Virtual Fundraisers and Donations - Nonprofit's Advice for Connecting Online

Virtual Fundraisers and Donations - Nonprofit's Advice for Connecting Online

Podcast speakers: Savannah McIntosh (Purplepass Marketing Director) and Robin Tinani (Administration Assistant for Cecilian Chamber Series). Jump to the video notes below. 

 

The EventBuzz podcast: Cecilian Chamber Series

 

 

Podcast transcript: Cecilian Chamber Series

 

Savannah (Purplepass):  

I'm so excited to be speaking with our next guest all the way from Canada, an organization that took a complete 180 when the pandemic hit. But first, I wanted to check in with our listeners and have it professionals out there with a little affirmation for the day. A quote I came across that we all need to hear during these challenging times.

You ready?

The quote is, it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Right now, it may seem like we are surrounded by darkness, and that there is no hope around us. But it's our job to find a candle that we can light to lead the way out of this. It's time to change our perspectives, get creative, even if that means changing up how we've been doing things for years.

Roughly a year ago, this organization had amazing plans in store. World class chamber music concerts, featured artists, performers, all marking their 10th anniversary. Although things didn't go as planned, they've learned that wonderful surprises can arise from the unexpected. They've continued to safely present their chamber music concerts virtually connecting to their audience online.

Now more than ever, it is become evident to the organization just how powerful music can be as a form of healing, communication, and comfort during these hard times.

On today's episode, we are speaking with the administrator of the Cecilian Chamber Series. The organization is a small chamber series that brings in outside talent for concerts. We will be discussing the virtual concerts they have in store for us and 2021, advice on hosting online music events, and virtual fundraisers they are doing all packed in one episode.

Let's get started.

Hi, Robin, how are you doing today?

 

Robin (Cecilian Chamber Series): 

I'm excellent. Savannah. How are you today?

 

Savannah:

I'm doing awesome. I'm so excited to have you join us for this episode. Let's start with you introducing yourself so our listeners know who you are and then tell us about the organization.

 

Robin:

My name is Robin Tinani. I am an administrator and a teacher and a musician in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. I have my Master's in flute performance and I play it and I teach here in Regina. And I do administration for various nonprofits in the city and one of them that I work for is the Cecilian Chamber Series.

The Cecilian Chamber Series is a very small concert series here in Regina. About 10 years ago, it was started by our wonderful artistic and executive director Lore Ruschiensky. And Lore saw a need for world class chamber music here in Regina. We have wonderful musicians here. We have a fantastic Symphony Orchestra and we have various groups putting on chamber music concerts, but we just, Lore realized that there wasn't a lot of outside chamber music coming into region and putting on concerts.

We are a small city in the middle of the provinces and quite often, organizers will pass over Regina and go to bigger centers such as Calgary or Winnipeg or Toronto. And so Lore decided she was going to change that and she started getting in touch with agents and chamber organizations and chamber music groups and bringing them into Regina. So that's how we started and we've been going strong for the last 10 years.

 

Savannah:

I love that I can relate because I'm from a super, super small town. So I understand. I was curious, looking on your website, looking into like 2021 you guys have virtual concerts planned? Is this the organization's first time doing online events or did you host them prior to COVID?

 

Robin:

No, this is our first time doing anything online. I speak in quite a steep learning curve.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, how's that been going?

 

Robin: 

Well, it's it's been interesting when shutdown happened in March 2020. We have actually just announced our 10th anniversary season and I think it was literally like two weeks before we had announced our 2021 season. And so then shutdown happened and we really we actually didn't do anything for the rest of the 2020 season. We didn't know what to do and we were overwhelmed as everyone was, but then during the summer Lore said we have to do something.

There's all these fantastic musicians that are they're not working but they're not working as well and we need to support our musicians. So she contacted some musicians and some agents and said, "Listen, we want to hire you to put on a concert". So our first concert was recorded and Calgary, by a wonderful cellist piano group, and they recorded a concert just for us. And we learned how to market it online to all our patrons and, and put the concert online.

So that was our first one in, I believe it was in October of 2020. And ever since then we've done all of our contracts online.

 

Savannah:

I think it's good talking to other promoters, especially, that you guys stopped and waited and then figured it out, instead of forcing yourself to like, do something really fast. Because a lot of people I've been talking to you on these episodes, say like, start slow, and take that time to learn. So you can do it correctly the first time.

