Cincy Sings: A magical way to create employee engagement, company pride, & love for the arts in our city!

Posted by Mel Healey, May 19, 2016 0 comments

Images from the 2015 CincySings competition. Photos by Matt Steffan.It has been three years since ArtsWave and I launched the city-wide company singing challenge CincySings in Cincinnati, and it is evident to our city that the unique choral competition has delivered on its mission to leverage the power of the arts to create employee engagement and excitement among the participating companies, and a renewed passion for the arts across the regional community. The sing-offs that lead up to CincySings have become a staple at some of the region’s largest businesses, including Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where it all began.

Almost four years ago, I accepted the somewhat daunting task of being the 2014 leader for the Annual Community Campaign from ArtsWave, the oldest and largest united arts fund in the country. Our goal was to break the $12 million record fundraising threshold that had been set back in 2006, before the 2008 recession. As part of our research prior to beginning the campaign, we heard from many of our corporate partners that talent attraction, employee engagement, and retention were all top of mind concerns. We also knew arts engagement had a significant correlation to civic engagement and contributed to a positive view of the city as a great place to live and work.

We began to brainstorm ideas and activities that could increase engagement in the arts among employees and enable them to share their talents, network and support each other, re-engage big companies and their employees in the annual arts campaign, and re-educate the community as a whole in the importance and excitement of the arts to the city’s vibrancy and momentum.

Two of the most successful corporate employee campaigns were the P&G and Cincinnati Children Hospital, where well-attended sing-off competitions created incredible camaraderie and participation across multiple departments. The question we asked ourselves was: why not create a city-wide competition where the winner of each company competition would perform for a city-wide audience in a professional venue? At first, the task felt daunting, but then, with the passion and commitment of a couple of very talented leaders from P&G and the wonderful support of the ArtsWave staff, we set about the task to create and launch the first-ever city-wide, inter-company singing competition: CincySings!

Images from the 2015 CincySings competition. Photos by Matt Steffan.We asked Drew Lachey, a Cincinnati native and celebrity who had just moved back to the city, if he would be the Master of Ceremony for the final CincySings competition, and he agreed. The team then went about recruiting participating companies, using the idea as a platform to engage more companies in fundraising for the arts by explaining the positive effect a sing-off competition has on employee morale, camaraderie, supportive culture, and company pride. Offering CincySings as a tool for employee engagement helped ArtsWave develop existing relationships with companies in a new way, moving the conversation from simply a request for a corporate donation to a partnership in helping employees get engaged in the arts and feel pride in their company.

CincySings has become one of ArtsWave’s signature annual events with 17 companies participating this year. Our initial goal was to raise employee awareness and engagement for the arts in the city. But importantly, the competition has also become a unique employee engagement opportunity for the companies in our community to create a culture of support for each other and for the arts.

Getting involved with ArtsWave and the arts in Cincinnati has been a joy and incredibly rewarding for me, for our team and for the companies and their talented employees. For more information on how to organize a corporate signing competition for the arts in your city, check out Americans for the Arts’ employee engagement workbook on CincySings.

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