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So, You Want to Organize a Benefit Concert?
Many people ask, How do I raise money for a cause? Planning a concert is always a great choice. I can tell you that doing so is a very fun and rewarding experience and that almost anyone can do it. Of all the nonprofit fundraising ideas out there, the benefit concert has to be one of the best. I recently organized a concert in my hometown that raised over $5,000 for a local Boys and Girls Club, and I did so with hardly any prior experience and with only two months of planning. This article contains advice for organizing a concert that I wish I had before I started. You can find step-by-step fundraising guides elsewhere but I think that this is the information that you really need to know if you want to keep from losing your mind!
1. Building a Team: The Basics
The first thing you should realize when you are planning a concert or coming up with any nonprofit fundraising ideas is that you can't do it alone. You must have a team in place of like-minded individuals who you can trust. It does not have to be a big team. The most important thing is that the team members share your enthusiasm for the cause because after all, they are not being paid. Surround yourself only with people who are constantly positive and encouraging. This does not mean naïve. They should be people who are intelligent, who you trust, and who believe in you and (preferably) the cause of the benefit concert. Most important is that you can count on your team to support you throughout your time planning the concert.
Try to find people with different skills and different connections around town that may be useful. My team consisted of about five or six friends. To get to the point though, not everyone is going to follow through all the time. In fact, I found that I could only really count on one or two people to do what they said they would at all times. In a volunteer event like this, you have the ultimate responsibility to get things done when others don't. So, always be wary when people say they will do something. And do not wait around forever for them to take action. Give people deadlines and don't be afraid to follow up. Your team is your life support, but do not lean on them too heavily.
2. There Will Be Thrilling Highs and Devastating Lows—This Is How You Deal With Them
When learning how to organize a concert, it important to remember that you will have to be tough. It is an admirable feat to take on the responsibility of creating a concert for charity. It may be one of the most demanding things you have ever done. That's why it is important to be realistic about your motivation from the beginning.
Here's how it will probably go: You will have a lot of enthusiasm at the beginning, which is obviously why you took on the challenge in the first place. You will experience thrilling highs of signing on a new sponsor or getting press coverage or booking a great band, but you will likewise experience painful lows. A major sponsor backs out, a team member quits, you feel exhausted, etc. These are the realities of organizing a concert, especially a benefit concert where everyone works on a volunteer basis and so on. If you are not willing to go through the highs and the lows, then you are not ready to do something of this nature. The most important thing is to always remember why you are doing this in the first place: to raise money and awareness for a great cause and to create an amazing event that people will enjoy. Stay positive and never let anyone tell you that you won't succeed. To make it all the way through successfully though you must maintain an open mind and always be willing to change some of your original plans. Sometimes you've just got to roll with the punches.
Be flexible, adapt, and keep moving. In the end, this is business, not a fairy tale. You'll be fine as long as you keep your head up.
3. Overestimate How Much You Will Spend and Underestimate How Much People Will Give
In planning a concert of this nature, the goal is to raise as much money as possible and you have to be smart about how you go about doing so. There will be inevitable costs such as booking a venue, advertising, and merchandise if you choose. Always try to get people to donate instead of making you pay at first, but know that this will not always work. For instance, I received $1,000 worth of radio advertising for free just by having one 15 minute meeting with the head of my city Tourism Department. But I had to pay for t-shirts to be made and I drastically overestimated how many people would buy so I lost over $1,000 on this expense. These kinds of mistakes can be avoided if you budget properly.
4. Network Constantly: Spread the Word Everywhere You Go
If you want to put on the best show imaginable, you have to fully dedicate yourself to the cause of your benefit concert. That means becoming a full-time evangelist for your cause and your event. Tell all your friends, post updates on Twitter and Facebook, speak at Chamber of Commerce meetings, schedule appointments with business leaders, drunkenly divulge everything to your bartender, and anyone who may be in your vicinity at the bar. The point is, you have to be always on and enthusiastic. You are the leader who other people have to want to follow and to help. If you are honest and sincere about your mission, you will find that you will earn some unlikely commitments. Some of these commitments will not come until the very last minute which is why you have to maintain your passion. Never be afraid to ask for help. You may be surprised by how much people are willing to give. You never know unless you ask!
5. Set Goals Daily the Night Before
This is huge. You should always have around two to three must-do tasks per day. They do not have to be major milestones but they should always be moving you forward. This will help you stay motivated, give you and your team a clear sense of purpose, and guarantee productivity. As mentioned previously, give teammates deadline and very specific tasks. This alleviates confusion and keeps you from having your time wasted.
6. Take Some Time Off
This does not mean to stop spreading the word but rather it is a reminder that you do not have to be running around 24 hours a day, 7 days a week thinking that you will fail otherwise. If you are determined, then you will get the job done. In order to keep from going insane though it is VERY important to take some time off and do something fun. Go to the beach, pick up a new hobby, climb a mountain! You have to take some time off in order to stay fresh. In fact, doing something new may help you think about a problem from a different angle or come up with a creative new initiative for your team. Basically, don't burn out. Life is too short.
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7. Communication Is Key
The most important skill that you are going to need when planning a concert to make it a true success is that of communication. When you speak with people, always be prepared. Demonstrate your passion to the cause, be able to illustrate why your cause is in need, and show people how THEY will benefit from being a part of your event. People are not just going to give themselves to you. You have to demonstrate value, and there is no better way of doing that than genuine, face-to-face communication.
Also, respond to email and phone calls as soon as you can. It can be seen as highly disrespectful to keep people waiting and it would be a shame to lose support because of simply putting someone off an extra day or two. It is okay to have your teammates help you with this. Just never let someone feel as if they are being hung out to dry. Always let people know how much you appreciate their support and how much they mean to you. Often times, it really is the little things that go the longest way.
8. Smile and Have Fun!
Being a great leader and creating an extraordinary event means inspiring those around you. How can you inspire people if you are not inspired yourself? The best way for me to stay inspired? Enjoy the experience and appreciate every moment! I can not stress enough the importance of smiling. Whether you are meeting with a potential sponsor or assigning a task to a teammate, you have a much better chance of succeeding if you have a smile on your face and can deliver the message that your main objective is for everyone to have a great time. A benefit concert is supposed to be just that, and there is no reason that you can't enjoy yourself in making it happen as well. It's all about the attitude!
In the End
In the end, it's all up to you. Believe me, organizing any kind of grassroots event will not be easy, planning a concert is no exception. But if you really devote yourself to it and work hard, then it will be one of the best experiences of your life. I know it was for me. And don't forget to take lots of pictures. When it's all over, the memories will be all that you have left.
I hope this article has been helpful. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to leave a comment. Best of luck!
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you generally pay the performers for a benefit concert a set rate? Or is performing the concert just a free service from them?
Answer: We did not pay them. We just included the band names on promo materials, t-shirts etc...
Question: How do you work on the permit for a benefit concert?
Answer: There was a simple process to get the permit with the city. Each city is different. Check out the website of your city for more info
Question: Did you need to become a nonprofit before doing the charity concert?
Answer: Nope I was just an independent organizer and I partnered with the local boys and girls club