Let's do an exercise on your chorus's growth, meaning the increase in your chorus's total annual revenue from year to year.
Think about your revenue channels. Perhaps the most common are your donations, ticket sales, and member fees.
Now, think about the sources for those revenue channels - where do your donations, ticket sales, and member fees typically come from?
The answer is likely your members.
From my experience, if you really get down to the heart of every revenue-generating avenue for your chorus, all paths lead back to your members. Whether it's through them directly or through their social networks, that is where your growth potential lies.
Don't believe me? Read on!
You can’t create a sellable and valuable product without them.
Every company has a product that drives revenue for the organization, and choruses are no different. Creating a product with high value is a vital component for driving revenue for your chorus. If your product's quality and value aren’t great, you can’t expect people to buy from you.
Your chorus (the ensemble itself) is your sellable product. If you want to grow, you must make your product valuable to your patrons.
Musical quality, programming, and the ability to create meaningful audience experiences are all aspects of driving up value for your product. Your members greatly influence these factors; when singers invest in delivering high value, you can expect high returns.
If you want to keep the value of your product high (or indeed have a product at all!), look to your members.
Singers likely already make up a fixed percentage of your income.
If you’re looking for a reliable and steady source of income, look to your members.
In many choruses, members pay music dues, tuition, or music fees that make up a fixed percentage of your income annually. Every year, this is income you can count on.
Just how much income? To see how much impact your member dues have, take the total amount of income you receive in member dues and divide that number by your chorus’s total operating cost. What percentage are you left with? Without your member payments, you would somehow need to offset this piece of the pie with additional fundraising efforts.
Singers are more likely to volunteer.
Okay, I'll admit that I haven't done extensive research on this. But it seems to make sense that those who are the most invested in an organization are more willing to donate their time to that organization. Those who feel the most pride with an organization tend to give back. Having made time out of their busy schedules to attend weekly rehearsals, your members already show a pretty firm commitment and investment to the organization.
Many of them not only volunteer their time to sing but they also seem to make up a majority of volunteer positions and committees within the organization. And as we've said a million times over, volunteers are the lifeblood of your organization. Without your volunteers, your chorus wouldn't be able to manage its day-to-day operations or focus on growth opportunities such as marketing or fundraising campaigns. Therefore, volunteer time is an important revenue channel made up primarily by, you guessed it, members.
Singers are more likely to donate.
In the same vein, singers (and volunteers, for that matter) are more likely to donate financially to an organization in which they are already emotionally invested.
Looking at your existing donor pool, I'm willing to bet that it is made up, at least in part, by your singers. Without your singing donors, you would be left with yet another fundraising gap to fill.
Singers can help fundraise.
In addition to donating at an individual level, it's also possible that many of your singers have helped to bring in other donations to the chorus through other fundraising avenues.
Perhaps they asked their friends and family to donate in a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Perhaps they donated their time volunteering at your most recent fundraising campaign. Perhaps they invited their friends and family to your last fundraising event. Or perhaps they asked their friends and family to donate while attending a recent concert.
People don’t just invest in an organization for no reason. And nonprofit fundraising experts say that most donors donate simply because they were asked by someone they know. Using this logic, it only makes sense that singers can help increase your donor pool by using their own networks.
Singers recruit their friends.
While choruses serve many purposes, one benefit of being in a chorus is the social bonding and experiences that come along with it.
I’m sure many of you reading this have made friends while singing in a chorus and, likewise, many of you have probably also encouraged some of your friends to join the chorus.
As they say, birds of a feather flock together. Singers often know other singers. If your chorus is looking to recruit more singers, look to your members for help.
Singers sell tickets to friends and family.
When looking at ticket sales acquisition analysis, I have found that a chorus's ticket sales primarily come from three sources: the website (including advertising driving traffic to said website), email marketing, and members. For my chorus, members have consistently ranked #1 as our primary ticket sales source.
It's simple, really. Who wants to see your singers sing? The people who know them best. Who wants to show off their awesome chorus? Your singers.
So, when you need to sell more tickets, look to your members.
Singers can be used in marketing materials and branding.
When defining our brands, we typically talk a lot about the chorus history, reputation, and quality of music. But it's important to remember that the people in the organization help define your brand as well.
Whether you know it or not, your singers already define and impact your brand. You can use this to your advantage when marketing the chorus. Use your members to help you create content for your marketing channels, such as member highlights and member interviews. This can help you humanize your brand, making it more accessible and emotionally appealing to your patrons.
Your brand and marketing are obvious components of driving revenue and chorus growth. It is vital across all departments but particularly important with recruiting, fundraising, and ticket sales (all of which I've already mentioned as your three top sources of revenue).
So, here we are full circle. If you really look at the source of your revenue channels you'll see your members staring you in the face. When you want to grow the chorus, it's simple, really. Look to your members.
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.