Inspired by a Novel
It’s not often I get to write about my other writing world, that of novels and short stories, here at Fundraising Mums, but I recently finished reading a book, Wearing Paper Dresses by Anne Brinsden, which told of a unique fundraising idea from the 1950s that I want to share.
The novel is set in mid-century Australia, in the Mallee, the northernmost part of Victoria, hot, dry and harsh. At one point the family go to a concert to raise money for the drought. Elise, the mother, has been asked to sing.
Everyone from the roundabouts was at the concert… Waiting for the entertainment and opportunity to thumb their noses at the drought and let it know that no drought was going to force them to walk off their land…
There were murmurings and shufflings of feet and quiet coughings. Then the curtains were drawn and there was the concert. There were fiddle players and honky tonk piano players. There were reciters of poetry, reciters of prose, someone telling jokes and a couple of church choirs. There was a man playing the spoons, and a man playing the saw. There were children, singing and dancing.
Then there was Elise…
The voice coming out of her pounded at the ears of all and sundry; and pulled at the hearts of all and sundry. That voice was magic… and she left those people believing in magic…
The applause finally wore itself out and Elise bowed again, in disbelief, and left the stage. Because the concert organisers had to allocate the prize winners. Which, being a fundraising concert, went like this: you took as much spare change as you could afford to the concert and you put all your money on the person you wanted to win. The person with the most money won.
However, Elise does not win the concert.
But the truth was Marjorie’s family was not one of the richest families – it was one of the poorest. They didn’t have much to spare but even so… they had all scraped together what they could…
‘You were a star, Elise,’ said Bill.
‘I didn’t win.’
‘You won as far as I am concerned. We just didn’t have enough money.’
It might seem strange that I mention a fundraising idea based on a story where the most talented person doesn’t win simply because their family is poor, but I love the idea of a modern-day fundraising concert which combines the entertainment value of a talent or variety show with the excitement and competitiveness of an auction.
It could be a wonderful way to encourage individuals and groups from within your community to share their talents while also providing a unique way to raise funds.
I see there being two different approaches to holding a fundraising concert auction. For both, you would need to set up a series of money boxes with pictures of each performer/act, into which people then deposit their bids.
The auction method
You could conduct the prize-winners selection the same way as in Wearing Paper Dresses and people can donate as much as they want in the name of the person they want to win. This is traditionally how auctions work, where the person who is willing to spend the most money ultimately wins the prize.
Setting up an EFTPOS or credit card payment facility would probably increase your profits, (deposit the paper receipt into the money box so it can be counted).
The voting method
Alternatively, instead of selling ‘tickets’ you could sell ‘bidding dollars’ – say each person pays $20 and gets four $5 tickets, which at the end of the concert they use to vote for the person or people they wish to win (they can ‘spend’ their money on one person or multiple).
This second option potentially limits the amount of money raised, but may be considered more equitable.
While the voting and counting takes place, you could incorporate another fundraiser – selling food, market stalls, group performances, a live or silent auction – before the winners are announced.
You might also consider a variety of prizes: most bids/money raised, biggest cheer/clap, Judges’ choice, and an encouragement award. None of the prizes need to be expensive – here are some great ‘free’ incentive prizes that would be fun to win and not eat into your fundraising profits.
What do you think about the concept of a fundraising concert auction? Would it work for your school or club?
With acknowledgement and thanks to Anne Brinsden and her beautiful novel Wearing Paper Dresses, from which the idea of a fundraising concert comes from. Please note the above excerpts have been edited for brevity and appear between pages 134-144.