Communities of Support
by Cynthia Hawkins, Executive Director
In preparation for this Voice of Mendelssohn article, I happened upon a recent survey published by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (a North American organization which provides leadership to the charitable sector, including 3,500 Canadian members). The 2013 Fundraising Survey reports that 57% of Canadian responding nonprofits saw an increase in fundraising contributions over last year. In addition, 53% reported receiving between 50% and 100% of their philanthropic funds from individual donors. When asked which issues most affected fundraising results, 73% of respondents commented that the highest contributors to their success were their ability to build strong donor relationships, and their commitment to the organization’s mission and programming.
The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir budgets about 39% of its revenue per year from the private sector, with 48% of those gifts coming from individual donors – the members of the TMC circle of connections who are most emotionally connected to our performances and programs.
Beginning last season, we put renewed emphasis on building strong, active relationships with the members of our community. We began to change the way in which we approach and interact with these stakeholders, affirming their commitment to the TMC or striving to increase their engagement with us.
- We have refreshed the TMC’s newsletter, the Voice of Mendelssohn, in a new online format circulated to our closest members – choristers and alumni, board and staff, TMC Legacy Circle and current donors.
- We hold an annual series of community building events, ranging from an open house in the TMC’s new office and library space to private receptions.
- We continue to strengthen our alumni program through open rehearsal and dinner events, and the opportunity to sing at select concerts.
- We keep in touch with donors through personalized emails, handwritten notes and phone calls.
- Last year we took a fresh look at the Conductors’ Challenge and re-envisaged the chorister campaign to encourage participation in ways that are meaningful to them; fostering community spirit and strengthening ties between the choristers’ own circles of connections and the organization.
- We began to engage current and new stakeholders on social media, posting articles and events of interest to all choral communities.
This focus on building and strengthening relationships is already bearing new fruit. The commitment of our choristers to the organization beyond attending rehearsals and performances is exemplary – choristers are selling tickets, attending workshops, making donations, and introducing their communities to the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. Our alumni are becoming more active beyond singing – volunteering and attending events. An increasing number of our community are making gifts or increasing the level of their support, honouring the Choir and individual choristers through special event or In Memoriam donations, and choosing to remember the TMC in their estate planning. Two long-time donors, who were captivated by our new ability to webcast TMC performances, donated funds to fully cover the costs of this year’s webcasts. And, we have seen the Conductor’s Challenge campaign grow from raising $27,000 its first year, to its current goal of $80,000. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without building strong, committed relationships with our stakeholders.
At the February meeting of the TMC board of directors, one of our new members commented that, “what seems to be the common thread is how successful organizations make people feel warm and connected to them, from universities to political parties to arts organizations who let people ‘in’ somehow. There seems to be some form psychic income transferred, a sense of connection, a sense of contribution, intimacy or intellectual advancement.”
In a city where an ever-growing number of diverse and interesting arts organizations are vying for the attention of the 7.5 million people who access the arts in Toronto, continuing to build personal, meaningful relationships with our supporters is going to make the difference in our ability to achieve our mission to be the champion of choral music in Canada. We are one of those organizations alluded to above who exceeded their individual donation goals in both 2013 and 2014. Thank you for your continued support – we looking forward to connecting with you again soon.