[Transcript] Episode 060 – Reed Caldwell

Transcript: Episode 060 – Reed Caldwell – Songbirds Foundation

Transcript for Episode 060 – Reed Caldwell on Starting a Non-Profit

Transcript

The last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about fiscal sponsorship as a way of launching a foundation or community-oriented project without having to set up an official non-profit organization.

Today we’re shifting gears and I’m interviewing the executive director of a more traditional 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. This foundation has a really interesting founding story and its director, Reed, has a lot of experience running non-profits, so I think you’ll learn a lot from the way he approaches business, branding, fundraising, and other interesting challenges he’s run into along the way.

Here’s my conversation with Reed:

[00:01:10]

Andrea: Hi. Welcome to the podcast. Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Reed: I’m Reed Caldwell. I’m the Executive Director of Songbirds Foundation. We’re primarily located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We provide instruments and resources to kids all over the South, primarily in Tennessee but we’re expanding right now to cover most of the South and then we have a small national program that’s launching in the fall.

[00:01:35]

Andrea: Alright. And you started Songbirds Foundation, right?

Reed: I did.

Andrea: What was the motivation there?

Reed: Songbirds Foundation started because a bunch of guitar collectors got together and decided they want to open the Songbirds Guitar Museum which is now closed but they basically started that and they decided they wanted to find a way to give back to the local community so they said “Hey, let’s start a foundation. It will be a separate entity and let’s find someone who wants to build it and run it,” and they hired me to do that, and essentially came in and figured out exactly what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it and now we’ve spent the last four years trying to get to that level of give out about 1,000 guitars a year. My goal is I’d like to get to 2,500 a year. I think that’s doable pretty quickly.

[00:02:24]

Andrea: Did you know what you were getting into when they hired you?

Reed: Yeah. This is my 20th year of working in the non-profit sector. Straight out of college I started working at an arts council in Mississippi and then I’ve worked in a bunch of different ones. I’ve started two or three non-profits across the South and I’ve started on a bunch of boards. I knew exactly what I was getting into. It was really nice to kind of start this one. We had some great resources. The guitar museum is basically they’re the largest collection of vintage and rare guitars in the world. There was about I think 1,500 instruments, give or take a couple of hundred, valued at $200 million.

So we had this great resource that helped us really launch a lot of these programs and really kind of create a brand that felt decades old rather than starting like a regular start of a non-profit. You take 10 years to build your brand and this was a kind of a way to have Songbirds brand be everywhere. We were at every guitar show and we still are part of those things and part of that community and we have lots of great friends who come in and done things for us.

So yes, it was a lot of work but it was, basically, we had the resources to go out and really knock it out of the park.

[00:03:41]

Andrea: That’s kind of a different angle. Not every startup starts that way so that’s cool.

Reed: Yeah. Most of the time you start with nothing and you shoestring it for however long or fake it till you make it or whatever it is. This was a different story for us. We had a couple of donors that really stuck in at the beginning and helped us tremendously, basically covered all of our operating expenses for a couple of years so every dollar we raised went to buy guitars for kids and none of it went to any operating or grant or salaries or any of that at all.

We are able to create this really great package where a kid gets a guitar for every $100 donated. So if we raised 100 bucks, they get a guitar, a bag, a kit, strings, picks, our curriculum book and then they get 12 weeks of free lessons at minimum. Some students go for a year or more in lessons. That $100 also provides in-depth music therapy, so we have several music therapists on staff who works and they go to hospitals and they go to organizations like Siskin Children’s Institute or basically anywhere that a kid is in need of music therapy and they do in-depth cognitive work. They work directly with physical therapists to help kids. They’ve had some kids who had traumatic brain injuries or something of that nature and they helped them use music to do physical things like to be able to turn their head again.

One kid in particular couldn’t move her head to the left and have been working with a physical therapist for I think three to six months and really have had very little progress of moving her head to side. We found out she really like music. She started working with our music therapist and within like three to four weeks they were able to move her head, you know, just things like that and you really kind of see and people always have that saying of the power of music and it has the power to move mountains and all that. Yeah, that sounds great but it’s really cool on this end to be able to see it in action and actually move a mountain. It’s pretty cool to see and so that’s been a huge part of that. As for the investors, we had some initial startup capital that was excellent. We picked a couple of our central programs and we launched those first.

[00:06:04]

Andrea: Okay. Can you first describe what the two programs are that you started by launching?

