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Fundraising is a great way for councils to add to their grant pool or support council-initiated programming. Whether your council aims to supporting more projects by granting, or organizing a project yourselves, this resourceful page includes all the information needed to start and manage a fundraising project.

Managing Fundraised Dollars

Sculpture in a tree at Art in the ParkMany fundraising activities will need seed money to get up and running. There are some resources immediately available to the council; for example, councils may use the interest earned on their account for fundraising purposes. Another source of funds is the five percent of the annual allocation that councils may use for administrative purposes. This could be put towards fundraising expenses such as postage, printing, phone bills, or maintaining a website.

Following any fundraiser, councils need to track the new funds in their account. Since LCCs are considered government agencies, all monies - including fundraised monies - must be deposited and maintained in the municipal account that is designated for the council. Donated and earned monies should be tracked by the council treasurer so the council knows the ongoing total of both locally raised funds and state funds. The ledger template is a helpful tool for this process. As stated in the guidelines, the funds may be accessed only through the process used by the municipality's treasurer and/or accountant's office for the expenditure of public funds. Separate checkbooks or non-municipal accounts are not permissible.

Councils can use locally raised funds (including interest earned) for purposes related to the arts, humanities or interpretive sciences, however, they do not have to have Mass Cultural Council approval to spend money they have raised. Councils may save their fundraised money to put towards a large-scale project. If this is the case, the council should communicate to the town its intentions to set aside funds for a future goal. Locally raised revenue is also reported to Mass Cultural Council in the annual report.

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Getting Started

To be successful fundraisers, councils should have an inspired idea, an articulate case, a passion to see it through, and community contacts. Fundraising is all about building relationships and showing people the value of the council in the community. Councils should note that all contributions made to LCCs are tax-deductible under Section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Documentation: If a donor requires additional information about the LCC's status it may be helpful to provide them the LCC Fundraising Statute, Regulations, and Code. If a donor needs proof of the LCC's connection to the municipality, the council can ask its city or town to provide a letter. See a Sample Municipal Letter Verifying LCC is Part of City/Town Government. Different Cities and Towns may have different policies on providing such documentation, so be prepared to be flexible and work with the municipality to achieve the council's goals.

A good way to start is by putting together a simple fundraising plan. The plan should include an outline of the project, a project timeline, the amount of money the council wants to raise overall, who will be responsible for each task, and a publicity plan. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you move forward:

  • Start small. Don't sponsor expensive events that could leave the council in debt or wear out volunteers. Keep costs down by getting goods and services donated from local grocery stores and businesses.
  • Share the work. Collaborate with other groups or LCCs on a fundraising activity. Collaboration allows the council to cast a wider net, and increases the chances of raising money. Plus more volunteers means more help with various tasks.
  • Be persistent. First attempts at selling tickets or soliciting donations may not be as lucrative as anticipated. It often takes time to build a successful fundraising event or activity.
  • Show your appreciation. When someone donates money or time to support your cause, follow up with a thank you note and be sure to keep in touch with them. It's beneficial to have friends in the community who support your cause, and you never know when you might need to call upon their generosity again.
  • Reflect on the results. Ask for feedback from LCC and other community members to evaluate the project. Consider these questions:
    • Was the activity well-publicized and presented?
    • Was the timing effective?
    • Did the council stay within the budget?
    • Did the council meet its participation and fundraising goals?
    • Was enough money raised to make the event worthwhile?
    • Overall, was it successful and should it be repeated?
    • Are there other fundraising strategies that might be more effective?

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Who to Approach

Fundraising is about building relationships. Councils should think about their constituents and their community, and develop a plan on who to approach for support.

Individuals: Individuals are an important group to engage in fundraising efforts. Councils should think about those who already know about and support the council's work in the community. These individuals will make up the base of the support group.

Municipalities: Many councils find that asking their town or city for money is a successful fundraising approach. Councils interested in requesting municipal funding should read through the Municipal section of the website and provide their local officials with the Municipal Guide to Local Cultural Council Fundraising.

Businesses: Businesses are another important group to consider when fundraising. Larger corporations may have grant opportunities available for the council to apply to, while local businesses may give donations or sponsor a specific event that the council is putting on. It is important to be informed about what types of projects and organizations they fund and whether they have specific application forms and guidelines. Keep in mind that some companies may prefer to donate to a specific project rather than a pool of funds to be regranted. Additionally, some companies may only make donations to organizations with 501c3 status, so it is important to see if they will recognize that contributions made to LCCs are tax -deductible under Section 170 (c) of the Internal Revenue Code before spending a lot of time submitting a request.

Foundations: Corporate, family, or community foundations will have grant opportunities available. Make sure the council is a good match for the foundation's guidelines. When grant writing, be sure to clearly show a need, an idea for a solution, and data to support the case.

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Types of Fundraising

There are as many ways to raise money as there are ways to spend it. Some of the most common fundraising techniques are:

  • Annual appeal letter
  • Donation jar at LCC funded events
  • Approach local businesses/banks for donations (both financial or in-kind goods/services)
  • Hold an arts festival to raise council visibility and showcase community artists
  • Benefit concert with silent auction/raffle
  • Open Mic series
  • Combine a raffle or silent auction with a:
    • Pancake breakfast/spaghetti dinner
    • Art show
    • Benefit Concert
  • Studio tours/art walks
  • Merchandising

Most councils raise money through a cultural event rather than, for example, a bowl-a-thon, in order to remain consistent with their role as sponsor of local cultural activities. Less traditional audiences could be rewarding, though. An activity like a bowl-a-thon may reach a broader segment of the community, which could raise more money and reach a new audience for council-sponsored programs. Keep in mind that fundraising has two benefits - money raised in the short term, and visibility over the long term.

