Music for Peace Foundation improves communication strategy during the pandemic

Music for Peace Foundation has been one of our grantees since 2018 and is now one of our grantees of Covid-19 Emergency Fund. The financial sustainability of the Music for Peace Foundation was negatively affected by the cancelled concerts and decreasing donations due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Barış için  Müzik will use this grant to strengthen the communications capacity of the organisation which is also expected to strengthen the financial sustainability. With this grant, the foundation will employ a corporate communications coordinator, a graphic designer, and a video editor to develop and implement the organisation’s communications strategy in an effective way. 

The Music for Peace Foundation was one of the recipients of our COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund with the financial contribution of the Turkey Mozaik Foundation. How did you use this grant and in what ways it contributed to your work?

The Music for Peace Foundation aimed to use this grant to strengthen its financial sustainability that was negatively affected due to cancelled fundraising activities as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. This grant will also be used to adapt the Foundation’s work to the changing needs of the time and strengthen its communications capacity. For this reason, 3 colleagues joined the Foundation as Corporate Communications Coordinator, Graphic Designer, and Video Editor. We prepared the job descriptions of these positions and agreed upon the responsibilities and expectations.

In line with our aim to strengthen our communications activities, we reviewed all of our knowledge and experiences so far. We created an archive of our Foundation by listing the news in the annual reports, the works of the orchestras and choir, national and international concerts, media coverages, awards, the visitors of the Foundation, the students who have benefited from the Foundation and the projects that the Foundation contributed as a partner. This archive has also been one of the resources we used on the creation of strategic communications.

The extraordinary process due to the outbreak enabled us to benefit from the communication activities more effectively in line with our needs. We started to manage the communication activities in a planned manner by working with a social media agency as well as with new team members and a communications agency that provided us pro-bono service. We prepared the Foundation’s Social Media Communications Plan and categorised the information shared with the followers under a few categories. For example, on Mondays we share content that provides motivation; on Wednesdays, we emphasise our supporters and on Tuesdays and Fridays we give news on student activities. While preparing this plan, we focused on ensuring that donors regularly receive news from our activities. The team members who manage the social media accounts and the entire administrative team participated in the communications and social media management training. At the end of this training, we prepared a document listing the Foundation’s social media rules. We analysed our YouTube channel and made a list of actions to improve it. We also listed the special days to be celebrated throughout the year and included them in the social media plans.

The content of our monthly e-bulletin was improved. We included the sections that shows the activities carried out during the month and emphasised the names of those working in close contact with the Foundation.

We also carried out the “Donor Evaluation Survey” for our donors who are one of the Foundation’s most important sources of income. With this survey, our goal is to better understand why donors support the Foundation, to see what they think about the quality and frequency of the information we provide for them through several channels and to gather information about their expectations from us.

This year, our Foundation celebrates its 15th anniversary. With the grant we received from the COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund, we reviewed our knowledge and experiences that will guide us for the next 15 years and identified actions to improve our communications activities. With this grant, we planned to establish an integrated communication strategy for all our activities and for the 15th year special program. In this way, we aim to foster new cooperations, to reach as many viewers as possible, and to increase the number of our subscribers/followers.

Additionally, we collaborated with the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Culture Department (İstanbul Kültür A.Ş. to prepare a mini-concert in July by carrying out training with 68 students in line with the COVID-19 outbreak measures. We produced student videos during the training. With the support of the agencies we worked with, we shared this process on our social media accounts.

In July, we filmed the Peter and The Wolf symphonic tale with 1 narrator, 1 conductor, and 28 orchestra members at the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall. The video of the show was prepared with the support of agencies and consultants and it was published online on our website in November as part of the Foundation’s 15th anniversary special program.

The preparation and implementation processes of the Peter and The Wolf symphonic tale had to be carried out under the conditions of the COVID-19 outbreak. Can you tell us about your experiences throughout this process and the feedback you received from the children and young people that participated?

The students of the Music for Peace Foundation performed one of the most famous works in the classical music world, the Peter and The Wolf symphonic tale which was composed by Sergei Prokofiev for the symphonic orchestra and the narrator.

Peter and The Wolf was performed by students with their instruments and the famous actress Şebnem Bozoklu narrated the story. It was broadcasted on 22 November through the Music for Peace Foundation website and our YouTube channel. The video reached more than 12 thousand viewers so far.

