Tag Archives: Carnegie Hall

First time fundraising effort raises $75,000

Todd Robinson, Carnegie Hall, fundraising

Dr. Todd Robinson

Dr. Todd Robinson is a navy pilot and flight surgeon, author, film producer, medical school faculty member, and a practicing physician. He is an MD and a PhD. But until now there was one area in which he had no experience: fundraising.

Here’s the background: Getting ready for the world premier of renowned composer Earnestine Rodgers Robinson’s oratorio “Exodus” required fundraising. Dr. Robinson (Mrs. Robinson eldest son), and family members needed to raise $140,000 to $170,000 to bring 200 diverse choir members to New York City’s Carnegie Hall. The family organized supporters as Chicago Voices United. But, surprisingly, not as an independent 501c3 organization.

“One of the FUNdraising Good Times! articles talked about being creative in looking for funding sources as it pertained to nonprofits. This was very encouraging as we struggled in the early phases. Initially, we used personal funds and a loan as start-up capital for Chicago Voices United. But we quickly realized that we needed the nonprofit status to be more attractive for donations,” Dr. Robinson shared.

Instead of becoming a 501c3 organization, Dr. Robinson asked an existing nonprofit if Chicago Voices United could become a “sponsored project” of that nonprofit. The answer was yes, and months of paperwork and filing fees were saved, allowing the group to focus on their goal: fundraising for choir members.

They launched a website (www.ChicagoVoicesUnited.org), attempted crowdsource funding, website marketing, and social media but found each to be “extremely ineffective.”

“We decided to go a different approach. Like the article I read and resonated with, we had to get creative with our fundraising,” Dr. Robinson shared.  “As a result, we decided to pursue industries/companies directly involved in our fundraising needs: hotels and airlines based in Chicago. We figured it would easier for a company to donate their time or services to a home-grown project instead of just forking over cash.”

The results? “Requesting donations in the way of services, we quickly landed a sponsorship from Hyatt who made a donation in the form of “discounted” room prices; and in the world of expensive hotel rates of downtown Manhattan, this was a big win. Now, the price of lodging during the concert event was more within reasonable reach for our average choir member,” Dr. Robinson continued.  “This also made it easier for us to recruit choir members. Recently, United Airlines has expressed interest in making a donation of its services.”

A January “sneak preview” of Exodus in Chicago was well-received, and part of the Robinsons’ fundraising strategy: potential donors and influencers had the opportunity to experience the oratorio and become inspired. Follow up meetings are in progress as we go to press.

Dr. Robinson’s advice: “Constantly monitor your efforts with a critical eye; be adaptive and flexible enough to quickly change directions if needed; and think creative.”

You can donate at www.chicagovoicesunited.org or by calling Dr. Robinson at 901-414-3366. Contact him by email at info@chicagovoicesunited.org

Read Part One: The “Carnegie Hall or Bust” Fundraiser

Visit www.earnestinerobinson.com for more information about the life and work of Earnestine Rodgers Robinson.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

The “Carnegie Hall or Bust” Fundraiser

Earnestine Robinson, Carnegie Hall, Fundraising

Earnestine Rodgers Robinson, Composer

We were recently caught off guard when Dr. Todd Robinson, a FUNdraising Good Times! reader, shared with us that he raised over $75,000 using information from this column. We had to learn more so we could share his story with you and inspire you to achieve your fundraising goals. We asked Robinson a few questions and with this two part series we share his story with you.

But first, a little background. Dr. Robinson is the son of Earnestine Rodgers Robinson, the renowned, barrier-breaking, classical composer. She has created her third oratorio “Exodus” which will have its world premier at Carnegie Hall in New York City on February 16th. An oratorio, is a large-scale musical work for orchestra and voices, usually based on scripture such as Handel’s Messiah.

The Exodus premier will include 200 choir members from across the country. And so the fundraising question arose: how will the choir members afford the travel and accommodations that accompany this great honor?

We asked Dr. Robinson to share his fundraising needs and goals.

“This started out as a “one-time” project. We needed to raise funds to underwrite the costs of bringing together a 200-member adult and children chorus from around the country for a performance at Carnegie Hall. The members of the choir were being recruited from schools, churches and community choirs. Since the recruitment was primarily “grassroots” in nature (and not some established symphonic choir), all those participating would be responsible for covering all of their costs without the benefit of corporate sponsorship. This meant that each individual would pay a required fee to the Carnegie Hall production company, plus airline travel and the expensive cost of living charges of Manhattan (taxis, food, hotel, etc). Of course, there were other costs outside of the chorus that we needed to cover.”

“Being ‘grassroots’ in nature, we knew that many choir members were dealing with modest budgets,” Robinson continued.  “As a result, the dream of performing on the famed stage would be out of reach for most, especially the children. However, we wanted a multi-cultural choir with members with diverse, varied backgrounds. Therefore, it was our mission that we wanted to make this incredible opportunity a reality for every person who wanted to participate no matter their financial standing.”

The Robinson’s made a pledge to raise the $140,000 to $170,000 needed to make the dream a reality. This became both their mission and their challenge. And then Robinson recalled a FUNdraising Good Times! column that included a discussion of fundraising and creativity.

Next week: More about Dr. Robinson and how he raised $75,000+ without starting a nonprofit.

Visit www.earnestinerobinson.com for more information about the life and work of Earnestine Rodgers Robinson.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.