At a time when budgets are increasingly squeezed, James Manwaring offers his top ten tips for raising some music department disposable income
If one thing is clear at the moment, it’s that schools don’t have enough cash. And if a school doesn’t have much cash then it is likely that the music department also doesn’t. This is a challenge in a department where even a clarinet reed isn’t cheap – and updating to the latest software will cost probably ten times the annual music budget. I have seen the full effect of budget cuts in my school, and in a year of new specifications this has been a real challenge. But I am not someone who moans and groans about budget cuts; I am a solutions kinda guy. And this year, as I have done in the past, I looked at how I can raise money for my department, and here I will share some of my findings.
I am in a hugely supportive school for music, but they still can’t offer me a huge budget. In fact, my budget this year was pretty tiny, all things considered. We can moan about it or we can be proactive. I find moaning only makes me feel worse and doesn’t actually get me anywhere. My tips for raising money are all tried and tested. This year I have raised a large enough amount of money – enough to upgrade Sibelius, buy new music and purchase all the new textbooks. The school are happy, I am happy, and most importantly, the students are happy!
1. Ask your SLT for more, but present a reasoned argument on one side of A4 paper. Don’t moan, just ask for more support. You might not get anywhere, but if your approach is right, you might. And, when you do approach SLT, remember that music isn’t the only department in the world. There are lots of other requirements in a school. So be calm, prepare a good argument, and mention pupil impact and the impact on learning – but don’t get carried away!
2. Write to your local Rotary Club, which is often only too keen to support a local school. Perhaps offer to perform at one of their events or simply ask for support. If you give something back, they are more likely to be happy to provide support. You may also offer to go and speak at one of their meetings or events about music education.
3. Look to your local council for grants – often there are youth grants out there that you may not be aware of. This year I was given £1,500 to buy two new electric pianos, just from filling in some forms. As well as local councils, there are national grants – I got an EMI grant for £1,000 this year thanks to a parent who helped me apply. Parents are great, get them on board. (In fact, that could be point 11: parents are key!)
4. Perform at local events to raise the profile of music – this is likely to lead to paid gigs. Make sure you say yes when people ask for music. Sometimes it will be a weekend or an evening, but just do it, because it will lead to other things. Not all gigs raise money, but they might lead on to one that does.
5. When you are asked to perform, think about whether or not to ask for a donation. If it is a local business, you could offer them free advertising and marketing in return for a donation. Don’t feel cheeky, just explain that you need to make sure events benefit the school as well as the business. Most medium to- large businesses have a budget for this kind of thing anyway.
6. Get your local paper on-side. Whenever you play at an event, make sure that you tell the press to ensure that your name is out there. This will help raise profile and could get you more gigs in the future.
7. Hold a fundraiser that isn’t a concert – a curry night, a quiz night, a racing night. These can be a pain to organise and you will need to give up an evening, but you will make some money for music in the process. And when you do have a concert, make sure you have a licensed bar and raffle to enhance what you make on the door.
8. Sell old kit, instruments, textbooks and so on. See what you have lying around and then try and make some money out of it.
9. Ask the students to pay subs to be involved in groups – I don’t personally do this, but it is something I have thought about and I know that my sports department has to do it. £1 per student for the year might just be enough to buy a piece of music.
10. Seek out local sponsors – restaurants, estate agents, whatever – and see if you can get someone to sponsor a show or concert. Again, put together an A4 proposal for businesses and see what happens. I had a local business sponsor my production of Singin’ in the Rain in November – they sold umbrellas and raincoats, so it worked well for them!
So, while Jessie J is right, and it’s not all about the ‘Money, money, money’, it is essential to be able to do what we want to do as music teachers. We are all in the same boat, and so we have to keep coming up with ways of raising money. Keep going, keep trying, and soon you will find ways to enhance your budget.