Let me guess, you have a project. A dream project that you would love to go forward with and it involves raising money.
Maybe it’s a festival you want to launch.
An after school program you’d love to create.
An album you want to record.
An instrument you want to buy.
Or a new work your ensemble wants to commission.
Whatever it is, the necessary missing ingredient is . . . the money.
And maybe the thought of raising the money is so intimidating that you’ve abandoned the dream.
I get it.
When it comes to raising money, musicians often feel overwhelmed. But I’ll let you in on a secret: all ambitious projects move forward one step at a time. As business coach Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figure-outable.”
The first step you can take now. Start by getting your ideas down on paper.
Whatever you want to do that needs funding, get it out of your head and down on the page. I recommend doing this with paper and pen to avoid any digital distractions.
Create a “project map” to organize your ideas and plan. This is essentially the Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why of your project. This will help you communicate with potential supporters of your project and it’s the essentials for any grant proposal.
To create your map, answer the ten questions below as though you are speaking to someone new to you who might be able to help in the project. The more concrete and detailed you are, the better.
1. What is the goal of your project? Explain what you want to accomplish.
2. Why are you doing this project?
Explain how it will benefit you and others. Let’s say the project is for your own studies or for a recording project or instrument, describe why the project is essential to your career development and your long-term goals. But go further and explain how this project will allow you to fulfill your larger mission—the impact on others you’re looking to make through your music.
3. What specific activities will take place as part of your project?
Be thorough and concrete. This will enable potential supporters to fully imagine and be inspired by your vision.
4. What is your “track record” so far?
To help demonstrate your ability to succeed with this project, list any examples of your leadership skills, including significant performance or teaching experience, awards, or honors. This can give potential donors confidence in your ability to succeed.
5. Who will help or participate in the project?
List all the people who will be involved and detail their roles in the project. Short bios of each collaborator will enhance the credibility of your project.
6. When will it be completed?
This is important. Whether your project includes a performance, a release of an album, or the launching of a teaching artist program, you need to choose a date—the deadline for when your project goes live. Choosing a specific date will help you create a timeline for completing key steps along the way. Deadlines help us prioritize and focus.
7. What is your desired outcome?
Explain how you’ll measure the success of the project—how you’ll know that you’ve succeeded. It might be having a sold out show, a positive review of your new album in a respected publication, or growing your mailing list to a certain size. Be clear—write it down, and be as specific as possible.
8. How much money is needed?
Make a list of all the expenses you anticipate for your project, with a description next to each cost. For some items, you may need to guesstimate and do some research. Ask three other people who’ve done something similar what the specific items or services cost them. And check reliable sources on line. Be as accurate as possible. Once you’ve listed everything you can think will be needed for the entire project, add it up and write in the total. This is the start of your budget.
A budget has 2 parts: expense (you’ve just done) and income. So now think about ways you might fund the project. “In-kind” donations are a good start: think of any needed performance and rehearsal spaces you can get for free, or services such as printing, editing, and catering, that friends will be willing to donate. And if you have any savings you can use as part of the funding, list it. Can you barter for some of what’s needed? Include these in your list as the foundation for your fundraising.
Why write all this down?
As a coach, I’ve talked with hundreds musicians over the years about the inspiring projects they wish to launch. The ideas are terrific and they’re clearly motivated and capable. But I can always tell whether or not a musician is ready to take the project forward.
It’s simple. I just ask if they have written any of their ideas down, or calculated what it’s going to cost.
All too often the answer is no.
Then I explain that writing is the first step to getting things done. That it will clarify their ideas and priorities. That it will make it easier to talk with potential supporters and to write grant proposals because it is the blueprint for their project work. And if a week later they still haven’t gotten it down on paper, I know their project is a dream they aren’t yet ready to make real.
The question is: are YOU ready?
Facing the fear
Tackling any ambitious creative project stirs up fears. Expect it: it’s a sign that you’re doing something challenging that you care about. Sometimes our fears show up as avoidance or procrastination. Naming our fears can be freeing. It allows us to test whether or not the fear we feel is reality-based and if so, if it’s a risk we want to take. To tease out how fear may be factoring into your project, answer these final questions:
9. What are you afraid of?
And what else? (the truth this time)
10. Why are you afraid?
By seeing our fear out in front of us, we can be more objective about it. My best advice for dealing with fear is to move forward directly into it. It’s the only way to get past it. Think of fear as an indicator pointing you towards what will help you grow the most.
To move forward you need courage: the ability to feel the fear and move ahead anyway into the unknown territory, learning as you go.
It may help to remind yourself that the regrets people have late in life are rarely about what they did and failed at. What people regret most is what they didn’t do. Don’t die with your dreams and projects still inside you.
* Bonus question: What would completing this project bring to you (your career, your life)? What results would you experience from reaching the goal?
** Bonus resource: Check out The Tools guys on the Force of Courage.
This week: map your project. It’s the first step to raising the money needed.
Next week we’ll tackle “Making the Ask”!
As always, I welcome your comments and questions—and I’d love to hear what project you’re going to tackle!
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well!