Reed: Yes. We actually started three programs when we first started out. The central one is a two-part program. It’s our Guitars for Kids Program which is kind of our flagship program. That is a two-tiered– you could also almost look at it as a three-tiered program. We have our in-school program which basically what we do is we work directly with a school district and then we recruit teachers within that school system to come in and take our guitar training. It lasts anywhere from 14 to 18 weeks. Some teachers have gone to 30 weeks of trainings. We essentially teach them how to play guitar and then teach them how to deliver our curriculum in their classroom, and then we give them a set of guitars and usually that’s–depending on the school size–it’s 25 or 50 guitars for their classroom and all the books and the strings and the picks and the tuners and all of the things that they need to succeed.

We also provide support for that teacher throughout the year. So we have guitar teachers on staff. We also go into the school system and do special programs with different schools. We bring in artists all the time that worked with us. Kids meet with great guitarists like Doyle Dykes and all these people that have come in, they go in and work with the kids. We had Joe Bonamassa in. Last week he did a private lesson with a kid who won a contest to get a lesson from him. So we do a lot of that as well. That’s a very quick synopsis of one side of that program.

The other part of that program is our partner program which is still under the Guitars for Kids umbrella and our partner program is we go out in the community and we partner with non-profit organizations across whatever city we’re in, which right now we’re pretty much all over Tennessee, Knoxville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and there are a bunch of small towns in between. We’ve got some programs in Georgia. We’ve got a few that are about to start up in a couple of the surrounding states but they haven’t been announced yet. We’ve partnered with those organizations. It could be like the Boys and Girls Club or it could be a smaller non-profit or it could be a hospital or like Siskin Children’s Institute, they work with kids who are differently-abled, who have severe ADHD or autism or Asperger’s.

We send in our guitar teachers and our music therapists into those organizations to do their work. Some of these organizations just get a guitar teacher that comes in once a week and all the kids get a guitar each and then our guitar teacher goes in every week and teaches them how to play guitar. Some of the organizations get a music therapist that goes in every week or three times a week, depending on their organization and works directly with kids. Sometimes they’re in a group setting and sometimes they’re on a one-on-one setting, whatever we feel is the most advantageous for the organization. We have private music therapy lessons.

Another thing that we really like to do is we take kids who have Asperger’s or autism and we try to get them working in groups because a lot of those kinds of conditions are very isolating for the kid. A lot of them will tell you that they don’t have friends and so what we’re trying to do is create groups of kids and that’s pretty cool to watch as well. That has worked really well. It’s kind of a surprise to see how well the music therapies had worked because it was kind of a tacked on part of the Guitars for Kids Program that over the years has really become like one of the central pillars of our organization.

A lot of these kids they will come in and they can’t sit in a chair for more than 30 seconds and they can’t hold a conversation and they can’t maintain eye contact or any of that stuff for more than a minute. And then they get in to playing guitar and they get put in a group of three or four other students and then you see them all of a sudden sitting out the front of the building after lessons having a conversation with each other and that’s pretty cool. We had one student in particular who just really took to guitar and I was his first teacher and he bypassed me in two months.

I’ve been playing for 30 years and this kid is amazing. He could pick out anything by ear and could just really do anything. I had to hire a new teacher for him that could play better than me so that we can keep him going. He’s been playing now for a couple of years and he’s on another level and he’s got to meet all of these great guitar players like John 5 and Doyle Dykes and Tommy Emmanuel and those kind of guys and he’s literally cool, and his mom and his family are very supportive. They wrote this really awesome letter about how he really didn’t have a whole lot of friends and he has developed that and in this school he came and played a show at the venue with an artist a couple of months ago. There were other kids there and he was just in the back just having conversations and having a good time. That to me is really what makes this worth doing.

[00:11:19]

Andrea: Yeah. That’s awesome. So here is the audience that you serve, you got the school programs and then these one-on-one lessons?

Reed: Our primary audience is kids who are 12 to 18. That’s our primary audience. We have music therapy lessons that go down to kids that are aged like 2 and 3 but those are more of an anomaly than a standard. We just basically serve all kids but our primary demographic is 12 to 18.

[00:11:50]

Andrea: And how did you forge those relationships with the schools and the partner organizations? How does all that work?

