Brandenburg Choral Festival’s Marketing Manager, Marc Gascoigne, talks to our development director, Rosie Williams, about our charity fundraising scheme...

Hi Rosie. Please can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do for Brandenburg?

Hi Marc, yes of course. I’ve been the Development Officer for Brandenburg for just over a year, and was working for the festival for a few years before that as an assistant administrator. My job entails running our Charity Fundraising Scheme and dealing with all of the publicity, planning, logistics and correspondence that the initiative entails.

How does the scheme work?

Basically, we invite charities to sponsor one of our concerts, but for free, so they don’t give us any money! We will then put their name and logo on the concert posters and the concert page on our website, and we’ll ask them to write an article about their work to go in the programme on sale on the night. The main part of the scheme involves the charities selling tickets: we’ll give them an allocation and they can sell the tickets to their supporters, and keep £9 per adult ticket and £2.50 per child ticket for their own funds. We also ask them to send a representative to the concert so that audience members can find out more, and we undertake a retiring collection, with all proceeds going to our charity partner or partners for that concert.

How many charities are involved with the scheme? Are there any criteria that they have to meet to sign up?

So far we’ve had more than 120 charities sign up to sponsor a concert, and of those about half have done a second, or even a third, fourth and fifth! We have charities sign up from all over the country and involved in all fields of work, including overseas aid, disability support, health research, animal welfare, environmental concerns and youth outreach projects. We don’t have any limits on income, setup or remit, and charities with many different organisational structures seem to make it work. If they don’t have a full-time fundraiser, then trustees and volunteers are often happy to get involved. If there’s any doubt about a charity participating, I would encourage them to have a go. There’s no financial commitment or minimum sales to meet, so it’s a low-risk venture, compared to say, promoting your own fundraising concert and covering all the costs associated with that.

So talk us through what happens when a charity decides to join the scheme.

Twice a year, I will email our charity partners a list of available concerts in the upcoming series. These emails normally go out in June for Autumn, and October for Spring. We invite them to shortlist six concerts and submit their preferences on a bid sheet with a rough estimate of how many tickets they hope to sell and a few other details, such as whether they think they will require disabled access or a drinks reception. A couple of weeks later, Bob Porter and I go through the bids and allocate concerts based on charities’ preferences and requirements. We then make formal offers for them to partner with us for a concert, which we very much hope they will accept!

After that it takes a couple of weeks to get the charity set up with their ticket sales and publicity. There are a couple of options for ticket sales: we can provide paper tickets and/or an online link to our ticketsourcesales, and for concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields, we operate a spreadsheet system which involves the charity collecting purchasers’ email addresses so that we can send them an e-voucher to be exchanged at the box office. Once these sales routes are up and running, we add these details to our concert flyers. These can be provided in PDF format and it’s also possible to buy hard copies from our printers.

Around this time, I also try to send out a press pack, which contains as much information about the concert as possible and usually includes paragraphs about the festival, the venue, the performers, the programme as well as a summary of the concert and some photographs. We encourage charities to use these however they wish to publicise their concert with us, for example on their website, in their mailing lists, twitter, facebook and so on.

In return, at this point I’ll ask charities for an article to go in the programme so that our audience members can read more about the charities we’re supporting, the work that they are doing, and where their money will be going if they donate to the retiring collection at the end. We need this page about a month before the concert.

After that, we just keep tabs on ticket sales, and then finalise arrangements for the concert in the week leading up to it. At most venues we can organise a drinks reception, and in some it’s possible to reserve a private area for this. Some charities use this to thank their supporters or launch a new appeal, so it can be a very effective addition to their event with us. Otherwise, on the night representatives can bring leaflets, photo-boards and freestanding banners and at most venues we can provide some table space for their display. At the beginning of the concert, Bob will welcome everyone and flag up which charity we are supporting, encouraging the audience to give generously to the collection and find out more about the charity’s work in the interval. Representatives just have to man their table and be on hand to answer questions, and can hopefully relax and enjoy the concert! Our ambassadors even undertake the collection at the end, so there’s nothing to worry about there.

Then afterwards we sort out the money and arrange bank transfers or cheques for the balances.

And in terms of the money, would it be cheeky to ask how much most charities raise?

That’s a hard question to answer as it depends on so many things! I’d say that there’s a certain degree of getting out what you put in: if charity reps work incredibly hard and sell 80+ tickets, which I believe has been done, then the proceeds from that combined with the retiring collection will mean a substantial amount is raised, maybe in the region of £1000. It can be significantly less, but there are other benefits of publicity and getting the word out too, so we hope it’s a valuable experience for all charities who take part.

So if someone’s reading this and thinks that it’s for them and their charity, what would they need to do?

Get in touch! The easiest way is by email to dev@brandenburg.org.uk. We’re always delighted to hear from new charities, and many of them do go on to work with us. I will hope to hear from them soon!