Fundraising 101: The Budget and the Ask

shelba waldronFinancing the Marching Arts, Marching Band, Uncategorized


Image result for pic of a band member flute

Fundraising. It is the essential and most crucial task of all band booster programs and the better the boosters are with the tedium of fundraising, the better chances the band has at being successful. With this, we know that bands that seem to have unlimited resources aren’t always competitively successful and bands that are limited in their resources can be extremely successful if the band leadership is smart in their programming and staffing. Still, the more resources a band program has the better chance they have at success. Simply put, the more money you have to spend, the higher chance you have at hiring the an instructional staff with the skills necessary for competitive success. Booster organizations exist to ensure the continuation of the activity they support. With this, they are tasked with raising funds. It’s tedious, exhausting, and sometimes contentious. The boosters are the watchdog of the money and it is their job to ensure that budgets are adhered to and waste is minimized. It is also their responsibility to create a fair and equitable system of participation so those that have are not dominating those that don’t have. In other words, marching band in a public school should be for all students and without the proper fundraising structure, not all students will be able to participate. This is not saying that children should perform for free, but saying that creating a structure that allows for all children to have a chance at participation regardless of their family’s means, allows for the intent of why extra-curricular activities exist in the first place. Extra-curricular activities such as marching band give give youth a place where they belong and can learn life lessons such as discipline, hard work, and respect and this is a universal need for all youth.

So let’s look at it. Let’s look at the process of fundraising and how your booster organization can help build a sustainable music program that will be in existence long after your children have graduated. In this article, we will discuss the the budget and the ask.

The first thing the booster organization board of directors should do is to start the “budgeting season” with a three step process that includes communication and goal setting.

1) Meet with the band director and key staff members so they have an opportunity to discuss their needs, the competitive direction of the coming season, and the money needed to achieve those goals. Ask questions.

  • Are the goals achievable?
  • Will the goals increase the dues payments for the families involved and if so, will it knock families out of the program?
  • Is there a three year strategic plan in place and if so, does the budget mirror the goals set forth in the strategic plan?
  • Is there enough parent support to reach the proposed budget?
  • Are there any categories in the budget that show a significant increase or decrease?

2) Meet with the executive board and devise a plan. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. This can’t be done in the monthly band booster meeting. This will take time and a day dedicated for the discussion of raising funds. Make decisions. Vote.

3) Make your intentions known. Once decisions are made, ask to meet once again with the band director and key staff and explain the decisions of the board and any concerns they have. The more communication that exists between the entity that is raising the money with the entity spending the money, the more successful the program will be and the more trusting all stakeholders will become.

Next…Raising the funds by asking the local community.

There are many successful fundraising models out there, but the programs that are best at it are the ones that individualize raising of the funds to the community it exists in. You can not use a model of fundraising for a Title One school that is used at a school of affluence. The community isn’t the same and it’s the community you have to sell your story to. So let’s start there. Telling your story.

  • How does the band program serve the community?
  • How does the band program benefit the youth of the community?
  • What are the general statistics? (overall g.p.a., number of kids served, demographics, etc.)
  • What do the kids learn that will benefit the community while they are in the marching band?
  • Where will the money be going?
  • What is the past success of the music program? (How many trophies and news articles can you brag about?)

Knowing this information and having those that are raising funds speak confidently on the benefits will go a long way in getting the local dry cleaner to write a $500 check. Here’s an example.

“Good morning Mr. Local Business Owner. My name is Shelba Waldron and I’m here as a representative of the Kennedy High School Marching Band. I’m Brad’s mom. My son Brad is a trumpet player and is in his third year with the band. He has grown so much as an individual, because of the band. He has learned discipline, respect for authority, and spends three afternoons a week, plus Saturday’s practicing with the band. This keeps him off the streets and out of trouble. We are raising funds for their competition season, which will bring trophies and regional praise into this community. As you are probably aware, Kennedy High School is a Title One school and not all of the students we serve can afford the costs of the band, but we believe it serves the community best when students are participating in activities and not left to their own devices. Would you be willing to make a $500 donation to offset out of county travel expenses for our students?”

In this example, the benefits and needs were stressed. The interaction was personal to the community the owner runs their business in and money for a specific line item was mentioned. Keep in mind that the more you can bring the story to life and how the band benefits the community, the more success you will have at raising financial donations. Here are some more:

  • Is your school a Title One school? Use it. Title One schools serve kids who live very close to the poverty line. Your music program could be their savior. It could be what keeps kids in school and everyone knows that the longer a kid stays in school the less they are to participate in drugs, crime, and become teen parents. Tell the story of these students.
  • Is your program helping the obesity epidemic? I bet it is. How much exercise do the kids in your program get? Is the band the only exercise some of the kids get? Get pedometers on the kids and find out exactly how many steps are being walked and how many calories are being burned during a single rehearsal. The band is helping build lifelong exercise habits. That’s a selling point.
  • Here’s one that I never hear. “We teach young girls self esteem, self confidence, and responsibility through pageantry.” Think about it. Young women are the primary recipient of the color guard activities.  What if your story included how you are specifically reaching out to young women and what if because of color guard, your program was saving them from a lifetime of crappy jobs and male to female abuse? Is it possible? It’s absolutely possible if self confidence is part of the program. Approach female led companies with this one.
  • How about this one? “The school board has cut funding for music activities by 70% in the last three years. We don’t have the ability to maintain the upkeep of our instruments? Without music, children lose interest in school and graduation rates go down. Would you be willing to donate $350 for the cost of the repairs of one trumpet?”
  • “I am here from the Kennedy High School Marching Band and we are hosting a silent auction and music concert on March 3rd, to raise funds for new band uniforms so in the upcoming season our kids can represent the community with pride. Would you be willing to donate a $100 gift card for dry cleaning services? We have 125 families who live within 8 miles of your business and we’ll be happy to offer you free advertising in our parent Facebook group, our monthly newsletter, and at all concerts.”

There are so many ways to do this…start exploring the possibilities! 

Give your donors a reason why their money will benefit the greater good. To raise money with success, the program must have everyone speaking the language of the community. How will it help? Who will benefit? What gap is your organization filling? Additionally, don’t forget to ask for in-kind donations, especially with a business that might be hesitant to give money. Bands often need bottled water, Gatorade, dry cleaning for uniforms, fabric, truck rental, food for full day practices, etc. Some band programs require all the kids to have notebooks, sunscreen, hats, and lanyards. Those items can often be donated by a local business saving your parents money on nickle and dime items, but also offering uniformity to the band.

And remember…

For every donation, there should immediately accompany a thank you note by the band booster president and band director. Then create your donor spreadsheet, because someone who has donated once is likely to donate again. Send pictures of the kids at a competition and be sure to brag on the accomplishments and how the donation helped.

In the next article on Fundraising 101, I’ll discuss fundraising by creating parent buy-in and building parental engagement.

Shelba is a coaching and program consultant for youth programs and a youth development expert. She is also the author of the book, “Dear Band Director Your Guild to Understanding the Color Guard.” To contact her please email her at [email protected] or visit the services page at