Volunteer Notes Summer 2013

Volunteer Notes
The Newsletter for Symphony Orchestra Volunteers

Summer 2013

Notes from Helen Shaffer, Volunteer Council President

Seattle Bound!

“Education is not filling the pail but lighting the fire.” Yeats

All who attended the recent League of American Orchestras Conference in St. Louis are filled with enthusiasm as we anticipate the achievements of our orchestras in the coming decade. We have imagined dreams that we would like to see and are confident that together we can change those dreams into reality. We left St. Louis with ideas that we can use immediately as well as some to be implemented in the future. We are excited as we witness the emerging stability of the symphonic music form. We want to continue our learning throughout the year, and we want to share with all of you ways you can participate.

  • Plan for the 2014 Conference in Seattle by putting money in your organization’s budget to cover registration for two members
  • Share your successful events (Fundraising, Education, Service, Audience Development, Community Engagement, Communication and Leadership) by submitting your projects to goldbookonline.org.
  • Surf the League of American Orchestras website. You will find valuable information on myriad topics.
  • Use the Destination:Seattle payment plan offered by the League to attend the Conference in Seattle.
  • Read Volunteer Notes and participate by writing a timely article and sending it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

This is my last article as the President of the Volunteer Council. I have enjoyed serving you. This, however, is not my last Conference! I am just beginning, and I plan to attend as many future Conferences as possible to assure that I continue to learn and share current ideas with my orchestra. Will you join me as a life-long learner?

I am Seattle-bound and hope you are too! Begin planning now!


Top Honor Awarded to Charlotte

The Volunteer Council presented a special award - The Best of the Best - to the Symphony Guild of Charlotte at the League’s Conference in June. This is in recognition of Charlotte’s consistently high quality contributions and overall excellence. The Guild is to be commended for their dedication, creativity, and spirit.

The Symphony Guild of Charlotte has submitted 33 projects to the Gold Book since 2006, and many of these ideas originated at a League Conference. Whether it is with their Showhouse Best Practices Manual, Musical Petting Zoo for Grown-ups, Integrated Communications, Power of Women Fashion Show, Trivia Night or Classical Idol, Charlotte is “paying it forward” as other volunteer organizations have learned from their successes. Seeing the attention to detail, the organization, the originality, and the fun that Charlotte has with all its projects is very impressive.

We applaud your accomplishments! Bravo!

Charlotte Guild members receiving The Best of the Best Award

Conference: First-Timer Viewpoint
This article was written by Jane Schwartz, based on her interview with Vicki West, president-elect, Houston Symphony League.

“I was impressed by the organization. The meetings were well run and informative. My favorite presentation was Trivia Night given by The Symphony Guild of Charlotte,” reflects Vicki West, a first-time Conference attendee in St. Louis. Charlotte’s project involved both current and new members being divided into teams. This allowed the groups to get to know each other and get to know the Guild leadership as well. The trivia questions were music related and of varying degrees of difficulty. It gave new members the chance to learn about the Orchestra in a creative way. Vicki explains, “It was a cute, fun idea that was low cost, and I intend to try it next year when I am President of the Houston Symphony League. We are always looking for new ways to get new members involved, and this is a fun way to make that happen. It was an evening event with special drinks and appetizers, low on cost and high on fun!”

Vicki learned that many orchestras use Constant Contact for communication with members whereas Houston uses iContact. She plans to compare the two programs although the obvious difference is that iContact is less expensive. She feels that iContact does less and thus needs to be further evaluated by her League.

Vicki describes her interaction with other volunteer members while making her Roundtable presentation. “Everyone was very helpful and forthcoming. One person suggested that Houston submit the Hans Graf Wine Dinner and Auction to the Gold Book Awards next year, and we have now done that. It was a very helpful suggestion.”

Vicki’s advice to other first-timers is “to attend everything and open up to all you meet. I met the President of the Dallas Symphony League on the bus going to the St. Louis Symphony concert. It was fun to meet her and talk to her on the ride to Powell Hall.” Vicki says she will definitely attend Conference again. She learned a great deal and loved the networking opportunities – interacting and sharing ideas with volunteers from different organizations. “Each year new events and ideas are presented so the Conference stays fresh,” states Vicki.

Vicki West presenting for the Houston Symphony League Roundtable


Strategic Conversations for Volunteer Association Presidents & President Elects

This small group conference call series is for incoming volunteer presidents and president elects.* These Strategic Conversations will consist of six 60-minute calls for peer-to-peer learning, mentored by two experienced facilitators who can answer questions and help guide the conversation. Agenda and printed materials will be sent before each call covering topics such as fundraising, membership, and leadership.

The Strategic Conversation call schedule will begin on Monday, October 7th. All calls will occur at 3:00pm EST, and take place on the following Mondays:

October 7, October 21, November 4, November 18, December 2, December 9.

Please note that although the majority of the calls are biweekly, the last two are only a week apart.

