Keeping the "Fun" in Fundraising: Chickens in Love

04/27/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

At 826LA we don't offer traditional fundraisers. We know that in order to keep our donors and volunteers engaged, we have to make things a bit more interesting each year. We've held Paddle Boat Regattas where teams compete by racing paddle boats around Echo Park Lake; Dead Author Readings in which comedians bring some of our favorite writers from the past to life for a Q&A with our volunteers; or "A Night of Best Intentions" where our advisory board member, Judd Apatow, invited friends and collaborators to toast Seth Rogen for the "good work he may someday do" (a night which included the following short, satirical film about tutoring at 826LA).

Well, this year we got our students into the act and they created our latest offering: Chickens in Love. The idea evolved from aBattle of the Bands event we held last year where local bands competed to raise funds and to win the title of best band. This year we teamed up with our local record store, Origami, owned and operated by Neil Schield, and decided we should make a record. We had students write songs in the 826LA workshop, Songwriting with The Submarines. Through the guidance of John Dragonetti and Blake Hazard of The Submarines, students created their own bands, wrote the lyrics to a song, and recorded a video of themselves performing their composition with the help of musically-inclined tutors.

Then we thought, why not get well-known, local musicians to cover the songs the students created? And so we asked Fiona Apple, She & Him, Cold War Kids, Tim & Eric, and several other Los Angeles-based bands to help. The result is a soon-to-be released record called Chickens in Love (available for pre-sale). On top of that, we're having a live show with our students at the Echoplex on March 6 from 1 to 7 p.m. with some of the bands performing the songs our students wrote.

Raising funds to keep the arts alive in our schools and communities is hard work. It's incredibly humbling to have talented supporters do so much for us. They know that their contribution is more than just a one-time performance; these artists are doing the work needed to help strengthen programs that support the next generation of artists. Even in a time when selling music is not what it once was, they come out to help, willingly. The artistic community in Los Angeles is one of the most active and generous I've encountered. That they're enthusiastic to jump in, share their talents, tutor, perform, or just appear at an event for a cause they care about is truly inspiring -- It's what keeps the arts alive in Los Angeles.

But beyond all the fun and excitement this event will create, the central tenet of 826LA's project-based learning model is at the core: to teach students the value of working together to achieve a final project or goal. Whether students publish a book of writing with us, perform a play, make a film, or have their work performed by professional musicians at a rock venue before their eyes, we know a lasting impression will be made on them. And if, while we do it, we're able to raise some much needed cash to keep offering our free programs to students all across Los Angeles, then that's even better.

Pledge for your favorite 826LA song here: