Tempe's Ear Candy plans to expand its reach - East Valley Tribune: Business

Tempe's Ear Candy plans to expand its reach

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Posted: Friday, August 24, 2012 6:27 am | Updated: 5:41 pm, Thu Oct 11, 2012.

Ear Candy, a local Tempe charity, has announced it will expand its services from the Phoenix area to statewide on Sept. 17, and with its eye on a national expansion the nonprofit is hoping to raise $25,000 by mid-September.

“We had to take a step back and see how we can fulfill our mission efficiently,” Anderson said.

Part of this change means moving from collections based at firehouses to online collection. “We wanted to be as teacher-friendly, as donor-friendly as possible,” Anderson said. “We wanted to get out of the way and get out of the middle.”

Ear Candy, established in 2008, serves local schools by donating used and refurbished instruments to offset budget cuts to music programs. By changing to an online instrument drive model, the charity can more inexpensively collect, clean, repair and distribute instruments at a larger level.

Under the new model, teachers can put in specific instrument requests, which can then be filled by physical instrument donors nationwide and funded by monetary donors.

Donors can put their monetary and instrument donations specifically into their neighborhood schools, Anderson said.

It also means that the charity can move its model to a national level, expanding the opportunity for musical education nationwide, Anderson said.

To help fund this expansion, Ear Candy is aiming to collect $25,000 in a month on the donation website, Indiegogo.

“It’s a lofty enough goal to be a challenge, but also a realistic goal,” Anderson said. “Hopefully we get people excited about the new system ... It’s using a crowdfunding site to fund our crowdfunding site.”

The fundraising effort offers donors incentives from t-shirts and “schwag bags” to fine dining with the Ear Candy crew or a spot on the advisory board. For a donation of $25,000, the donor can name the next city Ear Candy will expand to.

Previously, the instruments were collected at local firehouses and then physically picked up by the nonprofit, but that wasn’t always the most efficient way of gathering donated instruments, Anderson said.

“Some stations were super responsive,” Anderson said. “But other times, donors would contact us a month later wondering why they never received a letter.”

Occasionally, instruments would sit at stations for a while before the nonprofit would know to pick them up.

But the new system, which launches mid-September, bypasses this inefficiency.

“Donors print off their pre-paid FedEx slip and mail it to our partner,” Anderson said.

Their new partner, the Colorado Institute of Musical Instrument Technology, can repair and clean the instruments at a much lower cost, as much as 75 percent less than what it cost the nonprofit to make instruments student-ready in the past, Anderson said.

A reduction in costs means serving more students and placing more instruments in student’s hands, he said.

The average cost to rent an instrument for a school year is about $20 to $30 each month and the cost for a student instrument is about $600. Under the new system, it costs about $150 to refurbish a donated instrument.

By making donation easier for everyone, it also means the charity can focus on other aspects of its outreach including Backstage Pass, which give students a chance to experience music through field trips, and Play It Forward, which equips any business, school, religious institution or other group to host its own instrument drive.

“We want people to be excited about where we’re going,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, they can be proud of us, of what’s happening in their own backyard.”

To donate to the expansion efforts, visit www.indiegogo.com/earcandy. Teachers and donors nationwide can begin using the new system Sept. 17 at www.earcandycharity.org.

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