How does your community orchestra raise money?
Hi all, I'm currently brainstorming for ideas on how to raise funds for our community orchestra.
Currently, we have corporate matching programs, ticket sales, and membership fees to cover our operating expenses (rent, conductor, score rental). But sometimes, these do not cover them all.
How does your community orchestra raise money to pay for operating expenses and specific projects? Bake sales? Gigs?
Context: Major city in the US. Amateur orchestra with >10 years history.
We don't do ticket sales. We take donations, we charge membership fees, and we do the Amazon Smile match. We also do some stuff where the orchestra gets paid (mostly backing a chorus). And we apply for grants.
No ticket sales? Wow. That's great! Would you say most of your funding come from donations or grants?
Off the top of my head, I think the grants are the bulk of our budget, and a lot of grants are contingent on community outreach. It takes time to build up grants over many years, as you generally start with a small grant, demonstrate success, and then apply for a bigger grant, etc.
I can speak of three orchestras (two of which I currently play in, one of which I formerly played in), all in a mid-size US metro area.
Here are the details relating to my 2 orchestras in London, UK.
For 33 years (1963 - 1995) I was associated with a community orchestra that was incorporated as a 501C3 not-for-profit corporation so donations were tax free. I served on the board twice, the last time as president. We were linked to the local United Way organization which was another source of funds.
I think, to raise maney for orchestra is very close to raise money for the dancing semi- proffesional club.
For those of you with corporate sponsorships (more than just advertising in the program, which is another source of my orchestra's funds): What process did you go through to get them?
Ticket sales, a yearly banquet for supporters, and sponsorship. We have a concept where, when we perform various pieces at a concert, people can sponsor the score of a particular piece they like.
For those who get grants and donations, how many have community outreach? How big are your regular audience sizes?
Carl - I'd forgotten all about writing that.
My current orchestra gets an audience that's essentially big enough to fill the church we perform our concerts in, which is close enough to the size of your audience (Carl's) for comparison purposes. However, when we play choral concerts, we play in a bigger church with a significantly larger audience (no doubt because everyone in the chorus pulls family/friends in).
When my local orchestra got a gramt from te local council we used to do an annual childrens', ages 5-11, concert at their request. An hour long affair with no interval and free entry. I belive the council arranged the use of a venue, usually a church, free of charge for this purpose.
I am not involved in orchestra management in either of my orchestras, so I don't know exactly how the semi-pro orchestra gets sponsorships. It's the oldest orchestra in the area, which I assume helps somewhat, though being all amateur prior to 2009 means its profile was lower for most of its existence. I get the impression that some sponsorships come from orchestra members being part of the company, in a few cases corporate executives. Perhaps some other corporate sponsorships come from one of our annual events, which is a dinner concert at a private club whose membership includes most of the area's movers and shakers. The orchestra gets paid a little, but the real value is in the donations the event drums up each year, which are far larger than the fee the club pays.
I've been in several community orchestras over the years and served on their boards. Generally, money came from dues, ticket sales, and member donations. One orchestra rehearsed in a church, which they allowed us to do for free as long as we played a couple of times a year during their Sunday service. Another was paid to do a Christmas concert once a year with a church choir. All were supported by corporate donations and grants. One orchestra had been amassing a huge HUGE music library over 30+ years, so they almost never paid for music, which if you've ever rented music, can get really expensive. That group also had a couple of standing quartets that would play events and donate the fee to the orchestra. We tried fundraising events, but frankly, those are really time consuming to plan and never made as much money as we'd hoped by the time the expenses are taken out. Another orchestra held a composition contest- nominal entry fee, the winner gets some of the entry money and their piece is premiered by the orchestra (that was after I'd moved, so I don't know how that came off financially). I always wanted to try a pay what you want for your ticket, in the hopes that people would be willing to pay more than our standard price, but that would be a huge risk!
Re: grants and attendance...
Kroger cards. And once in a while some kind-hearted and well-heeled donor will plunk down a chunk of cash.
