Fundraising at Concerts: A Few Things To Think About
Over the years, some of the biggest fundraising triumphs have been associated with live concerts. In July of 1985, the Live Aid concert that took place at both Wembley Stadium in London and at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, raised $127 million dollars for famine relief in Africa. Farm Aid has raised over $60 million since 1985, in support of farmers across America. Apparently, 1985 was a good year for fundraising concerts! Before that, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar organized the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. Since then, we have seen a handful of some very successful and meaningful concerts – all organized to raise money for a cause.
Any big event that you organize, whether it’s for a charitable cause or not, will come with a long list of things to consider. It’s rarely a question of whether or not your cause is worthy of such a big to do, it likely is! The question is, can you raise enough during your benefit to offset the costs associated with putting on the event to have made it worth the effort or at least leave you with anything after expenses to have something to give to the charity?
Many times, it’s very easy to get caught up in the romantic notion of doing something grand for the benefit of others and forget to run through the details. So, let’s take a look at a few items that would need consideration when organizing a benefit concert.
This feels like a no-brainer, but you have to have a place to hold your concert. And though it always seems to work out in the movies, knowing someone with a random field out in the middle of nowhere most likely won’t cut it. To keep things from going south right from the start, it’s a good idea to find a location that 1) is easy to get to, 2) has roads (preferably paved), 3) has an ample amount of electricity available, and 4) has ample restroom facilities. If you can nail down those 4 things, you’ll be off to a great start!
Time of the Year
Again, this feels like an obvious item, but I’m sure it’s been overlooked on more than one occasion – what time of year will your benefit be held? Granted, it’s a little less important of a detail if you can manage to hold your concert indoors. If it’s an outdoor event, there are few details more important than the time of year that you schedule it. Depending on where you’re located, there will be months that it is too hot, too cold, or too wet to try to schedule something outdoors. That said, mother nature is a mysterious lady and sometimes likes to throw wrenches. On more than one occasion, I’ve enjoyed a Christmas in the midwest while rocking cargo shorts outside or needed to bundle up in mid June. So, you never really know, but generally speaking – you should know what window of time you have for good weather.
For argument’s sake, let’s say that you’ve secured your venue and it has the 4 items mentioned previously and you’ve scheduled it at a great time – there are still a few budgetary things to consider. You’re going to need a stage, which includes a lighting system and sound system and someone to run both of them. Depending on the scale of things, you might need an Audio/Visual presentation (video screen display) as well – with someone to run that as well. Not to mention, you’ll likely need a crew of at least a handful of people to help set everything up on the day of the event. Now, you can likely grab a few friends to help with the heavy lifting of the set-up, but those other areas will likely require an experienced technician to run them – which comes with a cost.
Along those same lines, there are a few other important people that you are going to need to have on hand to make sure everything runs smoothly. You’ll need someone to be the contact person for the talent that you have in place for the concert – to make sure that they have everything they need so that they are ready to perform. You’ll need a MC to make sure the event flows smoothly and everything keeps moving. It may not seem like it, and your event might be different, but depending on the “vibe” of your concert, you might need a few able bodies available to handle security.
Oh, I almost forgot – you’re probably going to need at least a couple of vendors to offer refreshment options for your attendees. That can be as simple as popcorn and soda, or you can go bigger and offer hot options and a bar – different situations call for different amenities.
Though you shouldn’t count on it, it is possible to be able to secure a lot of these vendors and volunteers using community contacts and personal connections, so that there is little cost associated with them. If you can do that, more power to you! You’re ahead of the game!
With all of the other items that you have to consider, be sure to remember what you’re doing all of this for – to raise funds for your cause! You want to be able to maximize all of the goodwill that you’ve fostered by putting on a great event so that it translates into funds raised! So, how are you going to collect those dollars? You can certainly do it the old fashioned way and collect cash and checks and designated locations throughout the venue. I will say, as someone that has previously been responsible for holding large sums of money while surrounded by a large crowd of people that I mostly don’t know – that scenario is a bit nerve racking. It worked out, but it makes for a very anxious situation for some.
Another option to consider is providing a text giving option for your concert goers. That way, your volunteers don’t have to worry about transporting large bags of money through crowds of people. Another great thing about a text giving option is that you can keep tabs of how much you’re raising in real time – so you can give updates from the stage periodically to keep those in attendance engaged. An extra bonus is that you’ll also capture their contact information so that you can let them know directly about any future fundraising events that they might be interested in attending.
When you have a text giving option available at your fundraiser, it’s important to have instructions clearly communicated at all times. This can be done using signage posted throughout the venue, maybe you have a few team members with the instructions printed on their shirts, and most importantly, have the MC and the talent mention it throughout the event – at every chance they get. Raising funds for your cause is “the main thing”, so make sure it is presented as “the main thing”. Attending a concert is a great time, but don’t let the party atmosphere push the reason for the event to the background.
You got this
Throwing a benefit concert can be an amazing experience, a great way to raise funds for a cause, and even a way to bring a community together. But, like anything that is worth doing – it’s going to take a lot of hard work and preparation! Others have done it and so can you!