“The Old Town School of Folk Music is the nation’s largest independent arts school in terms of number of participants, scope of arts programming and size of annual budget.”


Old Town School of Folk Music is a one-of-a-kind and cherished institution that celebrates music and cultural expressions rooted in the traditions of diverse American and global communities.  The School delivers quality arts services to students and audiences with a varied selection of class opportunities as well as performances.  Nationally, the School provides a unique and highly respected model of community arts education serving over 120,000 people per year.  In order to meet growing demand and continue to provide diverse programs, the Old Town School had an urgent need to expand its facility.

Recognizing its need for expansion, the School partnered with Alford Group to conduct a Feasibility Study to determine if the Old Town School of Folk Music could raise up to $13.5 million to construct a new facility.  The study examined the image of the School, the appeal of the proposed campaign to build a new facility, the gift potential, climate and timing and internal readiness.  Through our interactions with interviewees, Alford Group discovered that the School was deeply valued for its classes, performances, unique spirit, open environment and efforts to accommodate diverse interests and abilities.

The campaign coincided with the hiring of a new CEO for the School, which was perceived as a potential challenge to the success of the campaign.  Alford Group and the School’s leadership approached the transition as an opportunity to introduce the new CEO to the Chicago community.  This positioned him to meet with current and potential funders to share his passion and vision for the School.

Additionally, a comprehensive philanthropic case supported the CEO and campaign volunteer leadership in conveying consistent, clear messages about the impact the new building would have on the Old Town School’s ability to serve 8,000 to 10,000 more students of all ages and abilities on a weekly basis.

With the leadership of a fully dedicated Board, Campaign Cabinet and staff, Old Town School completed the campaign and funded the construction of a new facility.  Alford Group provided counsel through the feasibility study, campaign planning and implementation including helping to secure lead gifts.  The building is now open and fully operational.

“The Old Town School of Folk Music’s faculty is very talented and perhaps the best in the field.”