Remember that it is possible to fundraise, and many councils do so successfully. Raising money can be hard work, but holding a council-originated project or creating the capacity to fund more applicants is worth the effort. Read the LCC Fundraising Success Stories to learn how councils have implemented many of these types of fundraising.

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Fundraising Success Stories

ChildDennis Arts and Culture Council: Letter Campaign

The Dennis Cultural Council found that a simple letter writing campaign was very profitable compared to the amount of time and energy that went into it. On a bi-annual basis, the council sends out a donation letter, and their most recent drive netted a $500 profit. The council started their mailing list by having each member come up with 10 names and/or businesses they felt were interested in arts and culture, and now includes the list of registered voters in the town. The council adds personal touches and convenience measures, such as hand-signing the letters and including a stamped return envelope with the solicitation. All donations are acknowledged with a handwritten thank you note containing a Dennis Arts and Culture Council sticker, and the names of donors are listed on the council's web site.

Wellfleet Cultural Council: Municipal Funding

For the past two years, the Wellfleet Cultural Council has received support through the town budget. The council approached the town by sending a letter to the Town Administrator requesting an allocation for the council. Council members then attended a board of selectmen meeting where they gave an overview of the grants funded through the program and the various citizens and organizations involved in each. By emphasizing that their request of $2,000 was rather small when compared to the whole town budget, and that the funds have widespread impact across the community, the council was successful in securing municipal support. The council uses the municipal funding to augment the amount available for granting each year.

Medford and Harwich Local Cultural Councils: Raffles*, Auctions & Events

To increase visibility and raise funds through a new avenue, the Medford Arts Council held an event at Flatbread Pizza to take advantage of the restaurant's fundraising program that donates a percentage of proceeds from pizza sales to area non-profits and public organizations. In addition, they had a silent auction with donated artwork and prizes from local business, as well as a raffle. The council raised over $1,300, and was able to promote itself to a broader segment of the community.

In Harwich, the council organized a jazz concert at a local venue and tied in a silent auction. Patrons purchased tickets to the concert, and were then able to bid on the 15 items up for auction. The council chose the Wychmere Beach Club as a venue, which had recently reopened following renovations and added to the appeal of the event. They solicited a number of donations from area business and member connections, and paired up certain items to increase the base value. The council sold over 200 tickets and raised more than $5,700 with the event and auction.

*If the council is interested in holding a raffle, be sure to check with the city/town solicitor ahead of time in order to abide by state gaming laws.

Westborough Cultural Council: Festivals

The Westborough Cultural Council has had great success promoting the councils and fundraising through its event "Arts in Common". The council has sponsored the event for the past three years, which features musical performances, arts and craft vendors, craft demonstrations, children's activities, food booths, and a silent auction with over 75 items. The council begins planning far in advance, and is quite active for four to six months preceding the event. They find that this has not only generated funds, but helps build community and gives local artists a chance to showcase their talents.

Southwick Cultural Council and West Springfield Arts Council: Alternative Approaches

To take advantage of an on-going community project, the Southwick Cultural Council created a fundraiser out of the town's efforts to renovate the town hall stage by selling "inches" of the stage and providing deeds to all who bought an inch or more. Following the sale, a plaque was installed with the names of the contributors. The council found that not only did this raise money, but it raised the profile of the council, as well as community support for the renovation.

The West Springfield Arts Council created a partnership with the local technical school as part of their fundraiser. Carpentry students crafted 30 birdhouses, which were on display for a month at the library and then sold for $50 apiece. The council has sold all of the houses each year they’ve done the fundraiser, which translates to a quick profit of $1,500, while providing local students with the chance to show off their skills.

...And don't forget - fundraising can always be as simple as a donation jar. One council made over $300 by placing a jar at the refreshment table during an art show!

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Tips from LCC Members:

  • Communicate with possible partners/collaborators in town.
  • Have a sense of humor!
  • Remember that people are busy. Simple fundraisers like letter campaigns can have a great return without requiring the same time and energy as an event.
  • Consider all sources when fundraising.
  • Make sure your support to the community is visible through press and word of mouth.
  • Engage support from others who want to contribute to the community.
  • Work hard to be visible.
  • Plan carefully and prepare for unforeseen problems.
  • Make sure each council member steps up to take responsibility - fundraising is an all or nothing venture.
  • Don't be afraid to approach larger institutions for donations or raffle/auction items.
  • Try not to pay for advertising, and price your events so that families can attend.
  • Patience is key with planning and execution.
  • Fundraising takes more time that you expect. Be sure to 'test' your idea on a few people to work out issues/questions before approaching the general public.
  • The more exposure you have, the better you'll do.
  • Make sure you have the man/womanpower to successfully manage your chosen fundraising strategy.

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Making the Case to Raise Funds - Fundraising presentation for LCCs by Mass Cultural Council staff: Download this presentation

The Grassroots Fundraising Journal
Map for Non Profits' Free Management Library
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Foundation Center's Proposal Writing Short Course

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