How to deal with choir members who won't pay fees

Managing a choir inevitably involves dealing with money. Whether you're running your choir as a business, as a non-profit, or as part of a larger organisation, you'll have to raise funds somewhere along the line. Many, perhaps most, amateur choirs ask their singers to contribute to being part of the choir. And occasionally, you may find yourself in the uncomfortable situation of having a choir member who doesn't pay their share. Here are my tips for handling the problem.

Give clear information

When requesting fees or subs, be up-front and professional - fees are due, they're this much, you can pay in these ways. Don’t be tempted to apologise for asking for money, or to make excuses if you have to put the fees up. No one in your choir is going to think that you’re coining it in and living the high life on the proceeds!

Don't ignore the problem

Many of us feel very disquieted about addressing financial issues. The British, in particular, have made a cultural touchstone of this. We don't talk about how much we earn or how much we have (that doesn't stop us moaning about prices, though, when we're not talking about the weather).

If someone doesn't pay what they owe on time, when you've given them clear information about what's expected and when, you need to tackle the situation head-on. You could issue a general reminder about the deadline, but if someone doesn’t pay up, you need to have a quiet word and ask why. If they can’t pay for some reason and you have a facility to help people on low incomes, great. But if they haven’t paid and you know that they could pay, they’re basically asking the rest of the choir to subsidise them, and that's not fair.

Keep things in perspective

It can certainly be uncomfortable to talk to people about money, but in my experience, you just have to take a deep breath and get over it. Whenever Christina and I have worried about financial issues with the choirs, the reality has always been much less scary than what was going on in our heads! An example is when we've put up the fees. We were expecting outrage and instead the only feedback we received was that the fees were so reasonable they should have been put up long ago.

If you work with integrity and from a position of openness and fairness, you won't go far wrong.
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