What is the link between singing and fundraising? I have always been fascinated to know as someone who has sung since I was a boy and is active on the choral scene.
After all two of the crucial words are already there in fundraising – ‘fun’ and ‘sing’. This is a flippant answer of course, but I was sufficiently intrigued by the question to come up with the idea of organising a “scratch” choir at the Institute of Fundraising National Convention last week and see what the result would be.
The Convention was held for the first time at the Barbican in London, a wonderful creative venue, and I thought it would be an interesting experience for the delegates and volunteers themselves to have their passionate and proud singing voices heard in the same concert hall where so many famous musicians have performed.
I am on the Convention Board, and suggested the idea to my contacts at the IoF who were thankfully very receptive. So I got my mate Mark Sproson who is an experienced choral director on board – the idea was to have two lunchtime rehearsals for anyone who wanted to join in and then a surprise ‘pop up’ performance on the final day. We put messages out through the usual channels, Mark and I also went around in the coffee breaks to recruit and stood waiting nervously on the Monday for singers to turn up…
I’m delighted to say that some 20 brave souls came to our first rehearsal, even more to our second and we had a full-voiced choir of two dozen for our rendition of Nina Simone’s “I wish I knew how it would feel to be free” to the massed audience at the end of Sir Peter Bazalgette’s closing plenary on the Wednesday morning.
The reaction to the inaugural performance of Convention Choir was amazing with cheering on the day and lots of positive comments and tweets afterwards. Which got me thinking more about my original question.
There is a huge link between singing and fundraising. Think about the Military Wives choirs or Voices for Hospices – established platforms for raising vital funds through song. Each Christmas we are used to hearing choirs at fundraising events – from large-scale concerts at St.Paul’s Cathedral to bucket shakes with carol singers in local pubs.
It’s not just about raising money for worthwhile causes, but also about the individual singers – many of us fundraisers are in choirs and love singing. Pegasus is the London-based chamber choir I run and sing with; several of the regular choristers are fundraisers and most of the concerts we present raise money for a range of charities.
This anecdotal evidence is backed up by research. Dr Beth Breeze, Director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, has collected data on over 1,000 UK fundraisers and found that 11% of us sing in choirs. That is ten times more than the national average. Furthermore, the 2014 IoF report ‘Streets Ahead’ shows that creatives, including actors and singers, who have started as face to face street fundraisers are the most likely to succeed if they pursue a career in fundraising.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Let’s keep the debate going, and who knows, we might even form a choir made up just of fundraisers singing to raise money for a charity near you…
Samir Savant is Festival Director of the London Handel Festival. He has over 15 years experience of fundraising in the arts at a senior level, including positions at ENO, Royal Academy of Arts and Handel House and latterly as Development Director at Shakespeare’s Globe and the Royal College of Music. He has been a regular speaker and mentor for Arts & Business, CASE and the Institute of Fundraising and sits on the IoF’s National Convention Board and Cultural Sector Network main committee. He is also a trustee of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance and Chairman and co-founder of Pegasus, the award-winning London chamber choir.
— Prospectus (@prospect_us) July 6, 2016
— Ian Boardman (@ianboardman) July 6, 2016
— Susannah Birkwood (@SusannahBirkwoo) July 6, 2016
— Mark Sproson (@wavingtomyself) July 7, 2016
Main photo: Convention choir 2016 by Darren Maylam
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