Daily Archives: July 5, 2012

Volunteering for arts audience development?

I was watching “Secret Millionaire” with my 14 year old step daughter.  This show has millionaires hide their identity in order to volunteer in an impoverished area.  In the end, they donate some of their money to help the organizations they have chosen.  The particular episode we were watching had a millionaire and his 19 year old daughter volunteering.  Both the 19 year old and her father had never volunteered before, despite how fortunate they were.  Our 14 year old piped up and said, “How could they not have volunteered by now?”  This made me smile big time.  She has already volunteered and is eager to do more.

Her comment had me thinking about how some artists have difficulty volunteering.  Maybe it is the fact that many of us are struggling to get by with our art.  People should be supporting us, not the other way around, right?  Well, I’m starting to feel this is the wrong attitude.

What can volunteering do for you?  Volunteering your time and talent can open new doors to you.  You can get to know your community and the people of your community in a very intimate way.  This will help you to meet new people that will probably be open to your art in return.  I am a firm believer that when you figure out where you belong (where you would like to volunteer), the others that are already there will click with you too.  There is a reason you are all attracted to the same organization and mission.

Volunteering can also shift your energy from an “I need” energy to an “I have” energy.  All the gurus out there have pointed out that when you come from a place of abundance, this is when and how you will attract more abundance. You will also benefit from the warm fuzzies you will be feeling.  The feeling of love and warmth from volunteering can go a long way!

If you want more diversity, volunteering can be a great way to meet more diverse people.  Think about it.  If you are volunteering for an organization that helps the very people you hope to connect with, they will know that you care about them and a stronger connection will be made.

The last point I want to make is the fact that your giving is best from a place of giving and not a place of “what will I get in return.”  If you start feeling like you are giving too much away and not getting enough in return, this means you are not in the right mind set.  Volunteering is best when you are doing it for the sake of others, not for your own sake, and in return, you will see the benefits naturally when you don’t worry about the give/get scale in life.

I wanted to bring up a quick example.  Coming from the orchestra world, it is rare when orchestra musicians volunteer their time to the organizations that hired them.  Why is this?  Perhaps it is a matter of  union contracts?  I feel that these contracts need to change.  If the musicians really want to help turn things around in their favor, I do feel volunteering a little time and talent is one way to do it.  Orchestras are in need of musicians for outreach opportunities in order to build audience.  Building audiences will lead to more demand.  More demand means more services can be scheduled, which ultimately will benefit the musicians.  In order for this chain of reaction to happen, musicians may need to volunteer to help out.  With a bigger organization like an orchestra, the musicians can rotate their time.  This will create a team effort and no one musician will feel particularly put out (they can choose to continue volunteering).  Of course, if the orchestra has the funds, the musicians can be paid, but since this is a post about volunteering…

How long has it been since you have volunteered?  Have you used your time and talent recently to help your community?  I challenge you to do so in the near future, and please feel free to let me know what happens afterward.  I can’t wait to hear how many doors open to you for connecting to new audiences.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,


Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists



“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

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