Over 2018-2019, Quench Arts has trialled running fundraising gigs to benefit the Musical Connections project. This was something we hadn’t particularly explored previously but we felt that it was an exciting development, not only to raise funds for the project but also to provide performance opportunities for our project members and profile the project within the local community. Over the past year we have learnt a lot and this blog contains tips, advice and reflections.
This past year, we have really relied on finding venues willing to offer us space in kind or at a significantly reduced cost. This has been incredibly difficult as you are relying on the goodwill of other organisations to facilitate this. We were lucky to find a couple of venues on the condition that they took the takings from drinks and we owe huge thanks to Friction Arts for providing The Edge and to Thimblemill Library for hosting us. The benefits for both organisations were widening their profile and audience demographics whilst supporting a project that aligned with their values. Moving forwards, we feel it is much better to have some funding to cover venue hire so that you have more options plus you are supporting local organisations. Whilst it’s not impossible to find freebies/significant discounts, when you add into the mix the need to be totally accessible for our wheelchair users, it makes things even more difficult. In fact, for our final gig of 2019, we had to pay venue hire to secure a suitable space which did impact upon the amount of money we raised. Moving forwards we have decided to use the events space downstairs at the Afro-Caribbean Millennium Centre, where Quench Arts is based, for these fundraisers for a very token donation. The pros are that our members are confident in attending this venue and that our sound engineering and musical equipment is on site; the drawbacks are that it is slightly out of town and has a limited maximum capacity.
2. Selling food/soft drinks
We have found that selling food and drink at events can prove to be popular for punters but it’s not necessarily a way to raise money. At our fundraising gigs, we have sold samosas (bought in bulk from a local takeaway), cakes (bought in bulk from supermarkets) and cans of pop. Realistically, you are only adding a few pence to each item so you’re not making a fortune, especially considering how time consuming it is for staff to facilitate it!!! At our first gig of 2020, we ditched the snacks (as there is a café on site at our venue in Winson Green) and sold cans/cartons of soft drinks. This was much easier to manage and did raise more funds than the food side of things so, moving forwards, we will go with this route rather than dealing with foodstuff!
3. Having a profile local act to perform
One thing we were keen to include in our fundraising gigs was a set from a ‘guest artist’ to widen the promotional opportunities for the gigs, bring in a new audience and showcase local talent to our project members, increasing their aspirations. Again, we did not initially have a budget for this so we were reliant on musicians who ‘get’ what we do and want to support us and we were very lucky to have so many people agree to do so. We covered the performers travel, provided free refreshments, sold their merchandise and also bought a copy of their CD for the raffle in the hope that this covered some of their costs. Moving forwards to 2020, we feel its important to offer a fee for musicians performing for us so have committed to this in future gigs as we felt uncomfortable asking for ‘freebies’. We have 3 fundraising gigs scheduled for 2020 so hope to attract some great acts for the coming year.
4. Holding raffles
We had not run raffles before piloting these fundraising gigs and this seems to be a very popular way of raising a small amount of money. Having checked with the local council to see whether we needed a licence, we discovered that one was not needed (for guidelines, visit https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/for-the-public/Fundraising-and-promotions/Fundraising/Lotteries-at-events.aspx). We requested donations for prizes and supplemented these with some that we purchased specifically for the raffle. Again, selling tickets for 20p a go is never going to raise a fortune, but it’s popular and as long as we can cover costs and a bit extra, it’s worth doing! All you need is a book of raffle tickets from Poundland and a container to put the tickets in for the draw. In 2020, we will aim to try and get more donations from local companies for prizes to boost what we can offer and also reduce what we have to purchase as this does impact on the money we can raise. This year we were very fortunate to have tickets donated from the Birmingham Repertory Theatre to see a show of the winner’s choice. What a prize!
5. Don’t expect to raise a fortune
Despite all the hard work; the brilliant performances by project members and guests; a successful raffle; a busy night of selling snacks/drinks, etc, we suggest not to expect to be counting out hundreds of pounds when you empty the cash box! However, it’s not just about the money in community music, it’s about the whole experience and if your project members and audience go away happy, that means that they are likely to come again. And tell their friends. And maybe donate a prize for the next raffle. And follow you on social media. And so on…Anything we can do to profile the work we do to the local community and beyond is a bonus and we are looking forward to what the future holds for our fundraising endeavours.