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Thomas J. West Music

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Fundraising For Non-Profit And Scholastic Organizations Using Social Media

Posted on May 22, 2011 at 3:18 PM

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I always find it interesting when different corners of my life all seem to have a confluence around a particular topic at the same time. Recently, many music education and non-profit organizations I'm involved with are entrenched in fund-raising campaigns or in rallying supporters to avoid elimination due to budget cuts. Currently, the following organizations are involved in monetary maneuvers of this sort:

  • iSchoolMusic is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to make their learning managment system for school performing ensembles completely free to use for anyone.
  • The A Cappella Project - Philadelphia, a non-profit promoting contemporary a cappella singing in the greater Philadelphia area, is expanding its educational programming and plans to bring in top-notch contemporary a cappella performers, producers, and educators.
  • About a dozen music education-related organizations are currently competing for a shot at a $500,000 grant through the Facebook Chase Community Giving campaign.
  • The battle for funding public education continues in Pennsylvania, with many music education programs facing cutbacks. I have been covering these stories under my editorial category on my blog. It has taken grass-roots movements by constituents in the school districts in question to save music programs.

As I watch these organizations using social media to promote their cause and garner support, I find that I am learning quite a lot about what is working and what is falling flat. Here are some of my observations:

Know your supporters: In all of the above cases, organizations with supporters who are emotionally invested in the organization are experiencing more success in getting their followers to spread the word, make a donation, and take action. This graphic Beth Kanter shows the level of engagement for Twitter users in terms of supporting a cause.

This is obvious when one sees the rankings of the various music organizations in the Chase Community Giving race. Five drum and bugle corps organizations are currently in the top 20, determined by the number of votes they have received. Music for All and MENC, however. are distant competitors at 34 and 37 respectively. Why? Part of the reason is that the drum corps have very loyal supporters, most of which are alumni of the corps. The lead organization, Youth Education in the Arts, has a huge following because they sponsor not only The Cadets drum and bugle corps, but also the entire United States Scholastic Band association, composed of hundreds of member bands. There are a few more reasons for their success to this point that I will get into in a moment.

Pre-Campaigning: When round one of the Chase Community Giving ended, all of the aforementioned organizations were awarded $25,000. I am not a part of all of the support networks for all of those organizations, but I am involved specifically in the support networks for both YEA and MENC. Practically the next day after claiming first place, YEA was already getting their ducks in a row to make a run for the $500K. They began pre-selling their followers on supporting the cause, and honestly their "big idea" for the grant is a pretty fantastic idea. Network and cable television are masters of the pre-sell. Disney campaigns their new children's programming a month in advance, so that by the time the show premieres, kids already know the music, the character's names, and so on. Comedy Central pre-sells their celebrity roasts about a month in advance as well. Why? Beacause it works!

Build an Opt-in Support Group on Facebook: One of the things that YEA is doing that is also extremely effective is that they pre-campained by getting loyalists to join two Facebook groups for each of their major support networks: The Cadets Chase $500K and USSBA Chases $550K. Supporters who opt-in are getting regular updates on the campaign along with exclusive content unavailable anywhere else, included protected YouTube videos of The Cadets from spring training. The sheer size and reach of Facebook makes it the most effective place to gather any group for any reason.

Offer Supporters Exclusives: One of the great things about Kickstarter is that built into each fundraising campaign are incentives for people to contribute funds. For this Chase campaign, the supporter commitment is minimal - log in, find their group, click to vote, done. When it comes to contributing money, however, most of us in middle America balk because we get hit up all the time. Offering incentives works, especially if you give something of value to the supporters that costs your organization time and talent without expense, like a digital download of a song or something similar. Make the donors feel special, privelidged. Put their name on something.

I will be interested to see how "the Chase" pans out. If you have any other great ideas about how to fundraise via social media, contact me and share your brilliance.

This article (c) 2011 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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