Fundraising case study: Harmony Sinfonia school workshops

Anna Jenkinson of member group Harmony Sinfonia explains how they raised over £1,000 for a series of primary school music workshops through crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

Background

At the start of 2015 I had just moved back to England after living overseas for almost two decades – it seemed an opportune moment for a new project, ideally one where I could use my skills and experience to make a positive impact on others’ lives.

My first line of enquiry was with Harmony Sinfonia, the local orchestra I had recently joined as a violinist. I asked the conductor Lindsay Ryan and committee chair Sharon Moloney if they knew of any musical outreach programmes in the area, and in one of those fortuitous twists of fate it turned out they were hoping to revive the orchestra’s own outreach programme in local primary schools that very year. There was just one problem; they needed someone to manage it.

We made the perfect match, and the project started to take shape.

The challenge

Our plan was to organise a series of musical workshops in primary schools in South London, with the aim of giving children the opportunity to explore different musical instruments, compose a piece of music and participate in a musical performance.

In order to make this happen we needed to raise funds, identify which primary schools we would go into, liaise with the schools regarding the practicalities, draw up a programme for the musical workshops, find musicians to lead the workshops and come up with ways to promote the project.

It was now early March and we hoped to run the workshops in June.

What we did

As with so many things in life, the main challenges were time and money. We had essentially three months to raise an estimated £2,000. Grants were the first fundraising option we looked into, but after a few weeks it became clear that a) there wasn’t much money available and b) we wouldn’t have enough time to make a successful application.

Time for a rethink. We decided to try crowdfunding and selected Kickstarter as our platform. On paper it sounded so easy; in practice it was very time-consuming, not least because none of us had any previous experience. 

Kickstarter uses an ‘all or nothing’ model which meant that we would only receive the funds pledged if we hit our target. In other words, aim too high and you risk getting nothing. Lindsay, Sharon and I put our heads together and worked out that we could scale back our plans and still make a first set of workshops happen with a budget of £500.

Having agreed our target, written our project pitch, made a video (thanks to the orchestra’s treasurer Isobel Williams) and finalised our rewards for backers, our Kickstarter campaign went live!

The results

The response was overwhelming. It seemed that our tenacity, our belief in the project and our constant reminders to orchestra members and our Facebook and Twitter communities to spread the word (!) paid off. The target of £500 was reached within the first weekend and we went on to raise double that amount. We even attracted the attention of the local press, with an article published in the South London Press.

Most importantly, the funds raised enabled us to organise 6 workshops in South London primary schools: three at Childeric School in New Cross and three at John Stainer School in Brockley. For some of the children, it was the first time they had ever heard live classical music or participated in a musical performance. Bringing music into the lives of children is so important, and these workshops - in their own small way - helped do exactly that.

Thanks to this experience, I am now more familiar with the grants available for such projects and I’ve learned how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign. I’ve also learned how to enable a group of primary school children to compose a piece of music – and how noisy an experience that can be!

What we learnt

  • Start planning early: start exploring grant options early in the process to ensure you have enough time to make an application

  • Use local networks to boost your exposure: for other methods of fundraising (such as through Kickstarter), try and broaden the reach of potential backers by getting in touch with groups such as the local press and local music hub services as early as possible

  • Use your contacts: you’ll be surprised how much relevant knowledge and expertise is lying untapped among your friends/family/colleagues/fellow musicians…You just have to ask!

 


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