Reed: Just asking. I think people think it was weird at the beginning when some random person will call in and say they want to give you 50 guitars. I think people are at first were leery and they always want to know how much it costs and what they had to put in. Our response is your commitment is just to let us do it at your facility and make sure kids are there. That’s all they had to do. I think over the years we’ve been doubling our numbers every year. I think our first year we started out with maybe 300 guitars that went out and then we went up to 500 and then to 1,000 and then this year we’ve already given out about 1,000 so I’ll probably get 1,500 by the end of the year.

We serve lots of kids and just partnering with those organizations has been great. We just expanded to Memphis and called the Arts and Culture liaison at the school system and talked to them. We have like 20 teachers respond. That gets whittled down over time, just people would drop out for different reasons and so we expanded to seven schools to start with in Memphis and we did all of that remotely. The pandemic didn’t really have a big impact on us. It did cause us to lose some fundraising money just because of we can’t have concerts or fundraising events, but our program didn’t suffer because we were already kind of moving to a remote training model anyway.

We were already using Zoom and this style allows us to recruit teachers in other cities and then train them virtually via Zoom. We have a pretty nice rig that has multiple cameras that can switch. So if you’re getting a lesson you can get a full shot of the guitar and then you can get an up close of your hands on the guitar. We’ve had success with that and so that’s kind of pretty much be our model unless we’re expanding this to things that are here in Chattanooga or teach those in-person, but for all the remote schools and we have a new program launching in the fall that kids all over the United States can apply and then get a guitar mailed to them. They can do our online lessons.

As we’ve been moving online, we really started about two years ago writing scripts and starting filming. We have a 32 episode video curriculum series that basically walks– I don’t have the book here with me but we have a pretty in-depth Guitars for Kids book that we created. It’s in its 5th edition right now. It’s pretty much the standard that we teach from and now we have an accompanying video series that basically has a voice actor and shots with multiple cameras and a kid can walk through that book with those videos and learn everything that we teach kids all the way up to being what we call a self-sustaining guitarist, meaning that they don’t need us anymore. They can go out and continue to learn on their own. That’s our goal. Our goal was not to create the next Eric Clapton. Our goal is just to allow kids to be able to get to a point where they feel comfortable going out and say “Hey I like Taylor Swift. I really want to learn the song.” They can go online, they can find the song and they can find the chords and they can find the tab.

They can listen to the song and they can play it on their own without us, and that’s kind what the series does. It gets them to there. It was launched right at the beginning of the pandemic but in February/March and we opened it to the public for a while and let people to see it while they’re at home. Now there are only eight episodes open to the public on our YouTube channel. The rest are in the back end of our website but there’s still a bunch out there.

That really allowed us to kind of be flexible with organizations that we’re going into because we don’t have to have access which is always the hardest part about getting programs to grow out of your area. If you’re doing a program in whatever city you’re in, it’s pretty simple to get things to grow there. You just send a person to wherever you’re going and you do new things and you meet people when you have meetings. It gets complicated when you want to go outside that city and you can’t drive six hours to Memphis or to wherever it is. You really have to kind of think through those things, through how that’s possible.

[00:16:11]

Andrea: Yeah. Imagine being a non-profit and wanting to have a lean operation and things like that. You don’t just have unlimited capacity to send people to do all those trainings and everything.

Reed: Yeah, and it really comes down and it’s not even cash, really, that’s the limiting factor, which it always is. As a non-profit you’re always raising money and it is a factor, but time is really the biggest factor, you know, trying to find somebody, even just trying to find a teacher and teach in Memphis, a place I don’t really know that well, trying to find a location and a place where all teachers can meet. All that it just adds up and now I can just say “Hey, you’re going to meet with our guitar instructor in Jordan and here’s the Zoom link,” and they’re up and running. It’s been crazy the last five months because we already had I think 12 schools that we were adding this summer. We’ve been teaching them since May–those teachers. Then in August, well maybe like end of July, I got a call from Hamilton County School System which is here in Chattanooga and they were about to cancel all of their course classes across the city. And they had a longshot idea like “Hey, what if we ask Songbirds Foundation if they could help us replace all course classes with guitar classes?”

It is very last minute and I think they expected us to say no but we actually had the resources to do it and we’re able to commit 480 guitars on top of the 400 that we already had going out. We’ve been able to turn it around in six weeks. We’ve had teachers giving them twice a week virtual lessons even though they’re here in Chattanooga and still can’t really get together. We’ve just had a ton of teachers in and out and all remote and that’s just been excellent for us to be able to do that remotely.

[00:18:00]

Andrea: And before we got on the call you’re mentioning in that you ran into issues just acquiring enough guitars to send out? Can you talk to us about that?