So I'm glad it worked out.

I wanted to ask, since it's your first time doing virtual events, what do you think? I am sure there's a lot, but what would you say your biggest challenge has been or was like hosting virtual concerts versus in person, live concerts? What has been the biggest change that's kind of been an obstacle for you guys?

 

Robin:

Um, that's a really good question. I would say the the learning curve of the technology. You really want to make sure that when you do a virtual concert, that you're still engaging with your patrons. And I mean, that's, that's why you do concerts is, is to bring something amazing to touch other people for that connection with other people in the shared experience. And that can be really hard to facilitate online.

And so using today's technology to try and still have that contact with people, it was really difficult. And for the first concert, we more than likely could have done better. But we've learned we've grown and each concert I I hope our patrons have felt the love that we have for them and for our musicians coming through.

 

Savannah:

Yes. And I'll just say a live experience is not the same as a virtual, like you could do it as best as you can. It's not the same, especially music, feeling it in that room and being a part of it, like I totally get that it's such a hard transition. So I always like to, especially when I talk to performing arts theater groups, like how have you guys made it easier, how have you boosted that engagement? If that makes sense? How have you found to like, get your audience more engaged the best way you can online?

 

Robin: 

We have tried to do personal touches to our online concerts. So with every content that we have done, we have asked our audience, our our musician, sorry, to record a greeting for us. So they have simply either before they have performed or done a separate video and said "Hello, Regina. Hello to the Regina. We're so thankful that you asked us to record this concert." Like something along those lines, just so our patrons know, we haven't just stolen a concert.

But this has actually been done. We have taken the time to do this for you. We also, our executive director Lore, also she records a different greeting for every concert as well. And then after some of our concerts we have, we've done online zoom reception.

 

Savannah:

Oh, that's cute.

 

Robin:

We have asked, we have asked our patrons and our musicians if you would join us for a reception afterwards where we can all gather together and chat about the music and meet the musicians. And we we did one we actually did a Christmas party in December right before Christmas. And we invited, we didn't know how much response we would get from our musicians. I think we Lore talked to 15 musicians to see if they would possibly donate their time and come to a little online Christmas party. And she got 15 yeses.

Like, like we just we have such wonderful people who play for us. And it was a it was one of the best zoom parties that I've ever had. It was so much fun.

 

Savannah:

Have you guys done? Did you do receptions like that at all when you're doing live events or is that new as well?

 

Robin:

We did live receptions and you would we would usually take your musicians out for a meal we wouldn't invite all of our patrons out for reception, so it would be a very, very small group that would go out and we would share a meal together afterwards. So this is a new experience inviting everyone who buys a ticket to a concert to come to an online reception.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, that's awesome too for them something that they wouldn't have been able to experience in person. Now they can actually connect with artists online. I like that. And you said, you're using Zoom, I like to ask this question every time for anyone that's doing virtual events, what platform they use, because there are so many, but you guys are using Zoom.

 

Robin:

We are not using zoom actually.

 

Savannah:

Oh, what are you using?

 

Robin:

Zoom is just an easy word. Because everyone understands. Yeah, oh, yeah. We use, we use Google Suite. And so we have done all of our concerts, by YouTube. So our artists to record their concert, and they either upload it to YouTube to a private channel, or they send me the file, and I will upload it to YouTube. And then all of our concerts you can only access if you have bought a ticket.

So it's by a private channel. And I will send you the link for the concert, about 24 hours before the concert and then I will make it go live at whatever time we have scheduled it for usually four in the afternoon. And you get access to that concert on YouTube for one week.

 

Savannah:

Oh, nice! And then for the reception, though, since that's live, that's a live event that you'd have to attend when it's happening, correct?

 

Robin:

It is and so I send out I send a separate email with the with the Google Suite, link to it that everybody joins.

 

Savannah:

Awesome. Okay, I like to always ask that question because everyone uses everything in the world because there's so many options.

 

Robin:

Yes. My goodness, it's good to hear what other people are using. 

 

Savannah: 

I've heard other ones I'm like, I've never even heard of that. But so I always ask that. Do you? Oh, before I go to the next question I had, you said that in the beginning, you kind of have to relearn how to market online.