Initially, the Peter and The Wolf concert was planned to be held physically at the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall on National Sovereignty and Children’s Day on April 23 with the participation of Music for Peace orchestras. Yet, the concert was cancelled due to the outbreak. With great effort and enthusiasm, the students of the Music for Peace Foundation have turned this concert into a special online show for the Foundation’s 15th-anniversary celebrations. Our students have worked from home for two months to prepare for the concert.

The video of Peter and The Wolf’s symphonic tale concert was directed by Selçuk Metin in the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall. This concert has also been a first in Turkey in terms of a children orchestra performing online.

The Peter and The Wolf symphonic tale provided us with a valuable opportunity for our goal of reaching as many children as possible. The video of the concert has turned out to be material for music teachers and civil society organisations working with children to use in their own activities.

We are happy to share some of the feedbacks of the students with you:

“Making music during the quarantine period brought me back to life a little bit, it gave me motivation. I am happy for that.” Adad Abdlrazak, 16 years old, violin student

“The Peter and The Wolf preparation process has been a different experience for us. We came together at Cemal Reşit Rey for the first time during the outbreak. It was really good to get together as an orchestra, to see each other after a long time. We were very surprised that online education was so effective. Because we did a great job when we got together.” Melis Erselcan is 16 years old, violin student

“When we are not side by side, when we are not together, it becomes more difficult to agree on something and to learn something new. As a percussion group, this was the most difficult and troublesome situation, since our instruments cannot be carried home or played at home. Frankly, we continued our lessons with whatever materials we found at home.” Barış Atsız, 17 years old, percussion student

“We were receiving online education. It was a different experience. There were good things too. The good thing is that when you’re in the orchestra, you don’t notice your own mistakes, but when you stay at home and work on your own, you start to notice your own mistakes better. I can say the bad side of online education is staying away from your friends and not being able to play in the orchestra. Our teachers also did their best. They also had difficulties. Something unforgettable has happened.” Sana Beidaghi, 18 years old cello student

You mentioned that you conducted a “Donor Evaluation Survey” to learn about the expectations of your donors. Can you tell us about the significance of the role donors play for civil society organisations such as the Music for Peace Foundation and how you plan to benefit from the results of this survey?

Philanthropy and volunteering culture in Turkey are still not yet at the desired level. While we, as a society, attach great importance to solidarity, our contributions are through our own social circle rather than an organisation. This is also very valuable, of course. One must be perceptive to the problems closer to her/him and do their best to contribute to the solutions. However, the importance of advocacy and supporting civil society efforts in order to challenge the systems that creates that very problems in the first place are also evident. If individuals support civil society organisations that have accumulated knowledge and experience by working in a specific field, we can create long lasting impact.

Donors who support civil society organisations are important actors. They have the right to know why they support us and what their support is used for. Our survey will contribute to our understanding of the donors’ expectations who play an important role in our Foundation’s income. We think that the information we have obtained through this survey will guide us for the future.

*The results of the Music for Peace Foundation Donor Evaluation Survey published after the completion of the interview. You can find the results here.

What will be the areas and activities that the Music for Peace Foundation aims to prioritize in 2021? Can you tell us about the future plans of the Foundation?

This is a very though question. In 2020, we mainly focused on the difficulties that children and families face in online education and because of staying at home. We ask ourselves how the music education contributed to their life before the outbreak, what possibilities music can create for them now; how we can ensure the well-being of children and families through music and work of the Music for Peace Foundation. Making music within an orchestra means to come side by side, to be influenced by each other, to produce together; we talk about how we can achieve this in online education.

We continue to work on our 2021 plan by keeping our 15 years of experience in mind, taking into account the needs of children at home and questioning whether our efforts will bring us closer to our goal of reaching as many children as possible when this difficult period is over.

We keep our hopes high and our joy alive. Working with children is our biggest friend in doing that. We would like to thank you for everything.


ABOUT Music for Peace Foundation 

Music for Peace Foundation (Mehmet Selim Baki Barış için Müzik  Vakfı – Barış için Müzik) provides free music education for disadvantaged children to eliminate barriers on music education, to take part in artistic life and to make arts education accessible for all. The foundation aims to positively transform the lives of children and their families through free music education. A part of the international El Sistema network which aims to promote music education for all children, the Music for Peace Foundation establishes orchestras and choirs with children, helping them increase their self-confidence and improve the quality of their lives.