These programs will be facilitated by Laura Hyde, president, Volunteer Council, League of American Orchestras; and Margarita Contreni, president elect, Volunteer Council, League of American Orchestras.

To register for this Strategic Conversation, please complete the following online form no later than September 20, 2013. Limited space is available, in order to keep these conversation groups intimate, so sign up early.

The tuition fee is $50 for this program.

Exclusive Offer for Volunteer Notes Readers!

If you book before 11:59pm EST on August 18 and enter the discount code VOLNOTES you will receive a 20% discount on this Strategic Conversations series. This $40 rate is being offered in this issue of Volunteer Notes exclusively, as a thank you to our readers.

*If neither the president nor president elect of your organization is available for this series, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. about the possibility of having a vice president or chair (particularly fundraising and/or membership chairs) attend this call series.


2013 Conference Delegates Share How They Share the News!

This past June, the Symphony Guild of Charlotte engaged volunteer delegates in break-out discussions at the League of American Orchestras Conference. During a 30-minute panel discussion entitled Comprehensive Communications, Charlotte delegates presented a brief overview of their updated communications strategies, using a master marketing plan as a focal point. Following the presentation, Charlotte orchestrated a round table discussion session. Scribes were designated at each table. Delegates had ten minutes to discuss the question below and identify the top answers for each of the ten participating tables which were then shared with the audience. Here are the results:

What is the most outstanding best practice your organization employs in communicating with members and other stakeholders? The winning answers included:

  • All our vice presidents’ send their reports to our President prior to our board meetings, who then posts them on a password-protected electronic portal (Spokane, WA)
  • We are in the process of implementing a NEON all-in-one database which will be tied into our website; we will be able to drive all communications, as well as manage memberships and fundraising, from there (Austin, TX)
  • We always make sure to include an option to make an additional donation (Waco, TX)
  • We use a utility program akin to PayPal which reaches out to members to pay online right on the spot – it’s as easy as it could be (Bloomington, IL)
  • We use electronic media to recognize birthdays and promote social interaction (Oklahoma City, OK)
  • We have found Constant Contact to be the best vehicle for us; we have established policies for communication (Arkansas)
  • We communicate in many different modes determined by the age of the group, the group size, and the community (Indianapolis, IN)
  • While e-blasts are great for disseminating information, the personal touch always makes the real difference (Charlotte, NC)

And, here are some runners-up for top answers:

  • We’ve just built a brand new website which provides access to all minutes, administrative reports et al, with very minimal maintenance or cost (Billings, MT)
  • We’ve begun using SignUpGenius for some of our committees’ volunteer needs; we hope to broaden this practice to include all committees (Austin, TX)
  • Drop Box is very useful for our group – we have ten leagues in our area; everything is located there for very easy access (San Francisco, CA)
  • We provide online access to all our members, where we easily manage reminders, reservations, etc. We use postcards to communicate with non-web users (Nashville, TN)

What did we hear by the end of the session? With little exception, organizations around the country are turning to more sophisticated electronic solutions to engage their members. Online newsletters were almost universal – frequency is perhaps the main difference. Most groups appeared to send out the traditional quarterly newsletter, while a few have identified a need for a monthly/bi-monthly communication. The use of e-blasts for announcements seems almost universal, as well.

The most common thread, however, was that, regardless of great technological advancements, all organizations work very hard to make sure ALL members are “in the loop” by whatever means it takes, including postcards, phone calls, etc. We heard over and over again that it is always the personal touch that creates the best result in the end.

Many thanks to the Symphony Guild of Charlotte for engaging all of us in taking a look at the future of our communications. Additional information and copies of discussion materials are available by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Discussion on Communication Best Practices

Awards of Excellence PowerPoints on League website– new resource!

Find the PowerPoint slides and presentation scripts for Comprehensive Communications, Tanglewood Family Fun Fest, Love of Music Marathon, and other Gold Book Online Awards of Excellence winners all in one place.


Deadline Soon – Send in Gold Book Online Submissions by September 2, 2013

Gold Book Online is a unique and important resource for orchestra volunteers. Originally an annual print volume of all orchestra volunteer projects submitted for awards, this website now offers an extensive searchable compilation of successful projects submitted since 2005. This is a goldmine for those searching for information, but can only remain so if there continues to be a wide variety of new ideas shared every year. The deadline for submitting projects for this year is upon us – submissions are due September 2, 2013.

To have a project considered for Awards or Roundtable presentations at the League’s 2014 National Conference in Seattle, it must be submitted electronically via goldbookonline.org. The submission process is outlined in detail and is quite easy. Many groups do not wait for this deadline, but submit their projects upon completion, using the submission form also as their internal report form.

If you haven’t already done so, please share your 2012-13 projects by submitting them today– you will not only be helping other groups around the country, but your submission may earn your organization an award and a prestigious place in the program at next June’s Conference!

Jane Schwartz, Augusta Symphony Guild
Volunteer Council Project Selection Chair



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