Fundraising is a great way for councils to add to their grant pool or support council originated programming. Whether it be for supporting more projects or
creating an LCC-run community project, this resourceful page includes all the information needed to start and manage a fundraising project.
Managing Fundraised Dollars
Many 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. A council may also submit a local council-originated (LCO) grant for a program or activity for
which fees will be charged. As with all LCO grants, the program must reflect local needs and be approved by the state panel.
Following the 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 MCC's 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 MCC 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 the MCC in the annual
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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.
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
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. Before contacting the
municipality, familiarize yourself with the municipality's local officials, community needs, and the impact that the council has or could have on the community. Over
time the council can build a relationship with the municipality. Council members need to
be able to convince the town or city official that investing in the council's cause will help them advance their agenda. Find out if the city/town has a strategic
plan and learn what role arts and culture play in the plan. This will help the council understand how its work can support their city/town's goals. If the plan
does not address arts and culture specifically, think about how the council's work supports other areas of focus, whether it is providing after-school programming
for at-risk youth, or supporting the local economy by creating community events. The New England Foundation for the
Arts has a helpful website that measures the financial impact cultural institutions have on
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. For more information about soliciting
donations from larger corporations, read the corporate donations guide.
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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LCC Facts and Figures
In fiscal year 2011, 87 Local Cultural Councils reported receiving $100 or more of locally raised funds and/or interest:
- Total of funds reported: $223,516
- Mean or average reported: $2,569
- Median reported: $690
- Largest amount reported by a council: $16,632
LCCs were surveyed to identify the sources of their local revenue and reported the following:
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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
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
Dennis Cultural 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
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
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
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 (WeSPAC) 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
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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
- 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 given by Eric D'Alessandro, MCC Program Officer: 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
Articles and further reading:
The Ten Most Important Things You Can Know
about Fundraising (PDF)
8 Ways to Raise $2,500 in 10 Days (PDF)
Tips on writing solicitation letters and templates:
Step by Step Fundraising
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