Last month, while preparing for my new Fundraising for Musicians course through NEC's School of Continuing Education, I found myself thinking about how one might create a fundraising habit of mind in a music school undergraduate.
For a young musician, building a career on the strength of a carefully cultivated web of relationships is becoming increasingly essential in today's gig economy. Fundraising is a natural outgrowth of this focus on strategic relationship building. From my days at Community MusicWorks, I like to refer to this habit of mind that prioritizes seeking out and building relationships as Resource Development Mindset.
If I were designing a music school's curriculum for Resource Development Mindset, I don't think I would necessarily seek to add a specific class. At least at NEC, undergrads already have a packed course load and there is pressure to find enough time to practice. Rather, I'd look for creative ways to embed the development of this mindset into existing undergraduate life, piggybacking on activities that are already accepted as part of the school's culture.
For instance, some specifics ways that I could imagine integrating strategic relationship building into the everyday life of a conservatory student:
1. Build a database. At orientation, each student receives a small notebook with which to begin building their personal database (students, faculty, staff, audience members). Going forward, each new person they meet is documented, eventually added into a simple Excel database. Students are required to capture at least a name and an email address, along with one or more distinguishing personal details.
2. Practice networking. Students begin practicing networking at post-recital receptions and during intermission at BSO concerts. A concert provides an excellent opportunity to mingle with strangers and strike up a conversation. The student's goal is connecting with two new people per event (bonus points awarded if they are non-musicians).
3. Hone a message. Each student is supported by a faculty member to draft an artist statement and core values that they want to build their career around. This statement will evolve over time, of course, but I like the idea of beginning pre-professional training with a clear sense of longer-term purpose. Students display their statements and core values on the inside of their instrument cases so they are visible every day, including to their peers and teachers.
4. Key supporters. Every student is tasked with recruiting a three-member advisory group of adults who have professional careers (not only in music) and who care about them (but are not their parents). They are required to schedule a check-in conversation with these mentors every six months for feedback and career development advice, based on their artist statement and core values.
5. Effective communication. Students are required to produce an e-newsletter every semester about their experience as a musician. Could be serious, could be humorous. As long as it is personal. While it might include dates of upcoming performances, the newsletter doesn't need to contain a lot of information. Rather, it is intended to be a way to focus on maintaining (or increasing) a sense of empathic connection between an artist and his/her audience base (i.e. everyone who gets added to the little notebook).
These are initial ideas. Please feel free to add your own in the Comments section.
Sharing project documentation and examples of student thinking, and my own.