Wednesday, June 3, 2015

FUNdraising Dos & Don’ts

By Christi Amonson

Emerging professionals often find themselves with an amazing opportunity for a training program or other professional musical opportunity. Recitals are a great way to fundraise and build your community of support as you follow your dreams. The following “Dos and Don’ts” are general tips for success from a soprano who has been on and off stage for many of these events myself, with friends and students. It is easy to feel self-conscious asking for money, so I hope this will help you get started on a plan to raise the money you need for your exotic destination of study!


  • Plan enough time to find a venue, send invitations; plan a program your audience will love.
  • Invite people with at least two weeks notice.

  • Your community wants you to succeed. By presenting a professional recital for a select group of family, friends, churchgoers, work colleagues, etc. you can finance your study abroad or pay-to-sing opportunity.
  • Create a Facebook event and send at least one follow-up reminder to your guest list.

  • Collaborate with the finest pianist you can afford—you want to present the best performance possible!
  • Hand out beautiful programs. Some friends and family might not be familiar with foreign language styles, so a simple program with translations on one sheet of nicely printed paper is cost-efficient, classy and appreciated!

  • At the end of your recital, thank your guests with a clear, concise statement, and then sing a short encore that suits the theme of your opportunity.
  • Add credibility to your need for funds by asking a trusted teacher or colleague to welcome your guests and briefly speak about what an extraordinary opportunity you have been offered.
  • Make sure there is a place for donations—ask a friend or colleague to hold a decorative box or basket for checks near the exit!  

Do Not:

  • You needn’t apologize for your need to fundraise or brush your event off as unimportant. You are an artist in the making—we get it!
  • Don’t let money cause any problems in friendships. Be clear about paying your pianist and giving any friends who collaborate a small gift card to Starbucks or something similar. Offering to “split the pot” gets tricky if someone’s father writes a large check. You can avoid awkward monetary problems by establishing up front that this is your fundraising recital and you will pay the associated fees (pianist, venue, etc.).

Program poorly
  • Avoid the tired, lengthy, “boring” program. If you are inviting work friends and church friends, program something you know they will like—if you want and need to sing thirty minutes of Schoenberg, like that one time in grad school.... then throw your audience a bone with some tunes they recognize! A little music theatre or gospel/folk arrangements go a long way with our non-classical singing friends and family!
  • This isn’t an academic recital, but you are a classical singer. Plan a program that makes you look and sound like the rising star you ARE. We don’t apologize for singing what we love—we just recognize that our office friends and Aunt Betty might not be as into Baroque opera seria as we are. So after your sensational, specialty section, the savvy fundraiser sings Aunt Betty’s wedding song and/or a crossover piece that lends a little contemporary humor to the event.

Forget your manners
  • I may sound like the Sexi Soprano thank you note police, but the gracious singer will handwrite a thank you note for checks or to anyone you know that gave cash. If you are raising money to go to Graz, send postcards. What a great way to say thank you for helping me get here: a simple postcard from a unique location!
  • Finally, don’t present a personal fundraising recital every year—your family and friends want to help you when it counts, so be cool and make sure this is a special event that will enrich your training and establish your career. That keeps the FUN in fundraising!

Image courtesy of Michael Elliot at