You probably spend more time than you’d like on budget concerns, especially in this day and age of constant cuts to arts and music. Band, orchestra, and choir programs provide students the chance to learn and develop creativity. They are safe places for students of all ages and backgrounds to bond and experience the joy and benefits of musical education. As such, it’s worth the battle to get and keep a strong music budget! Whether your program is well-funded or you must fight for every dollar, there are ways to approach budgeting and fundraising that will save you time and help your money go further.
When trying to put together your budget needs for the upcoming year, a good first step is taking inventory of what you have currently. Over the summer break, go through everything your program has, including: instruments, music, accessories and cleaning/care items, uniforms, music stands, software programs, microphones and recording gear, etc. Make a careful list of how many of each item you have as well as its condition.
Once you have this detailed inventory, you can sit down and make your lists: a need list and a want list. It’s good to keep these two lists separate, because depending on how your school or district approaches budgets, you may need to provide your items in a prioritized way and you want to be sure you’re clear as possible. When creating these lists, make sure you capture all of the physical items you’ll need, but also include potential opportunities for band camp, trips and other travel needs or professional development for program staff. Not all of this may apply to your specific program, but if they do, you don’t want to forget them!
Your first, and most obvious, place to get funding is from your school or district. Having a good understanding of how you will be allocated money is critical. Do you submit your list and the school determines what you will receive? Are you given a lump sum each year which you cannot exceed? Do you have an open purchase order with certain vendors? Every school or district is different, so be sure you understand where and how you’ll get your funding. Only then can you plan for additional funding you’ll need to obtain.
Fundraising likely isn’t at the top of your list of fun things to do. However, if you need more for your program than your budget allows, fundraising is something you’ll need to plan. You’re probably always on the lookout for new fundraising ideas and reading articles about how to fundraise.
There are a host of good old fashioned fundraiser ideas (many of which you’ve likely already participated in!). Peruse the dozens of fundraising websites out there that will list traditional as well as unusual ways to fundraise in your community. A quick Google search will reveal lots of resources. Don’t reinvent the wheel – if there are fundraising ideas that have worked for you or other programs at your school, try them again!
While this method of additional funding can be time consuming, it can also be highly rewarding. Grants, large and small, are available from hundreds of organizations, both domestic and international. Depending on how much additional funding you need, it may indeed be worth investing your time (or perhaps you can enlist parents or other community members to assist) in researching what grants are available. If you’ve never approached grant writing before, take some time to understand how to write a grant. A Google search for “what is granting writing?” should provide you with resources that can help.
If you select grants to apply to, be sure to follow the grant rules exactly. They often have very specific requirements for submission, including hard deadlines and precise methods of delivering your grant to the organization. Use your community knowledge here: see if anyone has prior experience with grant writing, ask others to help you proofread your grant, ask if there are folks who can spend a few hours researching or writing with you. People are often willing to help when there is a specific task that they’re good at!
Grant writing is indeed a time-consuming task. There are many details you’ll want to research and understand, but if you are looking to fill a large budget gap, it may be worth it. If you need large ticket items like timpani, a sousaphone, tuba or bassoon, this may be a good route for you.
DonorsChoose.org is a free online charity for public school teachers based on crowdfunding. Create a project on the site, tell your compelling story and promote it to your supporters and strangers alike! Over 75% of projects on the site get funded. Visit donorschoose.org for additional information on getting started.
Once you’ve completed your inventory, determined your budget, understand what your school will provide you with, and explored other ways to get funding, it’s time to make those dollars go as far as possible.
There are many articles, such as accessories and care/cleaning items, that you know you’ll use throughout the year. Consider buying these items in bulk – get that budget line out of the way early in the year so you know what you’ll have for the rest of the term. You could even see if your preferred vendor is able to give you a discount for bulk purchases. Everything from reeds to drum heads and drumsticks to music stands to valve oil to rosin can be purchased ahead of time and in large quantities based on your program’s needs.
Check with your preferred vendors to see if they offer any financing or lease to own programs, which would allow you to pay for your purchase over time. In some cases, once the lease period ends, your program owns the instruments and equipment! This is a great way to stretch your budget over a length of time, instead of having to pay the full cost up front.
Work with your music vendors to ensure you are getting the best possible pricing. For example, calling your Woodwind & Brasswind Institutional Staff Advisor will guarantee you are receiving all the educator discounts we can offer. Let us know your budget and your needs and we will work with you to make your budget dollars go as far as possible. You can also see special pricing by registering for our Educator Website. If you work with other suppliers, be sure to contact them and ask for their best possible pricing. If you don’t ask, you won’t know what kinds of discounts exist!
While budgeting isn’t a fun task, it is necessary. Planning and preparing up front will save you time and stress during the school year. By completing a detailed inventory, understanding where your funds come from, planning for how to fill budget gaps and then making your dollars go as far as possible, you’ll know you’re doing everything you can to provide your students with quality music education.