In a difficult economy, nearly everyone has been forced to make cuts or find ways
to bring in more income. With the end of marching season, high school bands still
have an off-season filled with fundraising to help prepare for next year's parades and
The marching bands of Oswego (N.Y.) High School, Timber Creek High School
in Orlando, Fla., and Mayfair High School in Lakewood, Calif., are separated by
thousands of miles. However, these three bands share a common denominator
not only among themselves but also with hundreds of bands around the country:
Fundraising has become a lifeline in this ailing economy.
Each of the bands admitted that the hardest part about fundraising is getting the
Rick Brown, fundraising co-chair at Timber Creek, is open to any opportunity. "I have
looked on other band websites for ideas, but I mainly ask the parents what they
would want to get behind and be willing to sell," he says. "It's the parents that really
drive our fundraisers, and without their interest, we won't have much success with
any fundraiser out there. We are always open to new ideas, and as long as it has a
nice profit share, it will always be considered."
Sometimes finding the best fundraisers also takes trial and error. "It is true that some
fundraisers work better than others," says Julie Frye, the president of Timber Creek's
Band Parent Organization. "If it's not a big seller, move on. Don't let it get you down."
Mayfair High School has created an entire subcommittee of booster parents to raise
money and to manage it. Due to the recent strain in the economy, Mayfair's marching
band no longer receives the majority of its funding from the school; the band is now
at least 95 percent autonomous. "The Ways and Means Committee has really been
an essential addition to our Booster Club and band as a whole," says Jeff deSeriere,
current assistant director of Mayfair's marching band. "We have found it extremely
helpful to have a committee in place that's constantly coming up with new ways for
us to raise the money we need to operate."
As for the Oswego marching band, it follows a specific mantra when deciding
on its fundraisers. "Instead of doing a ton of events, do a few small, successful
fundraisers," says Bill Palange, the previous director. "As much as people may want
to help, they will grow tired of constantly being asked for money."
All of the bands have their own major fundraising events they host during the
off-season: for Mayfair it's a Hotcakes and Jazz event; for Timber Creek it's the
annual golf tournament; and Oswego cooks a BBQ Chicken Dinner.
Held every spring, Hotcakes and Jazz is a pancake breakfast that features multiple
performances by the Mayfair Jazz Band throughout the morning.
The band also runs a fireworks booth the week before the 4th of July.
In addition to these off-season fundraisers, Mayfair holds car washes, sells items
from the Cherrydale Farms catalogue and hosts three field show tournaments during
the marching season.
Because the Oswego High School marching band is inactive from November until
July, it tries to limit the amount of fundraising it does in its small 15,000-person
community. "The majority of the fundraising we do actually happens during the
season," explains Palange. "Also, we venture outside of Oswego as often as possible
to fundraise; this is a small town, and as much as people would like to help, they may
become a bit annoyed if they are constantly being asked for money."
However, the program does hold a BBQ Chicken Dinner. "We reach out to the
community as well as our band families," says Debbie Bartholomew, the president of
Oswego's Band Parents Association. "We pre-sell tickets for dinners, then we cook
the chicken on school premises—after marinating in a secret recipe for a couple
of days! Buyers pick their dinners up there, or we deliver larger orders. Our dinners
include half a chicken, salt potatoes, baked beans, a roll and a cookie, which our
band parents donate."
The members of Oswego marching band also sell candy, Avon products, Longaberger
baskets and Sara Lee pies throughout the year to raise money.
Like Oswego and Mayfair, Timber Creek hosts a menagerie of events including a
golf tournament in April and a spring community concert; however, the band also
sells products like Sally Foster wrapping paper, Yankee Candles and World's Finest
Chocolate to supplement this income throughout the year.
Despite all of the fundraisers these schools do, particular events bring in the majority
of their money.
For Timber Creek, the sale of Entertainment Books has raised a total of $17,000, and
no one sells more of them within the Central Florida market! Its fall field competition
typically brings in about $11,000 from ticket sales, concessions, vendor booths and
entrance fees. And the golf tournament brings in about $10,000.
Field tournaments are also a boon for Mayfair. "Field show tournaments bring in a lot
of money because of the vendors who rent spots, the admission fee, the cost of the
programs, concessions, etc.," explains deSeriere. "Doing three of them really helps
This past fall, the band also entered and won a contest sponsored by radio station
Power 106 to host the station's All-Star basketball team in a game against the
high school team. All of the ticket proceeds went to the band, which also sold
concessions at the event. Celebrity guests rap / hip-hop duo The New Boyz and
rapper Lloyd Banks made appearances. Mayfair was also given a total of $5,500 by
the radio station and TMobile as part of its prize.
Oswego's band typically engages in fundraisers that offer at least 35 to 40 percent of
the profit. Its most successful fundraiser involves volunteering at concession stands
for a portion of the revenues at the Carrier Dome and Alliance Bank Stadium. (Timber
Creek has a similar relationship at Amway Stadium.)
"This method of fundraising is extremely successful, and it's nice that we're not
confronting the same people in our community for donations," Palange says.
While fundraising can be challenging, time consuming and emotionally draining,
knowing that it all goes to a good cause makes it worthwhile, Palange says.
"Have fun with it!" he says. "And stay upbeat about it. The money and time and effort
you're putting into it will ultimately benefit the kids, and that's what's important.
Previously Printed: Jan-Feb 2011 Issue