This guest post is by Natalie Spangle, an autism advocate and rising senior at Mamaroneck High School.
This past December I held a benefit concert for Autism Speaks called, “Listen Up!” which raised over $8,000 for Autism Speaks’ incredible AutismCares initiative.
The money we raised ultimately helped 8 families who desperately needed it, but accumulating those funds was not an easy task, and in fact Listen Up! took several months of preparation and planning. It was quite the learning experience. So, for anyone (of any age, but my advice will probably work best for high school/college students) who would like to plan an event like this, here’s some advice:
1. Book the location way way way ahead of time
You don’t want to do all that planning and have your venue fall through! I actually booked the rehearsal and performance dates around 6 months in advance.
2. The holidays put people in a giving mood
Really! Asking for donations just as the holiday season is approaching (I chose mid-December) yields much more success than almost any other time of the year. ‘Tis the season!
3. Round up some dedicated volunteers
Find trustworthy people who are organized and ready to really set aside time for this. In addition, there are always people in the community (especially bands, artists, etc.) who are looking for some kind of exposure. In my case, I asked for help from some of my musically-inclined friends, and asked them to ask their friends to come and play as well! It’s important that everyone is very into it and excited about performing in the event.
4. Spread the word in the most eye-catching (or ear-catching!) way possible
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box on this one. I used my school’s daily information broadcast to show a promo made by one of my friends who is a video student at our school. Completely free, and expertly done, you can see that promo below...
5. Concessions are a big money-maker
If you have the ability to donate all money from concessions to your cause, that’s always a plus and gets people to buy even more! However, if you don’t have it in your budget to do that, putting a big donation jar right on the table with all of the snacks and drinks available for purchase always boosts contributions.
Don’t be too intimidated by it all. It’s a pretty daunting task, but taking it one step at a time really helps. Plus, having it all be over, counting the donations and thinking about all of the ways that the families that AutismCares donates the money to can use it to make their lives so much easier, is one of the best feelings and probably the proudest I’ve ever been. No matter how much you raised or how many people showed up, the fact that you put in all the effort really does count for something - and something is certainly much better than nothing! So don’t panic. Trust yourself and your colleagues and you’ll put on one incredible event.
AutismCares was created in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, bringing together leading autism organizations to support families whose struggle with autism became intensified by natural disaster, forced relocation, and scarce resources. You can learn more about Autism Cares here.