Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Personal Fundraising 101

There’s no way around it: Opera singing is a pricey career to break into. After you’ve likely already taken on a boatload of debt from undergrad and grad school, you get out and face the cost of voice lessons, coachings, scores, website hosting fees, application fees, audition travel costs - all on top of normal life things like rent, transportation, health insurance and food.

Some audition seasons, your income from singing, teaching and other survival jobs might not fully support all of these costs, especially if your student loan payments rival most people’s mortgage payments. Rather than defer your singing dreams to next season, you might consider fundraising to cover some of your professional development cost. Here are some tips for successful personal fundraising:

1. Use the Internet, and are just a few popular options of platforms that you can use to set up a personal fundraising page. This is probably the simplest way to have a place where people can donate using credit cards in a secure way. You can make a profile page and the public can see your progress toward your goal. Do make sure to read the fine print about the kinds of fees the site will collect and do your research to find the best deal.

2. Set a goal and a timeframe

Setting a limited time frame will help you create urgency around your asks. Six to eight weeks will give you time to make your case without giving people time to say, “I’ll do it later.” And a goal amount lets people see what you need and how far you have to go. It helps someone to see that their $50 is 5 percent of your $1,000 goal.

3. Make your case

Your situation is different than anyone else’s, so tell your story in detail. Write about what a normal week looks like for you. Write about what your ideal audition season would look like. Write about the recent singing opportunities you’ve had and about your list of dream roles and companies.

4. Itemize and Incentivize

As you make your case, do the math! Don’t feel shy about saying, “My voice lessons cost $85 each, my coachings cost $60 per hour and the  five applications I want to submit in October will cost me $320.” Total it all up and make it clear that your donors’ financial support is the thing that will make it happen for you this year.

And encourage certain levels of giving by offering perks that you can give at little to no cost. Digital downloads, comps to an upcoming performance, an introductory voice lesson, or a private performance are all things that will cost you time, but not money. And they can provide meaningful ways for you to reward your donors for their increased contributions.

5. Reach out

Certainly make posts to your personal website and your professional Facebook page and include it in your regular promotional emailing. The most intimidating but absolutely necessary thing is to personally and directly reach out (in person, over the phone, or via email) to people who you really think will be interested in your cause. Fans who see your shows on a regular basis, folks who attend the church you sing at, your mentors and your family should all get personal outreach to see whether and how they can support the next phase of your career.

6. Share both successes and setbacks

The online fundraising platform will almost certainly have a forum to give updates on your progress. Use this to let your supporters know about the auditions you get, the audition trips you’re making, places they can hear you sing locally, and of course, any offers that come out of the season. But don’t feel bad if it turns out to be a season full of PFOs. Staying out there and working on your craft is important in and of itself. Keep it real with your donors and they will appreciate it.

7. Say thank you

Even if your communication with donors is mostly through email or social media, you ABSOLUTELY MUST send hand-written thank you notes. Get their mailing addresses as you go along and a set of thank you cards, and commit to putting cards in the mail no more than a week after receiving a donation.

Happy fundraising!

Make sure to read last week’s article “Thank you notes-Bringing Classy Back,” for tips and tricks on writing thank you notes.