Reed: Yeah. You would think that the fund and the money would be the hardest part, which it was and we had to go out to all of our friends, you know, I know this program is a lot about building non-profits and things. One of my goals is we don’t do urgent fundraising or I try not to. We try to plan it out a year in advance and we go and talk to people. I feel like that’s always essential. I know some of the organizations they’ll go to a funder and they’ll meet with them for the first time and then they can ask there, which in my opinion is not always the best way to go about it. I really like to go and inform people and not ask them for anything for a year and just kind of go back a couple of times, just show them something or see if they’ll come to see a program in action and really get them kind of affiliated with the program on a deeper level than just “Hey, can you give us money” but this was an urgent case so we had to call people that we really knew loved the program already and we raised the money like $50,000. We raised a bunch from the general public and then we had a few foundations that stepped in and helped as well.

So we got the money together pretty quickly and it was about a four-week fundraising drive and then I was just trying to find guitars and I called all of our normal distributors that we buy from and I can only dig up 157 guitars and so I bought all those. I’m not saying there weren’t other guitars but we can’t go with guitars that cost $300 each. I purchased a ton of guitars at the beginning of this and tested it all and we found some lower end guitars that are really great. They don’t break and they stay in tune and we’d get them for a pretty good rate. So I spent the last three or four weeks at night calling a company in China and working out a new way to get guitars and they actually built all of the guitars, like 487 of them and I think they’re about done now and it will be shipped over here. It’s harder to find the guitars. You don’t think about those kinds of things.

[00:20:17]

Andrea: Yeah, problems you never expect to have. So talk to us more about fundraising. What sorts of things do you guys do to raise funds besides calling people when you need guitars?

Reed: I’ll start with the fun stuff because we’ve created some cool fundraising avenues that it wouldn’t be available to most non-profits but with the guitar collection that we have, that’s been able to help us drive a lot of attention in a lot of interesting ways. We actually have an ongoing interview series called The Vault Sessions. It’s on our YouTube channel which is just Youtube.com/songbirdsfoundation. I think we have 101 episodes up right now. What we do is we take one of the cool vintage guitars that we have or maybe two or three and some cool gear like a really high-end amp or whatever we have and we’ll go and we’ll interview a guitarist and talk about why music is important to them, what licks they love, you know some basic questions.

Then we make these videos and like ad revenue from that. For every dollar we raise on there it helps sustain our buy guitars for kids and the guitarist love to do it because they know that generates capital for the Guitars for Kids Program, but also they get to play some guitar. You don’t really think about it when you think about a famous guitarist that they might not have been able to play some of the stuff that we have on this collection, I mean, it’s the largest collection of vintage and rare guitars in the world and it has one of a kinds in that if the people who owned them hand one of them to us, I mean, I’m talking about the most famous guitar players there are. Probably, we would not have been able to play that guitar. So they’re excited to come and play these cool instruments and amps and we’re excited because it helps us raise money for kids. It’s kind of a cool way to get people motivated.

On other fundraising avenues we do a lot of stuff. We do a ton of concerts and fundraising events and we’ve done auctions. We get memorabilia from people. We’ve interviewed everyone from Steve Earl to Eric Johnson to Robben Ford to Tommy Emmanuel. All of the top tier guitarists have been on the show and they’ve all donated cool stuff or signed stuff and that’s been very helpful for us. We’re about to expand again and we have some developments I can’t talk about just yet but we’re expanding into another area that’s just going to help us with fundraising a lot. If you want to find out about that, you can follow us on Instagram or Facebook or our YouTube channel. We will have a bunch of announcements probably in two or three weeks about that. It’s a big deal and we’d love for you guys to come join us on Facebook and Instagram and YouTube. All that helps us raise money for our Guitars for Kids Program. It’s pretty easy. Just click and you can help raise money.

[00:23:06]

Andrea: Just organization level, how many people are on staff between your music teachers and therapists, how many people are volunteers and how many are paid?

Reed: Our staff is small. I only have myself and I have a development manager. There are full-time staff and we have a videographer on staff whose awesome. We are also working on kind of branching out into documenting the history of music and folklore and all things music. We’re working on some little mini-documentaries about different artists like Norman Blake or some other cool folks that we feel deserve some attention and they’re on staff as well. We have a couple of guitar teachers. We’ve had a lot of volunteer guitar teachers. We don’t really have any right now. All of our guitar teachers are paid. We have 48-49 school teachers that are part of the program and we have 16 partner organizations. For a very small staff of two, we have a handful of contractors, maybe 8 or 10 of those and then we have a huge number of teachers.

