Planning for the future 3: Options and planning

This article is part of our COVID-19: Planning for the future resource.

For information to help you assess risk and inform your plan, see:
Planning for the future 2a: Meetings and rehearsals
Planning for the future 2b: Events with a public audience


So you’ve read lots and lots of information – now is the time to use that to plan what your group can and wants to do in the next three or six months or year.

Options for your group

Here are three options you may want to consider.

None of these are right or wrong in themselves – they will only be right or wrong for your group, so do talk through them with your committee, members and other stakeholders.

Option 1 – Hibernation

It can feel like everyone else is rehearsing on Zoom and whizzing together exciting videos 24/7, but that will not be the case. For every group like that, there will be a group NOT doing any of those things. So if you decide that actually pausing your group is the sensible option for you, then don’t feel there is anything wrong with going into hibernation – provided you have discussed it in your committee/with your members and you all agree it is the right action for you.

Positives

  • Not settling for second best, musically speaking, by attempting unsatisfactory activity online; you’re about making music together in a room and you’re going to do that again when it’s possible.
  • Financially, this could be a winner: you would not have membership subscriptions coming in, but you would have lower outgoings, too (but check what they would be: your MD and venue contracts; insurance; website hosting, Making Music membership! Etc.).
  • Members would not feel pressure to continue paying subs or engage with the group in what they may find unsatisfactory or difficult, if the online world is a closed book to them.
  • The group is still there – its history, its shared memories, its achievements; you are merely pressing ‘pause’; when the situation changes, you can hit ‘play’ and pick up where you left off, potentially nicely refreshed from a break.
  • You could also use this period to take stock and improve how the group is run, e.g. finally re-do the website, write a plan for the next 3 years, get to grips with Facebook etc.; all those things you don’t normally have time for.

Negatives

  • If members don’t practise during this period – will you still have a good enough membership at the end of this to play/sing the music you want to?
  • Your members may decide never to come back and join another group whilst you are offline.
  • Cutting your members off from an important social hub and from their friends who they might really need in this situation.
  • You may lose the professional musician(s) you work with, e.g. your MD and accompanist, if they have to go and find other work in the meantime.
Option 2 – Go virtual till spring

Rather than having to constantly adapt to an ever-changing situation, take a decision now not to meet in person until March next year. Instead, hurl yourself full-pelt into online activity.

Positives

  • You can take stock now, financially, and plan all the way to next Easter.
  • Less worry about adapting all the time as things change.
  • Can clearly communicate a plan now – members, audiences, your MD will know where they stand.
  • You can use this period to develop the group musically.
  • You can use this period to develop the group socially.
  • This could increase your whole group’s digital skills, something which will be useful to the group in future, but also to the members of your group in their private lives.
  • Members continue to have the social support of the group, preventing issues arising from isolation and loneliness.
  • Members continue to make or engage with music, so their skills will be kept up to scratch and the music will enhance their currently perhaps difficult lives.

Negatives

  • If you want members to keep paying their subscription, then you need to also plan activity which is worth their money, so this is not an ‘easy’ option: you need to provide musical value and maintain engagement over quite a long period of time, and that will require quite a lot of work! It will involve regular activity as well as projects or goals to work towards, and not everyone may be up for recording themselves or learning how to mix digital video.
  • In addition, you will need to also provide the social connectivity which usually happens almost by itself when a group meets in person; you will have to plan quizzes and online drinks and birthday celebrations etc.
  • Not every one of your members may find it easy to engage online: to be inclusive, you will have to find ways of keeping everyone on board, even if they can only be reached by email, letter or telephone.
  • It may be a good thing to help more of your members engage with the online world, but this will require more work from someone in the group – typically one to one phone calls more than once and step by step (remote!) handholding. 
  • Even if you put a lot of effort into including everyone, you may lose members who just do not want to engage in this way.
  • You may find your MD isn’t up for this and you may lose them.
  • You will probably not have time to do any other reflective work – writing that 3 year plan, re-doing the website, getting to grips with Facebook, etc.
Option 3 – Keep your options open

Keeping your options and mixing digital and in-person plans and possibilities open provides less certainty right now and means you have to keep re-visiting your plans often but gives you the flexibility to adapt to a changing situation.

Positives

  • Maximum flexibility, so your actions will never feel out of step with the times; you won’t still be zooming when everyone else is making music in a room again.
  • Members will stay because they see you are doing, at any given point, as much as you can to allow them to continue enjoying their musical and social group activity.
  • Earliest possible return to group activity as normal because you have left all doors open.

