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What do you do when you have multiple priorities that you are raising money for? We suggest a campaign within a campaign, otherwise known as a “mini-campaign.” Here’s the real-life story of Valerie R. Harris, Director of Choirs at Miles College, with how she raised over $100,000 for the choir to perform at Carnegie Hall in NYC while the college itself is busy raising $25 million to complete its $125 million campaign.

Valarie R. Harris

“This was my first fundraiser. In all my years of being in music, I have never had to raise this kind of money. It wasn’t easy. I learned a lot about people and how they will contribute if they think there is a good cause. They were excited about our going to Carnegie Hall and wanted to be a part of it.” That’s Harris in her own words.

While she hadn’t had such a large fundraising goal before, she had no problem asking for money, especially from those who heard the choir perform. They were sold. But she also had to reach out to those who wouldn’t have an opportunity to experience the choir. To reach those people she used a “mini-case.” She created a four-color deck that she would send by email or U.S. mail, allowing people to “see the choir.”

I sent out letters to churches – we asked churches to sponsor a student at $2,500. It went okay. It was surprising to see the response. Other contributions came from individuals, sororities, and fraternities – I was pleasantly surprised.” But that confidence wasn’t there at the beginning. “I was overwhelmed and anxious. I asked the Lord to help me. Once I saw how much money it was going to take, I had to be very determined that we were going to get there. I had never done this before. I stepped out on faith, and we did it. Jefferson County gave money, senators and politicians gave great money.”

And she didn’t do it alone. “Everyone was a part of it – the advancement office was instrumental in helping us, the president, the provost. They were rooting for us and asking people for us.” And she used the most powerful fundraising tool available to her: the Miles College Choir. Harris shared, “We would go out and perform and ask for money…. We did a lot of performances – almost every week, sometimes two-to-three times a week. People would ask us to come and sing. We would say ‘yes’ and ask them to sponsor a student for $2,500.”

Valerie R. Harris embarked on her first fundraising campaign and met her goal. And it wasn’t a small goal either. She used the tools: prayer, the choir, and the professionals on campus. She wasn’t afraid to ask, and people weren’t timid in giving. As the Miles College Choir heads to Carnegie Hall, Harris offers guidance and support to others, “Before you start, get a plan and then work your plan. Get with someone who knows fundraising – present your plan to them, make sure you have covered all your bases, and then go forth from there.” Harris and her choir did it, and you can too!

Copyright 2024 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2024! Video and phone conferencing services are always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727.

One Comment

  • Charles King says:

    Great read on Miles College Choir. Most HBCU’s have “ Hidden Talent” like Valarie Harris. Our choirs, athletes, and super intelligent students often only need the proper introduction to the sphere of philanthropic opportunities awaiting them.

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