Q&A with FansRaise CEO, Brian Gilbert

Brian GilbertFansRaise is quickly making waves throughout the performing and marching arts community as a way for ensembles to more easily and effectively raise money. We recently sat down with Brian Gilbert to learn more about how it all works.

Question:
What gave you the idea to go ahead and start a company like this?

Gilbert:
I was involved in a job search after my employer was acquired by a competitor, and after a lot of soul-searching and consideration, I wanted to build something that combined my love of the performing arts with my interest in the “nerdy” side of software development.

Question:
So how does FansRaise work?

Gilbert:
Our system takes the crowdfunding model and amplifies it, by turning it into a student-driven activity. Other crowdfunding platforms make a nice, pretty page for you and that’s about it. Our system adds the ability to engage your students with a team-building activity in the process.

Question:
What do the students do?

Gilbert:
We’ve found that email is a far superior way to engage potential donors than just social media alone. When you start a FansRaise campaign, the director or booster administrator can upload their list of students into our platform. The students receive an email invite to the campaign, and are asked to submit (20) potential donor contacts. Aside from thanking their donors and making sure that they are putting real, qualified contacts into the platform - their job is really easy.

Question:
And these contacts are sent emails to donate?

Gilbert:
Yes, but they are contextualized as if they are coming from the student. Directors and booster admins can use our templates, or create their own customized messaging. We’re finding that potential donors respond at a much higher rate with email as opposed to generalized social media posts, but we encourage the campaign to be promoted on social, too.

Question:
What kind of campaigns are you seeing?

Gilbert:
It depends on the type of ensemble. We are seeing a big influx of indoor ensembles that are setting up campaigns for WGIs in Dayton. Many of the drum corps we’re seeing are doing larger capital campaigns for brass and percussion instruments or uniforms. Marching bands are a mixed bag - we’ve got some campaigns already being planned for 2018. We had an ensemble that used a campaign as a memorial to honor a grandparent of a student that was an ardent supporter of their program. As long as the campaign benefits the learning and growth of student performers, FansRaise will happily facilitate it.

Question:
I read somewhere that you were a band director once upon a time, right?

Gilbert:
Correct! I did it full-time for about seven years, with many more as a designer and instructor for different marching organizations. I marched several years of DCI (I aged out with the Cadets in 1994), and now both of my daughters are active in their band program at the middle school and high school level.

Question:
What has surprised you the most about launching your company?

Gilbert:
Two things: The first is that I didn’t expect was the wide disparity of programs, and the support that those programs receive. Some of the bands that are ultra-aggressive and that compete and travel constantly sometimes receive THE LEAST funding from their districts. Outward appearances can be deceiving. The common denominator is that every org is trying to do more with less, and that reductions in budget and resources is a fact of life for just about every group we’ve come across. The second thing that surprised me is that just because a school is located in an affluent area doesn’t mean that their campaign will automatically do better than another school’s. The same is true for rural and economically-depressed regions - those campaigns can do really well when the students get behind them.

Question:
What words of advice do you have for our followers?

Gilbert:
The first is that just because you may have run a GoFundMe campaign in the past and received less-than- stellar results, don’t just write-off crowdfunding. When it’s done well and coordinated properly, and when it uses email as a primary method of promotion, the results can be incredible. The second is to try to allow your students to take ownership of the campaign. The directors that have had the best success challenge their student leaders to create the buzz within the band. Bonus points if the director asks the students to directly contribute to the building of the campaign with photos, videos, etc. The Genesis Drum and Bugle Corps from Austin Texas raised almost $24,000 in about six weeks using our system, and the primary reason it was so successful was that their student leaders DECIDED that is was going to be successful. Incooperation with the people at Genesis we published a success story about the campaign, and you can download it at http://info.fansraise.com/usbands-lp-fb-genesissuccess Lastly, these campaigns do not necessarily need to replace the other fundraisers your band is doing. In fact, many groups feel as if it allows them to tap into donations they would have otherwise not had, since the donors can be anywhere and everywhere. Plus with nothing to sell or distribute, it’s so easy to run one of these campaigns.

Question:
Where can directors and boosters go to learn more?

Gilbert:
We put together a special report all about how to build a successful crowdfunding campaign. You can download it at http://info.fansraise.com/usbands. We also use our blog to talk about large group fundraising for the arts in general.

 

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