Negatives

  • Like option 2, quite a lot of work for the committee and the MD, in fact even more, as you may want to play for perhaps 4 scenarios simultaneously:
    • Staying virtual till spring
    • Resuming regular meetings, but no events
    • Resuming regular meetings and planning virtual projects (recordings) and/or livestreamed events
    • Resuming regular meetings and planning in-person public events
  • Less financial certainty.
  • Requires really clear and frequent communication with your members, audiences, other stakeholders, so that at any given point they know what the plan is.

Make a plan

So how do you get to a plan? Here are some steps you may want to go through.

Rev up your committee

  • Is it able to meet online?
  • Are there people who may now have to bow out, due to their situation?
  • Are there other people in the group who are now sitting at home twiddling their thumbs and could join the committee?
  • Make sure the committee is at full numbers/that there is a deputy for most roles, so that work can be shared and doesn’t become too much for one person
  • Meet regularly and more often than you would normally
  • Make sure they all know that except for Option 1, there is still a lot of things for them to do, though they might be different to pre-lockdown. Gather their commitment!
  • Whether or not your MD is part of the committee, it is crucial that s/he is part of any discussions, so make sure they know that and are able and willing to participate

Find out more on this in our Keeping your group running resource 

Ask your members and/or audiences

  • You can do this via a free surveymonkey account, or google forms, and send out the links via email and/or social media
  • Not forgetting those not online, it is easy also to then print those questionnaires and stick them in the post; or if members are really nearby, this can be part of your daily exercise…
  • This is always worth doing as there will generally something coming back that you weren’t expecting, including, very likely, lots of nice comments about what a great job you’re doing, so that will also re-energise the committee
  • Don’t forget to ask about membership and subscriptions, to ascertain how many may be able and willing to carry on paying and how many, in the anonymity of a survey, may disclose that they can no longer afford their hobby
  • When you do these consultations, though, you have to be prepared to listen, too. If you ask people’s views and then do not respond to or act on them, then they will start to lose interest and be less supportive in future
  • Feed back what you have heard and/or what you plan to do about it (even if that is just ‘the next committee meeting will consider this for the plan’ or ‘we can’t do x and y right now, but will re-visit it in future’)
  • When you do get to the stage of publishing your plan(s), make sure you reference back to members’/audiences’ input, to show how it has been reflected and that it has been considered

Brainstorm ideas and risk assess them

Think through your versions of options 1-3 and risk assess them for viability:

  • Physically (e.g. usual rehearsal room, lack of park nearby, digital access)
  • Support from members/audiences for any of the physically viable options (e.g. all in vulnerable age group, or 70% not online etc.)
  • Ability of the committee/MD/other key personnel or volunteers to deliver various options (e.g. no-one willing to do live-streaming, MD can’t do online activity or can’t meet in person as married to key worker etc.)
  • Financial implications for any of the options, including what/if you want to keep paying your MD/accompanist, members’ views on subscriptions, audiences views on tickets or season subscriptions. For more on this read our Planning for the future: finance resource. 
  • Make sure, for all those aspects you are considering, that whatever you decide can be implemented; no point deciding to do something you cannot carry out.

Identify the possible and put it together in a plan

The previous exercise will have left you with a smaller number of viable options for your group. Now is the time to decide which one to go for. Write a short plan which includes:

  • your group’s aim and purpose
  • what you are planning to do in the next 3 months, 6 months, 1 year
  • how you are going to make that happen (timeline etc.)
  • who will make it happen
  • how it will be paid for!

Tell the world about your plan!

  • But always start with your closest supporters – your MD, your members, your audiences etc.
  • This will need as much effort and care as the creation and implementation of your plan. It may be clear in your head what will happen, but others can’t see inside your head or inside your committee, so be prepared to tell everyone, and then tell them again, and then repeat it in a different way, followed by also saying it in a fun way on Facebook, printing a newsletter etc..
  • Communication will keep everyone on board and will, combined with your rigorous implementation of the plan, of course, build trust in your group and in the committee

Summary

This situation throws up some challenges, but time spent working through these resources and forming the best possible plan for your group will help establish a steady platform for the future.

  • Gather your committee, members and supporters with clear communications
  • Be clear what you’re about and for, and for whom
  • Always know how much money you have in the bank, what income you can count on, what expenditure you cannot avoid
  • Seize the opportunity to learn new skills and become a seasoned traveller of the online world; this will never be a disadvantage going forward
  • Seize the chance to re-evaluate how you run the group, how you present yourself to potential members and audiences, to make changes you can see are needed now you’ve taken a step back.

So remember: never give up. You are needed and whatever the new normal will look like, people will still want to play, sing and listen to live musicians.


We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.