Upstate New York-based drummer and educator Kaci Smith knew first-hand that the music scene needed more opportunities for girls, women, and LGBTQ+ folks. That’s why she launched Girls Rock! Rochester in 2011, hoping to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for budding musicians.
Amanda Ashley Rodriguez, who’s now the program director of GR!R, explains, “If music is what feeds your soul and is what makes you feel whole, then we want to bring more opportunities to you to be around others who feel the same.” That’s the basis of GR!R’s programming: bringing together community members with any amount of musical skill so that they can embrace their individualism, build confidence, and channel their creativity.
What started over a decade ago as a small-scale summer music camp has grown into an impactful music nonprofit organization that hosts year-round events in line with its mission. GR!R’s lively events calendar celebrates cultural diversity in music with monthly events and its summer music programs. These events don’t just fulfill the organization’s mission of using music as a vehicle for positive change in the community—they also increase GR!R’s visibility within the community and allow more engagement with community partners.
We talked to Rodriguez about how GR!R develops its programming and how it’s used Eventbrite to promote events. Read on for proven strategies to help you achieve your nonprofit’s goals through event programming.
The benefits of holding year-round events
Girls Rock! Rochester got started by offering summer programs for kids. Its week-long sessions in 2022 will teach participants how to play an instrument, form a band, compose a song, design a logo, and finally perform in a community showcase. These camps focus on building campers’ confidence, giving them performance tips and techniques, teaching them how to market their music, and learning about women in the music industry and women in rock music.
While these summer music programs were originally the backbone of GR!R’s programming, the organization later discovered the advantages of a year-round event calendar. Rodriguez tells us, “We’ve been pushing year-round programming with a monthly calendar of events full of fun, educational opportunities, which encourage growth, confidence, and togetherness.” She added, “The majority of our programming is musically and artistically driven, and we will be maintaining a regular monthly calendar of events.”
GR!R is able to attract participants by offering fun and engaging events that tie in with its mission. It hosts events like rhythm and drum workshops, creative writing classes, group instrument lessons, and a monthly open jam.
Offering ongoing programming gives small nonprofits an opportunity to increase their visibility, extend the organization’s mission, and reach a diverse community. The more extensive the event calendar, the more chances you’ll have to connect with new community members.
Fostering community collaboration
GR!R’s central goal is to use music to drive personal growth and positive change. As Rodriguez told us, “I believe offering frequent opportunities will generate more awareness of our program and mission, and overall will help us grow as an organization.”
The more engaged you are in your community—not only with individuals but also with other nonprofits and businesses—the easier it will be to expand your nonprofit’s reach. As Rodriguez puts it, “each event promotes the next,” and gives other community organizations a chance to get involved. “Collaborating with other community players and organizations can help expand our reach to other audiences who may never have stumbled upon us otherwise,” she says.
As a small nonprofit organization, look for opportunities to partner with other community organizations for your events. When seeking partners, look for like-minded organizations that have shared values. Rodriguez suggests networking and collaborating with other community organizations and leaders who share your audience. Doing so can help you identify partners who are willing to organize shared events, promote your event, or provide financial support.
Building in flexibility
Like many organizations, Girls Rock! Rochester had to quickly pivot from in-person events to virtual ones when the pandemic hit. In 2020, the program’s staff had to learn how to plan a summer camp program in a virtual space. But with a bit of creativity and careful planning, they were able to offer a fully virtual summer camp and showcase.
The success of the online camp motivated the leaders at GR!R to consider how they could expand online offerings throughout the year. COVID-19 wasn’t the only factor: pandemic or no pandemic, Rochester’s long, harsh winters make in-person events less appealing for folks who prefer to stay at home during snowy weather. So, GR!R found that offering events online was a win-win and began offering year-round programming with online and hybrid elements.
Eventbrite has helped GR!R develop and promote this flexible calendar, which is designed to engage different community stakeholders. The organization has come to rely on Eventbrite to offer tickets to free or donation-based events, including hybrid events. Using Eventbrite allows GR!R to distribute tickets virtually, track attendance, and collect participant contact information that simplifies future communication. Rodriguez says, “We love how easy Eventbrite makes it for us to track our attendees.”
Any successful nonprofit has to capture the community’s attention—and regular events are an effective way to do just that. Girls Rock! Rochester promotes its year-round events with Eventbrite to streamline its marketing. Once the team adds an event to Eventbrite, they can quickly and easily promote it across all their social media channels.
Rodriguez explains that GR!R’s multi-pronged approach to marketing starts with Eventbrite and social media, and events are also promoted on GR!R’s website and via email. Word of mouth marketing helps too—whenever a happy event-goer tells their friends about a great experience, GR!R gets onto someone else’s radar. Collaboration with other community organizations also allows for cross-promotion, letting nonprofits tap into new audience segments that they might have otherwise missed.
“We are fortunate in that Rochester truly has many beautiful, inspiring, and compassionate organizations and leaders from all walks of life, working towards benefiting the better good of our community as a whole,” says Rodriguez. By tapping into different markets in their community, GR!R has been able to expand its reach and attract more attendees for its ongoing events.
Girls Rock! Rochester goes to show how beneficial it can be to host events related to your nonprofit’s mission. To get started on your next event, sign up and see how Eventbrite helps nonprofit organizers.