[00:24:28]

Andrea: I think it’s smart to train the teachers in the schools already to deliver that. Not only you’re giving them skills but it just expands your reach pretty significantly.

Reed: Yeah, that’s the great thing. Someone asked me the other day about what’s the upper limit of the program, like how if you have more money how many guitars could you give out? The answer is it’s pretty unlimited. I’ve been a part of non-profits. They’re all or nothing non-profits. Basically, that means like if they don’t raise a certain amount of money they just can’t exist. This program is scalable and it can be done at any level. So if we have a terrible year and raised $100,000 or $50,000, we could do it at that level or if we raised a million dollars in a year, we can do it at that level too at $100 increments. There are really no limits on how big it can get and it’s replicable and scalable at a very rapid rate. As this thing with Hamilton County has proven, we can add 12 teachers and I think that covers 1,200 students in about 6 weeks from start to finish.

Andrea: So as long as you get those guitars from China you’re good.

Reed: The only holdup right now is just I’ve been sweating that out. For a while now, it’s the first time we’ve bought guitars directly from the factory. Most guitars that you’d buy now are made in Indonesia or China. They’re not made here. It took a little bit of nerve to wire that first amount of money, put a deposit down on the guitar and just hoping for the best.

[00:26:15]

Andrea: I imagine it could open up some kind of cool opportunities with customizations.

Reed: Yeah, it’s great. They volunteered to like these guitars will have our logos embossed on the headstock and the bags are embroidered with our logo. If it works it’s going to be amazing because that’s the exact same guitars that we’ve been buying from distributors. They are just a different color–they’re black. They have our logo on the bag and on the headstock. I’ve also consolidated that. That’s been a great thing I can talk about financials and trying to get the cost of our program down has been a big priority of mine to have that $100 to buy a guitar and teach 12 weeks of lessons. But I still want to get the cost down so we can do more guitars and buying the guitars directly from the factory got the cost way down and it includes the bags.

Whereas before, we were buying the guitars and we’re buying the bags separately and we were buying the tuners, strings, picks. We have a great string sponsor now, they’re GHS Strings. They provide us with thousands of sets of strings every year for free which is amazing. Clayton USA provides us with picks. The bags and the guitars now come as one purchase which is great. Tuners were one of the most expensive and hard to get things. We didn’t have a tuner sponsor. Some of my friends who run this really great coding web-based company down in Atlanta I commissioned them to build an online tuner that anyone can use. That will be launched in about a week and anyone can just go to our website and you can click tuner or tune your guitar or whatever at the top and it will take you to this app and you have your microphone to hear what you’re playing and you can tune your guitar right there. We eliminated $10,000 to $15,000 worth of tuners alone every year and that went down to zero. That’s kind of something you always have to think about is how you can deliver your program at the same level or a higher level and cut down your cost down as much as you can. Having a simple fundraising ask is also essential, so like the $100 is the guitar plus the guitar kit is a simple sales pitch.

[00:28:35]

Andrea: I was going to ask about that actually because it does like that’s nice and tidy like you know exactly what is happening with your donation. Have you always used that or is that something that you’ve developed over the years?

Reed: I’ve started a couple of non-profits but this is the first non-profit that I’ve started that we had a good bit of resources at the beginning and I have learned from all the mistakes I’ve made over 20 years of working on non-profits of exactly what’s the best way and you know, having a good pitch of what you’re selling that’s easy, that’s not just successful by large donors. It’s more successful when you start talking about a $20 gift that does blah, blah, blah or a $50 gift does this, and it’s a real concrete thing that you can really wrap your head around. If they want to go to Instagram and they see a kid with a guitar, they can understand like that “My money may have bought that guitar.”

It’s a really simple sales pitch and I think that’s why people really identify with that is because you know exactly what your money is doing. I think a lot of non-profits go out and they ask for these large gifts from people and they do have a great pitch. It’s just not very specific. It works out that way because we do group lessons and it wouldn’t work out if it was all individual.

[00:30:59]

Andrea: Yeah. Is there anything else from all your years of starting non-profits and things like that where if there’s a teacher who is thinking they might someday want to start a non-profit organization, any parting wisdom for that teacher?

