Making It Work: Finding the Funding

finding instrument funding

In her latest installment of Making It Work, LeslieAnne Bird explores strategies to support music educators in finding the funding for new Orff instruments.


When I began teaching using the Orff Approach I had not one barred instrument in my classroom.  While it is possible to teach Orff without barred instruments, I wanted my students to have them.  (Who am I fooling, I wanted to play them too!)  I set about acquiring instruments any way I could find them.  I started with three soprano xylophones and I have worked my way up to a set that includes enough barred instruments for half of my largest class – and it is still growing.  Quality instruments that will withstand years of use by children, transport from classroom to performance space, play in tune and have easily available replacement parts are worth the investment. Now comes the hard part, how do I pay for them?

First develop your plan. List the benefits, educational opportunities, outcomes and curricular goals that can be met using the instrumentarium.

As you begin fundraising, find a way to get a few instruments in your classroom. Even if it for a short period of time or one performance. Make them a feature and use them with as many children as possible.

Talk with other Orff teachers in your area.  Would they be willing to loan three or four instruments to you for a special project?  Perhaps a fellow teacher can come and present a “master class” or “guest artist” day and bring along some of their instruments.  Does your school participate in career day or a cultural arts day?  Have a fellow Orff educator or music education professor from a nearby college present a session with instruments to spark interest.

Look into loaner programs.  The Greater Cleveland Orff Chapter has a small collection of instruments that members can apply to borrow; perhaps your chapter offers this as well.  The American Center for Elemental Music and Movement (ACEMM) has a “Mobile Ensemble Program” where educators may apply to borrow instruments. If it is financially feasible you may wish to purchase two or three instruments on your own at a conference or at an after conference season sale.  If you are in a district with multiple school buildings perhaps there is another teacher who has some packed away in a closet that they don’t use very often or at all and they would be willing to share.

Whichever route you choose publicize the use of the bars as much as possible. Put pictures and videos on your website and/or the school website.  Invite administrators, parents, the PTA leadership, Rotary or Kiwanis club leaders, whomever may be an ally in your community with funding or building interest to performances, informances, class sharing and presentations. Let them see the value with their own eyes.

Now that you have built excitement and interest, it is time to look for the actual funding.

My first step is to just ask.  I ask everybody (administrators, curriculum directors, PTA, local organizations like Rotary etc.) “Is there money somewhere for this instrument?  This is how it will benefit children….” The worst possible outcome is a “No”.  Sometimes the answer is “Yes”, sometimes the answer is “No, but….” and I get a referral.

Take advantage of people who ask, “What do you need?”  If you have a parent or booster organization and they offer to help, share your long-term plan and what you would like right now. If there is money available and it is not enough for your purchase, ask if you may use the funds toward the purchase of the alto xylophone (or whatever is your first priority) and combine with other sources. In the instance of a donor ask for everything first, and then scale back.  You never know when someone may be connected to someone else and able to fund more than you anticipated. If an organization or donor contributes to the purchase of an instrument or two, have the children write thank you notes, send pictures of the children using the new equipment, recognize their contribution in you concert programs and if possible schedule a small performance or informance using the instruments at an event or meeting.  Gratitude goes a long way.

Educate yourself about how your school funding and budgets work.  There may not be money available in the educational supply budget, but perhaps there is money in the permanent improvement fund, or the educational furnishings budget.  Some schools have repair accounts that can be used to fix damaged instruments.  Under the new “Every Student Succeeds Act” there is now more flexibility in how Title 1 funds are spent allowing for the supplemental funds to support a well-rounded education, including music. Look to the less obvious sources of school budget funds.  Every school will be different; in this instance knowledge is power.

Donors Choose and Go Fund Me are popular resources for teachers to procure funding.  The key to successful campaigns is to limit your request to one or two instruments and publicize your project to reach as many possible contributors multiple times.  The more people who know and support your program who see the project, the more likely will be funded. When the financial goal is easily met, it seems folks are more willing to donate. As soon as one project is funded follow up with your next project right away.

Grants are also a popular. The AOSA (American Orff Schulwerk Association) offers several grant opportunities on its website. There is also a link to other sources for funding outside of AOSA. Your local Orff Chapter may have grant opportunities, and is a great place to network with other Orff educators who may have used grants specific to your locale to fund their collection.  Many local school districts have grant organizations or a relationship with grant funders to assist with special projects.

Lastly, there are the traditional fund raising routes.  I find success in selling water and treats during concerts.  I ask parents to donate items, and a few parents run the table before and after the concert. I have also sold “stars” at concerts where parents and friends write well wishes to the performer on a photocopied star for $1.00. The “stars” are hung on the wall outside the concert.  I leave them there for a few days then give them to the children. I thank everyone for his or her support, celebrate how much we raised and share how much is left to meet the goal.  Sometimes, a benefactor makes up the difference. Spaghetti dinners, fundraiser nights at local restaurants where folks purchase food and your group gets a portion of the revenue, sales of items or services are also more traditional routes that have worked well for many teachers.

Each school is different, what has worked for me may not work for you. What worked for you may be just the resource someone else has been looking for. Please share your success stories in the comments so we may all benefit from your clever ideas and make it work!


About LeslieAnne Bird

LeslieAnne Bird

LeslieAnne Bird is a music and movement educator in North Olmsted, Ohio. She teaches general music for grades three to six as well as fifth and sixth grade band and orchestra and choir for grades three to six. She teaches music enrichment classes at the Strings Attached summer program as well as choral enrichment for The Orchestra program at Tri-C on Saturday afternoons. She is Vice president for the Greater Cleveland Orff Chapter and serving as the content curator for the Teaching With Orff community. She earned Orff Certification from Baldwin Wallace University in 2014, and has completed Level One World Music Drumming training.

5 Comments

Terese D'Amico

When you have an educator like Mrs. Bird inspiring the children, it is easy to assist with finding funds to support any musical cause! She is a treasure!

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Dan Rupright

Are there any funding options in Ohio for replacing large numbers of instruments in a small high school’s band?

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Genia Edmonds

I would love to just hear from Ms. Bird about what she does with 6th grade music. I’m at a loss. I have K-6 classroom music, band a chorus.

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LeslieAnne Bird

Hello Genia! This year in 6th grade, we review treble and bass clef, and learn about grand staff. We started the year with the “Good, Better, Best” project shared by Michael Chandler. Then we moved on to percussion ensemble work in mixed meter. We use recorders in ensemble using alto, tenor and bass recorders along with xylophone and soprano accompaniments. We came back from break doing a few folk dances in class. I will begin third quarter doing a collaborative unit with our PE teacher on Tinikling (a folk dance using poles), Then we will move on to our spring project which is tied to the book “Where the Wild Things Are”. They will be playing and arranging “Best Day of My Life” in Orff Ensemble. The recorder and literacy component thread throughout the year. I hope this helps!

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