This is an important blog post, and I'm sure it's one that will end up becoming referenced repeatedly and shared over time...
To this point, I've spoken with literally HUNDREDS of arts directors on the topics of band fundraising, booster support, and the financial requirements to put programs on the field or on stage. I can count on just one hand the references to "resistance from our school board/administration" as a reason to pass on crowdfunding as a form of ensemble or band fundraising.
But I also realize that there may be more situations out there that haven't been talked about than what my data suggests, so I felt it would be appropriate to provide some information on tactics that ensemble, band directors and band boosters can use.
I am aiming to format this post in the form of (a) outlining a potential roadblock, (b) suggesting the reasons and risks behind that roadblock, and finally (c) rebuttles to move your leadership beyond those barriers (and of course, how our system at FansRaise protects you and the program).
ROADBLOCK - "Our board won't go for this..."
REASONS - There might be several, but one of the most likely would be any one of the following:
- Another org or sports activity within the district tried some sort of online fundraising and it caused a problem
- Anything having to do with "online" scares folks easily and they would rather pursue more conventional means
- Anything having to do with using names and online likenesses of students is "verboten" (forbidden)
- Some of the members of our Board do not like the implication that they do not provide adequate financial backing (or in other words, "ALL OF THE ABOVE")
- It's too much time or hassle to understand
REBUTTLES - It's probably easiest to address each of the above individually...
Another org or sports activity within the district tried some sort of online fundraising and it caused a problem
This isn't so much a reason as it is a situational story as to why something happened in the past. It probably involves individuals, competing agendas, or some sort of misplaced expectations. Looking back at my own teaching career, I can remember a time when well-meaning parents took matters into their own hands and ended up causing more problems than solutions. While it was motivated out of something positive, for the district-employed educator it can cause career problems of a varying severity.
The next 2 bullets I'll handle together:
Anything having to do with "online" scares folks easily and they would rather pursue more conventional means
Anything having to do with using names and online likenesses of students is "verboten" (forbidden)
In today's day and age, there can be some frightening horror stories around kids and their use of online resources. The reality is that the use of online resources is a part of just about every classroom that kids will walk into, and that there can be and should be protections in place to prevent the worst from happening.
I think most organizations have adopted a negative view towards sending kids door to door to sell products for fundraising (for good reason). Among the other risks are the security of cash/advance payments, and product advances ("Here's 5 crates of candy to sell...")
Additionally, members of you board and administration may have developed an assumption for what they THINK might happen in the context of your online fundraiser. Will images be used and have the necessary waivers been signed? Most activities do post images online and via social media, but with parental consent. Students that are of-an-age to use social media like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram are generally adept and familiar with what is acceptable.
(Note - FansRaise provides some protection in this area. We comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in the sense that ourplatform is not designed or targeted for kids under the age of 13. In situations when we work with Middle School programs we are typically working with the students AND parents. Also the FansRaise system sets up a universal campaign page that is templated across all of the student profiles. When shared on social media the page is "versioned" for the student, which is much safer.)
Some of the members of our Board do not like the implication that they do not provide adequate financial backing
This is tricky, and likely to be hidden in the back-of-the-mind of one or more of your school board members.
Any school administrator or school board member, along with building principals and athletic/activity directors - are placed into a very exposed and precarious position. I certainly do not envy them, or the heavy burden of leadership that falls on their shoulders.
One of the things that any leader in this position fears, is the public perception that might be created if there were to be an appearance of a "lack of support". In some sense, board members cannot win, as whatever resources they give to one organization, they must "take" from another.
It's too much time or hassle to understand
It's unfortunate, but in some cases it might just be easier for a board member to say "NO", rather than to really examine and unpack a new idea or concept.
I'm not certain I have a ready pat answer for this one point, aside from that if you are commited to the idea of crowdfunding as a fundraising tool (and I think you should), you're probably going to need to invest some time in winning hearts and minds from those involved int he decision-making process.
If you meet with any kind of resistance from your leadership, we have these suggestions:
- Take the time to formulate a well-planned proposal, and proactively address where the barriers may be. For instance, if your board is very risk-averse to online solicitation, break down exactly how the campaign works. (Example - within FansRaise, our system is built primarily upon a measured email marketing campaign to captive lists that your students and families build themselves. It isn't some sort of SPAM-factory that will email blast strangers and make the district look poor.)
- If "something" happened involving another activity or sports team, research what specifically went down. It's possible that it happened a few years ago and most of your board seats have turned over. It's possible in most cases to revisit the policy. Time changes public opinion in many cases and you may be surprised that what was a huge deal 4 years ago may not be much of an issue today.
- If there is a way to co-present your fundraising plan WITH your parent boosters, that is always the ideal. Administrators generally react more favorably to a joint approach rather than an initiative from just the director OR the boosters.
- This is vital - It's one thing to just "present crowdfunding", but it's pointless to present WITHOUT a goal - and even more - that goal must resonate with the leadership of your district without alienating anyone. Choose your campaign theme/goal carefully. Just asking for money for a general and undefined purpose might lead someone to think "Gee, they must not get a lot of help from the school district." Right or wrong, that perception becomes the reality, and it likely to ruffle some board member feathers. If you've received funding for instruments and equipment, it's then logical to ask for a better equipment truck or trailer to protect that investment. Or, if positioned strategically enough, any request becomes feasible on the heels of a large board investment, as the campaign "takes the pressure off the board and also allows the program to grow". An uptick in membership is a great time to make a push for new uniforms and more equipment, too.