Lindsay Brazell

Music Educator and Creative Professional

5 Reasons Why Performance-Based Fundraisers Succeed

Our choral department just put on our second Coffee House fundraiser, an event I adapted from my student teaching experience. We basically clear out the choir room and transform it into an intimate, coffee house setting. It has become one of the students’ favorite times of the semester, and next to our school-wide annual Talent Show, it is our best fundraiser.

We hold auditions 2 weeks prior to the scheduled date of the Coffee House. Students in any choir can audition solo, with classmates or other choir members any school-appropriate song of their choice. They are not allowed to perform with karaoke tracks, so either they accompany themselves or they can ask me to accompany them. Auditions can be singing, instrumental, or poetry readings, or anything that fits the “coffee house” theme. (Basically, no dance numbers, no electric guitars/drum sets, etc.). I typically choose acts to equally represent each choir, while varying the types of acts and overall nature or mood of each performance.

Once the setlist is made, the students sign up for a committee: Crew, Decorations, Room Setup, Room Breakdown, Baking, Clean Up. I pretty much say, “Ready, set, go!” and the students do the rest. It’s awesome! Our first fundraiser was so successful and gained wide attention, that we immediately planned to host a Coffee House each semester.

Performance-based fundraisers are my favorite, because I don’t feel any stress during the preparation or execution of the project. Here are 5 reasons why you should look into doing one.

1. There are little to no expenses.

During our fall fundraiser, the only items I bought were coffee, creamer, sugar, and paper products. Students brought in rugs from home, Christmas lights, and lamps from their attics or even their own bedrooms. All of our decorations were donated, borrowed, or made by the students. I use my own amp and soundboard for a “DIY Sound System,” I bring my own microphones and mic stands and cables as well. Of course, your school may have these items in the auditorium or you can ask a media technology class, etc. Some students may have everything you need as well! Of course, if you do a more grandeur performance fundraiser, you may have a few expenses. The more you and your students can contribute, the better!

2. They allow for student creativity.

I personally have a sub-par eye for decorating, and spacial organization takes me a while to visualize, but there are students who excel in these areas! One of my students drew a floor plan for the choir room setup, and others suggested decoration ideas that would never cross my mind! We forget that sometimes our students have strengths in areas where we lack, and they are the perfect people to delegate those tasks to!

3. It provides a break from “the norm.”

I do not allow my choirs to perform pop arrangements (except for the one I arrange for the Talent Show) in our concert repertoire, as I feel it is my job to teach them music that they are unfamiliar with and do not hear every day…a topic for it’s own post someday. Coffee House has become their chance to choose their own song, or to share the songs they write. Sometimes we all need a break from latin motets, right? 😉

4. Students learn how to organize a production.

There are so many unique learning opportunities in these kinds of fundraisers. I have taught students how to sing into a microphone properly, how to setup and adjust a mic stand (which can be troublesome!), and how to address an audience for this particular environment. They also learn how to publicize the event, teamwork skills during setup and breakdown of the room, and all the facets of what goes into a production. The teacher’s role can simply be “overseer” which allows for guidance and instruction, but leaves room for the necessary creativity.

5. Friends and family will always come to support you.

You can’t make fundraising any easier than just requesting the presence of your family and friends! Sometimes people don’t want to buy things to support you, because they may have no need for the item being sold. Paying $5 to hear a performance just requires that they show up, and friends and family always show up! Make sure your event is on your calendar from the beginning of the school year or semester so people can plan to attend!


Here are some other kinds of performance fundraisers that may suit you and your organization:

1. Coffee House – predetermined acts

2. Open Mic Night -sign up the night of the event

3. Madrigal Dinner – best during the Christmas season!

4. Dinner Theater – musical theater numbers


So there you have it! I highly recommend exploring this, especially if you are in need of funds! As I tell my students, we can’t have FUN without FUNDS!

What kinds of performances fundraisers do you do with your organization? Leave a comment below, or start the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell


About Lindsay

I’m Lindsay, a choral music educator by day, a singer-songwriter by evening, and a writer when time allows. You can find my latest album, The Room I Found – Lindsay Morelli on iTunes.

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