One of the many fears that has come out of 2020 is the fear that donors won't be able to give as much to nonprofits as they would have in the past.
With the rise of unemployment, salary reductions, and such, nonprofits losing out on contributed revenue is certainly a warranted concern. However, it may not be as much of a concern as we had originally anticipated.
According to Fidelity Charitable's recent COVID-19 and Philanthropy survey, 54% of donors said they will give the same amount as they have in the past, while 25% actually said they would increase their donations, stating reasons like "the need is so great" and "I want to help out." Only 9% actually said they would donate less.
This seems to suggest that donor intent to give may actually be going up, even if employment is going down. So, I suppose it shouldn't come as too much of a shock that choruses have been able to successfully implement fundraisers, albeit virtually.
One such case is the Phoenix Boys Choir's recent fundraising event, "Sing On September! A Virtual Community Fundraising Happy Hour," which raked in nearly $50K in just a couple of short weeks.
I caught up with the Executive Director of the choir, Mitra Khazai, to learn more.
"The core idea was to create an event that was fun and inspiring. The theme 'Sing On' has been our mantra since the day we had to close in-person and pivot to virtual rehearsals back in March," said Khazai. "We thought a happy hour would be fun, something people needed at the end of each week, and that we could provide some entertainment with it."
The event was held on September 26th, 2020 virtually on Zoom. It began with a 30-minute pre-show which consisted of a "camera-ready makeup tutorial" and a cocktail hour in which a parent shared cocktail recipes inspired by the choir's upcoming 2021 touring destination, Costa Rica. This was followed by the main hour-long event which featured testimonials and individual musical performances from both active singers and alumni as well as a compiled virtual choir video from the boys choir itself, singing "Sing On!"
The fundraising concept was simple, yet effective.
The staff created a list of sponsorship opportunities on their event webpage and solicited sponsorships for the event. They set up a text-to-give campaign via DoJiggy which they promoted to their video viewers via social media and emails. The theme for soliciting donations was "fund a need" in which they listed funding level categories and described how each level would fund a particular need in the chorus, such as covering the cost of a singer's tuition, touring cost, music, or similar.
Their original fundraising goal was $25,000 which they exceeded through sponsorships alone a week prior to the event. On the day of the event, they increased their goal to $40,000. To date, they've raised $46,486 and counting!
I asked Khazai to compare this fundraiser to past in-person, live fundraising events. She said, "In the past, our two big fundraisers were a gala event in the fall and an event in the spring which is hosted at a donor's home. The last gala event brought in around $76,000 but the expenses were around $33,000. The event is expensive, but a great deal of fun and includes a plated meal at a hotel, the boys sing and we dance, etc." So while the event comparison isn't quite the same in terms of the value it provides participants, the net growth in revenue was still higher for the virtual event given that the expenses for that event were only $1,000.
Another benefit of the virtual event was that it allowed the organization to open up giving opportunities to more donors. Khazai elaborated, "People seemed more engaged. We had more donors than we would have had at our gala event. The tickets are more expensive for the gala event and not everyone wants to do that, so we saw a broader range of giving."
It was also a great community-building opportunity in which the organization was able to re-engage their alumni as well.
I asked Khazai for advice for her fellow colleagues. She had this to say, "Know your audience. There is an assumption that people will give but not show up. I think you will be surprised. We didn’t have any bleed during the event, meaning we had people show up and stay until the very end. If you have good quality content, people will stay and watch."
"And also, be ready for anything to happen and believe you will be able to find a solution," she continued. "About 24 hours before the event, our host started experiencing symptoms of COVID and would have been live [on the air]. So we had to find a new host in time for the live event. Knowing that things will fall apart will help you get through those moments with a smiling face!"
Additional Fundraising Resources:
- Transforming Your Chorus's Live Fundraising Event into a Virtual One
- Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Choruses: Host a Non-Event
- Restructuring Revenue Models: 40+ Potential New Sources of Income for Community Choruses
Tori Cook is the former Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection. She sings with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and is a board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro Musica in Boston. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.