.  In it, Andrea says that she attended a Webinar titled “Plan a Successful Fundraising Event” given by Caryn Stein, Director of Content Strategy at Network for Good, and shared the 5 key elements of the invitation to the event: http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=9b08eb7953b6377ae869d0710&id=1ebc51edb0

I share it here since every November for the past 10 years, my wife and I have hosted our annual wine event to benefit the Norwin Play It Forward Fund, Inc.  It’s a 501(c)3 we started in December of 2009 to help subsidize private music lessons and summer music camp experiences with preference given for those families with financial need for students in grades 5-12 in the Norwin Area School District in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  For the past decade, school districts have been cutting back on those “additional” activity programs in favor of a common core curriculum that may have the unintended consequence of inhibiting those students who are extremely gifted, so we felt it was important to support the band program for several reasons:

– Band teaches discipline, teamwork and responsibility, as well as a commitment to excellence in performance.  The Norwin Band is nationally known in competitive band circles, winning the Grand National Championship in 1982, and most recently, competing in the Grand National Championship in 2011 and making the semi-final round.  It is one of a handful of bands in the state of Pennsylvania that have competed and have captured first place in regional championship competitions, and in November 2015, won the USBands’ National Championship competition held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, sponsored by Youth Education in the Arts..  This focus on being one’s best possible self transfers over to the classroom, and encourages the mindset that there are, indeed, “winners,” as excellence in execution is rewarded.  Championship performances are recognized at the highest level, internalizing the drive to improve.

– Recent brain research shows music programs in general develop both the left and right sides of the brain, fostering creativity in the right side, while exercising the rudiments of timing, meter and structure in the left.  Because both sides of the brain are engaged, improvements have been observed in typical school subject areas, and complex problems are solved more readily.

– Participants in high school band programs develop friendships that can last a lifetime because of the shared love of music, and the activity’s positive effect on the individual.  Students are also elected to leadership responsibilities to prepare them for real-world leadership opportunities.

– Students that benefit from the Norwin Play It Forward Fund are expected to give back to the fund when they are able to, either by helping to fund the program from their treasure, or by offering their time and talent to teach younger members of the band program, either for low or no cost.  In this way, students realize their gift of music is a gift that needs to be nurtured in others, and learn stewardship by practicing it.

– Students that participate in a music program, have fun doing so, and are rewarded for superior attainment, are more likely to accept a failure and work to improve rather than just give up as many students do when they find classwork too difficult, falling short of successfully attaining a desired level of achievement.

The program has enjoyed some great successes over the past decade, and while the stock market shows some great gains over that period of time, that doesn’t equate to making it easier for moms and dads to get by when trying to raise a family.  And just when we think things can’t get any worse, in comes a pandemic that shuts everything down.  Needless to say, our event has been cancelled for this year – just as the events your school has relied on to generate necessary funds for your school has been altered.  Perhaps those five tips mentioned in the article can therefore be used to plan for events in the future, since this time has given many organizations the ability to “think differently” about not only what practices they have in place, but how they can be improved upon as we move forward – possibly even into more uncertainty.

If music programs in a school district near you are suffering cutbacks, you can see how sadly ironic it is to cut music, art and other activities when the intent of the new core curriculum is to improve performance.  In reality, it’s geared to improve performance to those students whose testing scores are low, while potentially stifling high-achievers, and all-but eliminating a customized curriculum where a student could take graded level course work that’s different from other levels of course work corresponding to the student’s current grade level through the magic of technology.  Therefore, if we REALLY want to improve academic performance, then require every student learn to play a musical instrument.

As for the effectiveness of a fundraising event invitation, item #5 in the article says to “Use a Print and Online Strategy.”  When we first adopted that approach in 2014, we sent a “Save the Date” announcement to our email list, and then an email with the invitation artwork while we were waiting for the invitations to be printed and delivered.  Ironically, the event was nearly sold out before those printed invitations were stuffed, addressed, stamped and mailed.  This year, we decided to forego the “Save the Date” announcement, and created a section on the Web site which said “Stay Tuned for More Information.”  We created postcards to announce the event cancellation, and then posted the artwork and announcement on the organization’s Web site.  Even in 2020, a Print and Online strategy still works, especially if members of your constituencies enjoy writing checks to support the organizations that are important to them.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2012-2020