Andrew: ... It's the oldest orchestra in the area, which I assume helps somewhat, though being all amateur prior to 2009 means its profile was lower for most of its existence.
For orchestras that have membership fees/dues, how much do you pay?
Carl, I meant that we take donations but normally they are quite small, but once in a while a significant donation is made that boosts the organization for a while, allows us to buy music, etc.
Ours have to pay $100 a season.
In my community orchestra half the members could not afford that.
An intermission with a wine table and some petits fours *right behind* a table with an iPad, a square and huge sign that says "Donations" is the gift that keeps giving.
I'm unfortunately not familiar with all the details of how the transition happened. I joined the orchestra in 2011, and only moved to the area in 2010. All of what I know about the transition is secondhand. I believe there was a large bequest to the orchestra around that time. There was also an increase in community engagement, though I'm not sure if that happened before or after.
Re: membership dues, my mid-level orchestra charges by the semester (half-season). $40 per semester. Dues are waived for people in their first semester with the orchestra, as well as for full-time students.
I forgot to add, indeed we also sell drinks (no snacks Paul!) during intermission at our concerts. We attract around 200 people per concert, and we give 4 concerts per year. (Only two programs: 2 December concerts, and 2 Spring concerts).
I'm with Julie and Jean. Snacks and wine are just fine if you sell them! We used to call that a canteen.
Julie, do you find that you get significantly more/bigger donations with the iPad-with-Square (i.e. when you can take credit cards) than you do with just leaving out a bucket for cash?
One orchestra I recently played in would provide chamber groups (trio, quartet) for a fee for civic events or fundraisers. The musicians were paid a stipend (union rate) for this and the orchestra pocketed a fee.
A bit embarrassing to say, but our audience is usually the exact same audience at every concert--- family and friends of orchestra members. They have supported their loved one/s for a very long time. That being said, I feel a bit guilty "milking" the same cow over and over for our donation drives, silent auctions, ticket sales, etc.
A moderate chunk of our audience is family members. Then there are people's friends (not always the same ones), but also quite a number of people from the community. Our audience is pretty diverse (the surrounding community is not wealthy, either, so free concerts are a true boon).
I felt the same kind of guilt when I played in Orchestra #3, especially because two of the four concert programs each year (the holiday concert in December and the patriotic concert in June) tended to be about 75% the same stuff from one year to the next, and there were only 10-15 people at any given concert who were
Carl: Orchestra #2 used to be called the Insurance Orchestra and membership was limited to people who worked in the insurance industry. Now it is a traditional adult amateur orchestra under a different name. The chairman is a chartered insurer and plays in the orchestra so he sorts out sponsorship. In the most recent concert I counted 14 sponsors in the programme. I would hazard a guess that they pay a few hundred pounds to get a listing but I don't have access to this information. We also have friends of the orchestra who will give a small financial contribution for this. I don't know if these friends are mostly people who work in the insurance industry or not.
Yes, we took in significantly more taking credit cards because nobody really carries cash anymore. We had a donation table at all concerts, but we only did a hard ask and made people walk past the table at our holiday concert, which had the largest audience of our 4 concerts.
Thanks. I have to say that this is a wonderfully useful thread!
I agree, Lydia! Thank you everyone for all the ideas. It's my first time to be in a community orchestra board, so much of this information is new to me.
I think what Elise describes is pretty common -- the orchestra serves as a contractor for event entertainment. The players need to respect that arrangement and avoid the unethical practice of giving out their own business cards or contact info while playing under contract. Event guests who inquire with the musicians need to be told, "Contact the orchestra if you want to hire us." As a practical matter, though, it's very hard to keep the orchestra in the loop if there are only one or two go-to groups that do all the gigs. Some orchestras (including ours) don't bother skimming the contracting fee -- they're just happy their players are getting a little extra business.
Indeed. My two current orchestras approach chamber music gigs differently.
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