Reward Your Group with a Big Trip! Tips for Planning and Fundraising

by Mande Gragg


Photo by Lyndsie Harkness (L Harkness Photography)

Mande Gragg is a Vandoren Regional Artist. The goal for the Vandoren Regional Artist program is to enhance the quality of the music experience through education and the assistance of Vandoren. These highly trained professional educators and performers will engage your students through educational and fun sessions. The clinics they conduct cover a broad spectrum of topics and, based on your input, can be customized to fit the needs of your students. Contact us today to arrange your free Vandoren clinic.



Fine Arts kids are some of the busiest kids that I know.  Our students spend the entire school year trying to balance class studies, work, friends, practice for auditions, solos, and ensemble performances and, of course, attending countless after-school rehearsals. Sometimes I just can’t understand how they do it!  These efforts and sacrifices are precious and deserve recognition.  We, as directors, have many opportunities to recognize those students who receive honors and awards through individual efforts, but how can we acknowledge the dedication and contributions of our group in its entirety? 

In my past experience, I can say without a doubt that one of the most anticipated events for band students is the “big trip.”  Depending on your location, this might include New York, Disney, or even Europe!  At my previous job as an Assistant Band Director at Midland High School in Midland, Texas, our program planned one of these very exciting long distance “big trips” every four years with closer, small scale, or less costly trips in the three years in between.  Last summer, our destination was the incredible paradise of Hawaii! 

Understandably, two big concerns usually keep directors from considering long-distance travel: planning and fundraising. “How did your students afford that?” “How did you book flights?” “How did you know what activities were available?”  During conversations with colleagues and administrators, these questions were always asked with wide, fearful eyes.  Don't worry!  I can say with confidence that, with careful planning and efficient fundraising efforts, trips such as this are not only achievable, but can give you the perfect opportunity to offer your students memories that will last a lifetime.  After our successful adventure, I would like to offer a few tips and advice to directors who might consider one of these “big trips.”

 

Planning the Trip

 

Use a tour company - 

  • When it comes to transportation, itinerary, and logistics, my advice is to leave it to the professionals. You may already have an established relationship with a tour company that manages your trips.  If not, then take time at your state’s MEA Conference exhibits to speak with a few representatives.  There are as many group tour companies as there are trip options, meaning that it can be overwhelming when trying to decide which to use for your trip planning.  It never hurts to consult colleagues and peers to find out specific details regarding which companies did or did not work well for their travels. 


Enlist the help of your Booster Club - 

  • Never underestimate a band parent with a mission!  Booster parents, in my experience, are one of the biggest assets that you have as a director. Both high school bands in Midland are blessed with incredible booster organizations that provide the most important link between director and tour company in successful trip planning.  Many organizations include a “Trip Coordinator” as an officer position on its board.  It is no secret that band directors usually have too many irons in the fire and are constantly at work teaching and rehearsing alongside their students, leaving little time to plan trips.  By allowing your boosters to designate one person to act as liaison between director and tour company, you help ensure that every detail is discussed with the amount of time and preparation that is needed in order to avoid potential problems or miscommunication.


Plan early - 

  • At least one full year in advance!  The best way to ensure a fun and worthwhile trip is to give ample time for consideration in every step in the planning process.  While visiting with your tour company at your state’s MEA Conference, ask questions with the following school year in mind.  At my former band directing assignment, although our trips were taken after the final week of school, TMEA meetings with our tour company occurred in February.  Because of this, our planning process was given a 16 month lead time for planning!  I do not think that these trips necessarily need this much time to plan - this is simply how our time table fell.  Most groups will take their trips on our around Spring Break.  In our case, with Texas Spring Break in March, a planning lead time of 13 months is still adequate to give your students a great trip.

 



Vandoren Clinic at Heritage High School


Fundraising

 

Use a company - 

  • Again, many times it is best to leave it to the professionals.  Several companies offer a proven track record with fundraising success by allowing students to sell community favorites such as candy and popcorn.  By encouraging students to send order forms to work with parents, offering internet sales options, and making social media outlets available for students to promote their fundraising efforts, fundraising companies have helped to ease the worry of door-to-door safety concerns of the past.


Go local - 

  • Communities love to support kids!  Local businesses in my area regularly offer students and organizations incredible opportunities for fundraising projects.  Our local candy factory and candle factory offer sales support, every year, as well as hometown restaurants who host “Bite Night” events that allow organizations to share profits.  Band students wrap Christmas gifts in the mall (this one is one of our best fundraisers) and host community garage sales.  Another idea is to provide an opportunity for students to be sponsored by local businesses.  By providing advertising space on your concert programs or group t-shirts you allow another avenue for students to pursue fundraising opportunities.  Students will be able to achieve greater success with multiple and diverse opportunities to pursue their fundraising needs.


Booster Club!  - 

  • There are not enough words to describe just how much I truly value booster clubs.  The local opportunities that I have listed above do not include even half of the fundraisers that our students had available as band members.  The truth is that every one of these listed campaigns were pursued and discovered by booster parents.  As those who live and work in every aspect of your community, the booster parents present you with the best opportunity to explore fundraising options for students, locally.  Meet with your Fundraising Officer to coordinate ideas that will give your students many different opportunities throughout the entire school year to earn the money needed to be a part of your “big trip.”

 

After having been part of a team that has successfully pulled off numerous large-scale travels, I believe that these tips are some of the most important factors to keep in mind when considering a trip for your students. I know that I am always looking for ways to introduce my students to new and worthy experiences.  It is amazing how many of my students have never traveled outside of our state - some not even out of our city!  Midland High alumni still share stories of performing aboard the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor, hiking the Diamond Head National Monument, marching in an internationally recognized parade, and experiencing the beach for the first time!  Presenting kids with the opportunity to travel and explore their world is just another of the ways that we, as teachers and mentors, can help them to experience lifelong memories.  

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