Reed: I feel like I built several large non-profits and I feel like the best advice I can give you is make sure that you’re passionate about it because it’s a hard road to tow. It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of commitment and really getting to a point where you can make a reasonable amount of money for living expenses and things like that, now you really have to just be passionate about it because you’re going to go through three to five years, if you’re lucky, before you get to that point where you feel like it’s a stable organization and you have a stable income. Starting a non-profit is complicated but it’s doable. You got to be committed to it and you really got to love it. Another thing is make sure there’s not somebody already doing it before you start a non-profit. If there’s an existing organization already doing it, you’re basically trying to reinvent the wheel that’s already working really well there.

 

[00:32:41]

Andrea: What’s next for Songbirds Foundation? What goals are you working towards right now that you can tell us?

Reed: Our big goal is this winter we’re going to launch our national program. That’s kind of what we’ve been going for with the online learning portal and getting our Zoom stuff and all that going over the last couple of years is to be able to launch a national program. Essentially, what will happen is on the application we’ll go live on our website probably around end of October. Kids 12 to 17 or 12 to 18 can apply to be a part of our program. We’re looking at probably do 100 guitars because this is kind of our pilot just to make sure everything works. We don’t want to get overwhelmed. We’ll probably do 150 to 200 kids and we’ll give guitars to them. Send it all out and send them all the stuff they need and allow them to work through the online curriculum and then every three to four lessons they complete, they’ll have a one-on-one lesson like a Zoom lesson with one of our teachers.

We know that positive reinforcement is essential to learn the guitar. It’s really hard to learn it from just watching YouTube videos. Some people can do it but most people don’t really have that ability and then also to make sure we can help correct little mistakes that they’re making that in the long run will hurt their guitar playing. One of our biggest goals is to get that done. Obviously, we’re going to keep rolling on our Vault Session interviews. We’ve got interviews set up this week with a bunch of great guitar players like Brent Mason and a bunch of people at this guitar camp that we’re doing. We are just hoping to keep putting out really cool fun content that people enjoy and we also hope to keep having fun because that’s the point of all this is to enjoy what you’re doing and enjoy music.

[00:34:33]

Andrea: Yeah. That definitely comes through. I noticed that when I read through the website and I noticed that when you’re talking about it. You can hear this passion behind everything. There’s passion behind just the founding of the organization, from the guitar collectors and through the Vault Sessions and all that. I definitely hear that come through.

Reed: It’s been a lot, it’s been fast and furious over here. It seems like every month there’s something new and we have yet to run into anything that we weren’t able to do and I hope that we can continue on that path and when people ask us if we can come in and help do whatever it is. I hope that we can do that because I find that that is what makes it all interesting and fun for us.

Andrea: For sure. Well thank you so much.

Reed: Alright. Thank you.

[00:35:26] [End of interview]

 

Recap

The Songbirds Foundation definitely doesn’t have a typical startup story. It was so interesting to hear how the foundation was really born out of that group of collectors who wanted to share their guitars.

Even though the guitar museum closed, the guitar collection is still a central part of the program and it opens some cool doors.

Today that set of guitars connects kids with talented and famous guitarists and connects those big name guitarists with rare guitars played by their idols. It definitely puts the foundation in a strong position!

What Reed said about creating a simple “ask” for donors is super powerful. When a donor hears that the $100 they donate to the Songbirds Foundation will get a kid a guitar, starter kit, lessons, and music therapy, that’s pretty compelling. Donors can vividly see the impact their $100 donation will have.

It also sounds like the Songbirds Foundation is delivering a ton of value for $100, and what donor doesn’t want to feel like their donations are being used efficiently?

I love hearing about the interesting and unexpected challenges people face as they grow their businesses and organizations – like pricey tuners or sourcing hundreds of guitars during COVID – and the more interesting solutions these people come up with to solve those problems – like hiring a developer to build an online tuner or ordering guitars directly from their manufacturers in China!

Reed’s creativity here sounds like it could really lower the cost of running their programs and make it possible to reach a lot more kids.

Oh, and I did see some pretty rad looking black guitars in a recent Songbirds Foundation Instagram post, so I take it they all got built and made a successful journey to the U.S. and into the hands of eager students.

I’ve enjoyed getting to explore some different models for starting foundations and community-oriented projects. If you know of a musician or music teacher doing cool work in this area, I’d love to hear about it. As always you can find contact info and show notes for this episode at musicstudiostartup.com.

That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back next week.

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