What are some ways you found that have been effective marketing, or reaching out and letting people know like, hey, especially in the beginning, like, "Hey, this is what we're doing."

 

Robin: 

One thing that we've had tremendous feedback about is Lore came up with this idea that the Board of Cecilian Chamber Series, weekly was going to recommend online concerts to our patrons, we call it Cecilian Chamber Series Recommends.

And every week, she sends out an email that has three of us putting different other live concerts you can buy tickets for, or just recorded things that we have found online. And we send it out to all of our patrons. And the response has been amazing from people, they have really been connecting with that, and have been loving what we have recommended and have felt connected to us.

So by simply reaching out to our patrons, with no with no thought of our own game, or, you know, we're gonna do this and like sneaky get you to buy tickets or so yes, we just a way we understand you're stuck in your house, things are not good right now. But here's a little bit of a bright spot to your week that you can look at these contracts and watch them. People have been engaging with us more, people have been sharing those emails with friends and family from far and wide. We've put it on Facebook as well and we've had more followers on Facebook because of it.

It has been one of the simplest and really most beautiful ways to connect with our patrons. And you have responded to us overwhelmingly, please don't stop.

 

Savannah:

I love that. And I think to people are, how do I market my event like they look for kind of sneaky ways or even just products or. But in the end, like you said, people honestly are just looking for someone they can trust someone that's genuine like a leader. Like you said, that's just helping them along the way and it's not for their own personal gain.

And I think we lose sight of that, that we lose sight of what we're doing. Like when we were doing this podcast, we decided to do this, because we want to find a way that we can help our promoters. I don't know if it's going to help us but we want to find a way to connect everyone online like we have, we probably have other artists and groups listening right now that your advice is going to be, it's going to be so great for them. So I love that.

 

Robin: 

I love that you're doing this podcast. I mean, as, as myself as an extrovert, who relies heavily on other people, for everything. We've lost connection right now with COVID. And any way that we can reach out to others and just say "Hey, like I understand, you're alone. But here's a way we can connect together for no other reason." Just then we're all humans and we need to love each other.

It's so important.

 

Savannah:

Yeah. Yep. And that's what we're lucky that we have the technology to do so. Because there's a lot, there's a lot of platforms out there to connect, I just hope after all this, were able to, again, connect in person and, and know how to socialize and not lose that aspect.

Because we're so used to like, socialization on the screen. So we'll see. I'm nervous to see how we all come out on the other side.

 

Robin:

If we can just love each other we will figure it out.

 

Savannah:

I know the first I'm thinking about like the first like concert or any performance I go to in person again, it's gonna probably, it could probably not even be like the best quality, but it's gonna be amazing. You know what I mean?

Anything I'm gonna be like, YES, that is amazing!

On that note, for people listening, do you have any tips for promoters in the industry solo artists may be interested in, in hosting their own virtual concerts? Anything you've learned along the way doing this, anything you can kind of give out to them?

 

Robin:

The biggest thing I think would just be be organized in and how you're going to do this. So you need to you need to keep in mind how you're going to connect with your patrons, who your patrons are, which is where something like Purplepass comes in really, really handy, just to kind of keep everyone all together. And then what's the best way to showcase your concert?

 

Savannah:

So like you said start slow and take the time to research. Know your audience. Yeah, right. Yeah. Be patient. I would say be patient with the process.

 

Robin:

Very patient with the process.

 

Savannah:

Yeah. And then going on your website. Just looking through what you guys are doing. I did notice that you have an online like raffle ticket going, which is cool. So I wanted to just ask, what do you guys selling raffle tickets for one of the events?

 

Robin:

No, that's for a 50/50 draw. We're doing, Yeah, so it's, it's it's a company here in Regina, that is is doing online 50/50 for helping nonprofits do online 50/50 just to wrestle. So it's pretty fantastic. It's all online. Unfortunately, you do have to be here in the province of order to buy tickets. So, so sorry.

For those that aren't. And it's, yeah, it's just a it's a fun way to engage. Everyone loves a 50/50. And your chances, right, you get excited about your chances.

