“if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”
Fundraising for a school band takes time, patience, and vision. It’s hard work. Do it well and effectively from the start. Know what your band needs. Figure out how to track donations. Seek out potential donors. Ask for their help in a way that will get the most positive response. Collect the pledged donations. Send out tax receipts. Spend the funds on band equipment/travel/fees.
That’s a lot of different skills: Project Management, Accounting, Marketing, and Bookkeeping.
Step 1: Fundraiser Goal
The first step in any fundraising campaign is figuring out how much money the band needs. Here are the most common expenses bands face:
Band Fundraiser Need: Instruments
Many bands, especially those supporting lower-income students, supply their musicians with instruments.
The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) offers statistics about the impact of music education:
- In schools in which principals and vice principals say the quality of their music education programs is excellent or very good, graduation rates are 90.9%, and attendance is at 93.8%.
- 87% of teachers and 79% of parents strongly believe music education has a positive impact on overall academic performance
Because of the positive impact of music, many organizations provide instruments to all or some of their participants. Renting is cheaper in the short-term, but more expensive over time.
The band organizers must decide if they will rent instruments or purchase them outright. A school or social band also might require students to get their own instruments, but this definitely limits who can participate in the band program, putting it out of reach for lower-income families, depriving them of the benefit of band participation, and increasing inequalities.
Renting even used instruments starts at roughly $20/month for the least expensive (close-holed flute or plastic clarinet), up to $65/month for a French horn. Insurance typically adds to the cost. Of course, purchasing a used instrument starts at $540 for a flute but more frequently is over $1000. New instruments will typically last long, but they’re even more expensive ($720 for a new plastic clarinet and $3600 for a Double French Horn). (Pricing sampled from the National Educational Music Company and Taylor Music Inc.)
Band Fundraiser Need: Instrument Upkeep / Repair
Of course, even a new instrument will eventually need maintenance. Instrument upkeep and repair for a brass instrument is $70-$4,000. Don’t overlook this significant expense. (Costs sampled from Hickey’s Music Center.) Instruments vary in the frequency of cleaning needs. For instance, a professional-level cleaning for a trumpet is recommended annually (Clean My Instrument website).
Band Fundraiser Need: Uniforms
Band uniforms are expensive. Traditional, standard outfits cost roughly $400 (Pricing from McCormick’s). The expense of unique, custom-made outfits can be double or triple the cost of an in-stock outfit.
Band Fundraiser Need: Music Royalties
Bands needing to keep costs as low as possible will use either public-domain band music compositions (limited) or something they compose (requires a great deal of talent and time). Those holding paid concerts, touring, or providing background music in school buildings need to pay royalties due to copyright. The rules for exemptions are complex. The National Association for Music Education describes what does/doesn’t need payment and even offers a copyright checklist for music educators.
Band Fundraiser Need: Competition Fees
Hard work and exemplary skill can earn a band an invitation to a regional or national championship. These have entry fees that should be factored into a school band’s fundraising budget. Sampling several competitions showed a low of $400 for a regional championship to $975 for a Grand National Championship. Costs vary based on location, high school or middle school classification, and the level of competition.
Band Fundraiser Need: Travel Expenses
Competition, especially at the national level, almost always involves travel expenses. It’s such a standard part of the competition experience that there are companies, such as Music Travel Consultants, that specialize in band travel planning.
Even at a local / regional level, costs often include a bus rental for the kids and music directors.
Don’t forget that it’s not just the people that need to make it to the event. Instruments, props, and other gear may require a truck rental for transport.
Band Fundraiser Need: Props, Scenery, & Staging
Of particular importance to competition-level bands, great visual accessories are important. Student-created props are great for student-involvement for informal or local events. They usually don’t rise to the level of polish and professionalism demanded by championship events. These need to be visually striking. Here are some pictures of one company’s marching band custom props (A.M. Designs). This can be a significant part of any school band’s budget.
Step 2: Be Practical, Dream Big
Since you now have a full list of expenses, decide on what’s the bare minimum your band needs. Set that as your fundraising goal. But be ready. If your fundraiser exceeds expectations (as we’ve often found with band fundraisers using Snap! Raise), what are you going to do with the extra funds? Be ready with an answer. And, if your band fundraiser is wildly successful, what would it enable the band to do?
Step 3: Fundraiser Frequency
How often you ask for funds impacts your results. Parents suffer from “fundraising burnout.” An article by CBS News warns:
Many parents dislike hitting up their friends and family for General Mills box tops or Campbell Soup labels, or to buy products such as cookie dough, coupon books or wrapping paper. "Fundraising as it exists in many schools today  takes way too much work,” according to Causera.
That article was written in 2014. The Coronavirus crisis dramatically impacted school band activities and participation. Now, more schools are returning to in-person or hybrid learning, reigniting enthusiasm for group activities like band. School budgets are tight, yet expenses usually have increased, requiring more fundraising for extracurricular activities. Goals get higher.
Smart band fundraising takes into account the many financial and fundraising demands on parents and kids, run fewer fundraisers, but make them more meaningful and important.
Step 4: Pick a Band Fundraising Method
Are you going to have the band members go door-to-door selling cookie dough? There are many pros and cons to each option. See our blog article on Band Fundraising Ideas.