Orchestras of all sizes rely on in-person fundraising events to develop relationships with their donors, and to sustain the orchestra’s activities. But how do we approach fundraising now, when we must stay apart to stay safe? One option is to reimagine it – online.
OC was pleased to welcome leaders from three orchestras across the country, who shared their experiences with and advice for successful online fundraising amidst COVID-19. Jim Campbell (Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra), Chris Sharpe (Stratford Symphony Orchestra) and Jean R. Dupré and Céline Choiselat (Orchestre Métropolitain) discussed the approaches their orchestras took to moving their fundraising events online, how they managed to keep things personal with their donors, and the place they see online events holding in the future. Listen to the recording below, or read on for 4 key learnings from Jim, Chris, Jean and Céline:
1. Online fundraising is an opportunity to broaden your event’s reach
After moving their Cork and Canvas art auction online this spring, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra reached more bidders than ever before – double the number compared to their in-person auctions! Jim remarked that the auction was more accessible and inclusive in its online format for those outside its typical geographic and price range.
One of Stratford Symphony Orchestra’s existing online fundraising activities, the annual Phantom Ball, got more attention than ever this spring – even internationally. Chris remarked that as we stay home, people are especially keen for connection through the arts online. Thus, orchestras should “ride the wave” in our fundraising efforts, as Stratford Symphony plans to do while reimagining their upcoming annual Cows and Classics concert fundraiser as an online livestream.
2. Share an experience, make it special
Jean and Céline attributed the success of the Orchestre Métropolitain’s Gala Virtuel to the intimacy they were able to cultivate, even in a digital space. They capped the event at 50 guests and partnered with a renowned chef to deliver custom gift baskets right to attendees’ doorsteps, featuring champagne and hors d’œuvres to taste together (while apart) at the event. This translated the shared experience and exclusivity traditionally valued in an in-person gala to a virtual format.
3. The “Top 100 Strategy”
Jim recommended nurturing connections with your orchestra’s current top 100 donors (including government) first and foremost in tough times. Maintaining strong relationships with those who are already invested in your orchestra’s mission and success can help carry you through now, and in the future.
4. Focus on the music
Donors want more of what brings them to the orchestra in the first place – the music and the musicians! Jean and Céline noted that the highlight of Orchestre Métropolitain’s Gala Virtuel was the orchestra’s moving performance of Nimrod, an extract from Elgar’s Enigma Variations pre-recorded from their homes for the event. Jim highlighted Calgary Philharmonic’s individual videos to donors, wherein musicians recorded personalized thank you messages before performing a piece they had selected for the donor.