How to Raise Money to Buy Marching Band Instruments

If your school or organization has gotten together a marching band, you may notice that that's only the first step. While many woodwind and high brass players may be able to supply their own instruments, low brass (baritones and tubas) and percussionists will usually need the group to provide instruments. Here are some ways to get your group off the ground and raise money for essential equipment.


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    Ask the school, if you're affiliated with one. Schools don't always have a lot of money to go around, but if they have bothered to set up a marching band, perhaps they can offer some support, as well.
    • Find out what the athletic budget is. Point out that bands involve a different, and often broader, group of students, and that they need equipment as well.
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    Set priorities. Members who play woodwinds and high brass are likely to have their own instruments. Percussionists may also be able to provide their own sticks. Percussion instruments and tubas/sousaphones will probably be your priority, but talk it over with band members to decide what is most needed first.
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    Look for used instruments. If by any chance a band or drum corps anywhere near you is scaling back or upgrading or closing down, jump at the chance to get their instruments. Failing that, take a good look at Craigslist, eBay, and the like.
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    Choose instruments over uniforms and other expenses. If you don't already have uniforms, choose something casual and simple the first few years. Ask everyone to wear black pants and a black dress shirt, or some other easily matched combination that works with your school or group colors. As you become more established, add simple uniform elements, such as a vest, scarf, tie, hat, or a shirt that members can reasonably afford.
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    Ask musical instrument companies. Obviously, instrument manufacturers cannot afford to give instruments away for free to all groups, but good, well-known groups can sometimes promise they'll proudly display the manufacturer's logo (and mention them in programs and stuff) in exchange for donations or discounts.
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    Ask for donations from the public. Post a notice on Craigslist or Freecycle, saying you'll accept donated instruments. If you get one you can use, by all means, use it. If you get something you can't use, such as a ukulele, sell it.
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    Perform paying gigs. Not all gigs pay, and many don't pay very much, but see if any local parades, festivals, or other events (Earth Day, Art & Wine Festival, holiday tree lighting, Independence Day, etc.) offer a stipend for performing. Would any companies in your area consider hiring a marching band instead of a DJ for their next party or event?
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    Make an announcement or hold a fundraiser at school events. Do you play at all the football games? Do you send a pep band to rallies or basketball games? Ask to have a table selling snacks or t-shirts or something. Ask to get the band paid if a few members to help in the concession stand. Ask to hold a raffle. Ask to announce an upcoming fundraiser or request donations.
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    Hold your own concert or band competition. Publicize it well, and charge admission. See if you can use the university stadium or auditorium to perform. Don't forget to sell ads in your program and snacks at intermission.
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    Do impromptu performances on campus and pass the hat, or take the opportunity to plug upcoming events and fundraisers. If you're recruiting members as well, this is a great opportunity to announce that fact.
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    Sell music lessons. If your members are up to it, and are willing to volunteer their time, spread the word that you'll teach aspiring musicians. You might also end up with some new members later on.
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    Host bingo nights. You'll need to find out what the rules are about establishing bingo operations in your area, and your group (including any band boosters and volunteers) will have to put in quite a bit of time, but some of the largest organizations support themselves this way.
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    Hold general fundraisers. These are car washes, bake sales, spaghetti feeds, flea markets, and so on. You'll find many good lists of ideas online.
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    Find seasonal and short-term work for volunteers. Would the local shopping center or mall let you set up a gift-wrapping booth? Does a store in your area need lots of warm bodies for just a few nights, to take inventory? Does an event where you're not performing need ushers, ticket takers, hand-stampers, sign-in help, or parking attendants?


  • Try not to exclude anyone from performing just because they cannot pay dues or afford uniforms, instruments, or equipment. It's worth a little extra fundraising to be able to provide "scholarships" to those who need them.
  • Figure out in advance how your group will handle money, and who in your group is responsible. Find out if there needs to be a band booster organization or similar, for tax or other reasons, and establish one.
  • Pay close attention to what works best for your group and in your area.


  • Take the time to understand what your local and school rules say about fundraising. If selling food is going to cause problems with city health inspectors or campus food vendors, you may have to stick to selling T-shirts and hats instead.

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