And we do have, we tried to do lots of education and outreach to our community. So we give free concert tickets to people who are undergoing cancer treatments. We give free concert tickets to seniors and care homes. We also have many times when we have live performances, our artists will not only do the concert, but they will also we'll set up a masterclass for them so that they can reach out to young musicians here.

With our next two concerts, we have a violinist in at the end of February, and then a pianist at the end of March, they're going to be doing online master classes. So the funds raised from the raffle ticket sales will go towards paying these artists to do the master classes.

 

Savannah:

I like that. I thought that was interesting. I just everything's online now. So it's like online raffle tickets. I
even think about that.

 

Robin:

It's great. It's super fantastic. And you know, you set it up and you let it run.

 

Savannah: 

Yeah! There you go. Okay, so I think just to wrap it up, we do we have a lot of nonprofits that we work with. And I noticed, again, because I'm nosy and I like to like look at everything you're doing before I talk to people that you're having a virtual fundraiser this month. And I went to that page and for like the options to donate you guys to different levels, which I thought is fun and cool, because some people just do the donation just open ended.

But you guys have different levels. So I was just curious how that works and if you can kind of explain the different tiers you guys are offering for people to donate.

 

Robin:

Sure. So we're doing an online concert that is our fundraiser. Usually we would do a live fundraiser with a local artist here and in years past, we've done really fun things where we've gone to a local brewery pub here and done like beer, bratwurst and Bach. So we had a cellist come in to play all of the Bach cello suites and we had, you know, beer and sausages with it and it was fantastic.

This year, of course, we can't do that. So we're having love songs by a wonderful soprano and her collaborative pianist. And she said that her and her pianist would come up with the first half of the songs, but maybe people would give a donation and they would request a song and gift that song to somebody for Valentine's Day.

You'll give a higher donation, and you'll get to pick your song. And some people might not want to give that much. So we'll give everybody a chance to donate. So we have three levels, we have the Chocolate level, which is a $50 donation, you have the Roses level, which is $100 donation, and then we call it the Diamond Impresario level, which is a $200 dollar donation, and you got to pick a song. And that will be the second half of the concert or all these gifted songs.

 

Savannah:

I love that that's such a good idea because you have donations, but then you can make it more exciting and people want to be involved. And they kind of get a little bit out of it and it's such a good idea and the different levels to.

 

Robin:

And it's been wildly successful. We only because the soprano and collaborative pianist had to take time to to learn whatever because people could pick anything. Oh, gosh, whatever music was picked and of course, they can't rehearse together, the collaborative pianist had to record his part in his home and send the files to the soprano. We decided to only allow five diamond impresarios and boy those sure got picked real quick.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, I would love to, I would love to see all the different songs that they get so funny.

 

Robin:

I'm going to keep that a secret. It's gonna be a great concert, I am super excited for it! 

 

Savannah:

That sounds awesome. Okay, well, thanks for joining me before I leave you, I know you're busy. Anything else? Just anything you want to put out there for our listeners? If not, that's okay, tips or just advice or?

 

Robin: 
Like right now. Keep on doing what you're doing and reach out to whoever you can just for the sake of reaching out to people. Reach out as much as possible to just keep going and we'll get through this together.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, I think it's it's amazing. We've really united and I've just seen so much love during this time and and people that I talked to that they're kind of hesitant to do virtual events or something, they don't really know it's a new territory for them. But I'm just like, at this point, like I said, I will watch anything I will go to anything that has event on it. I don't care and people are understanding you know, because we just want to socialize and be together again. So I just say go for it.

 

Robin: 

Absolutely. Okay, thanks

 

Savannah:

Thanks so much! I enjoyed our talk or conversation and I hope you have a great weekend.

 

Robin: 

Thank you Savannah. hope you have a fantastic weekend. Enjoy from here and very, very cold and snowy Regina, I hope you enjoy that.

 

Savannah: 

We have some nice sun up. I'll send you my sun!

 

Robin: 

Well we have a lot of sun, it's an incredibly sunny day, it's the cold.

 

Savannah: 

Well, I'll send you my heat too because sometimes it is a lot. 

 


Video notes and links

Cecilian Chamber Series: 

About the organization 

Virtual concerts and events

 

Streaming software:

Google Suite

YouTube Live

 

Useful Purplepass integrations:

Live stream widget and ticket type

Mass email tool 

Facebook integration 

Get started on PurplePass

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