(Close Window)
Topic: Turn charity request of free gig to paid gig?
Message: Posted by: wizardofsorts (Oct 4, 2010 11:08PM)
Is there anyway to turn a charity's request for a free gig into a paid gig?

I got an email from the local office of a national charity asking me to "help them out" on a local fundraising event. I emailed them back asking them for more detail of what they were looking for etc, etc.

Now technically they haven't asked for a free show yet but is there a way to turn them to a paid gig? This charity brings in over $9million a year and their board members make $300K a year. So, I guess what I'm saying is, they got the money, how do I get them to spend it?

Edd
Message: Posted by: rossmacrae (Oct 4, 2010 11:42PM)
Advise them that your regular fee for this type of show is [what you would charge if you charged every penny you think you could possibly get from, say, Bill Gates] but in respect of this worthy cause, you will lower your fee and gladly offer them a greatly reduced fee of [what you think you can extract from them].
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Oct 5, 2010 12:52AM)
There are other ways to profit too. Do you have merchandise or BOR? Promotion, press, asking for a copy of their marketing/mailing lists for your own marketing, as a means to get media coverage by a press/publicity stunt, etc.

Many performers and speakers regularly get paid from charity gigs. there is a misnomer that charity must mean free, complimentary or donated. I just did a charity event that the headliner was paid $55,000.00.

There are ways to profit other than just is your fee.
Message: Posted by: suspectacts (Oct 5, 2010 06:55AM)
My best advice is to choose a price ( reduced or otherwise) and stick to it. Remind them that of what you told us, as well as the fact that because they are getting much for free, they probably have room in their budgets for your small fee.

Consider this: If the only caterer they could find to donate food offered peanut butter sandwiches, you know they would find some money to pay for nicer food. Why isn't the same true for entertainment.

Also explain to them that no matter what they have been told, you cannot use it as a charitable deduction on your income taxes (it's true; goods and money only).

Also don't let them treat you like an 'add-on'. Suggest that instead of having you roam around or do a show in the dark corner of their event, that you would like to offer a stage show, that they can advertise as a separate event. Trust me Robin Williams wouldn't be asked to roam.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hegbli (Oct 5, 2010 11:07AM)
The late Burling Hull wrote in his book good logical explanation for charity calls. Tell them you are a professional entertainer and this is how you make your living. Suggest they have a prominent member donate your fee, and give him the recognition, as you have your charity you support.
Message: Posted by: Alan Munro (Oct 5, 2010 01:08PM)
I ask if everyone else is donating their services and/or products. The answer is usually "no" - most get paid, some do not. Why lower yourself by doing it for free, when some are being paid well? Besides, charity events are usually held at a time that competes with shows that would be paid.
Message: Posted by: SpellbinderEntertainment (Oct 6, 2010 11:50AM)
At one time I was getting a huge number of request for free shows for a “good cause”
of course you’re promised “this will be GREAT exposure for you”
…which means you’ll get another dozen people asking for your free show.

I have a few causes close to my heart:
children’s literacy, AIDS organizations, mainly.

Other than that, I quote a rate and wait for their sales pitch.
If they are particularly aggressive I used to say:

“Oh! You’re a nonprofit, that means you have recued overhead and lots of donations,
don’t pay taxes, and will make quite a profit from this event—
I’m so sorry! For this type of performance my rate is one-third higher than the one I quoted, do to those circumstances.”

I might also point out that an entertainers fees are generally the same they paid for the table floral pieces, and that this is how we make our living (not being a nonprofit ourselves).

Two things happened:
I got far fewer “free” requests, and the organizations that did call has a new respect for me,
and offered at least an “honorarium” for my time.

Sometimes a soft approach to tossing a hard-ball works.

Magically,
Walt
Message: Posted by: Close.Up.Dave (Oct 6, 2010 12:23PM)
I did a charity show for my community college and scored free tickets to a Beatles cover band for my girlfriend and I (about a $50 value). Also, since it was for the scholarship foundation, I had no problem getting a $1000 scholarship out of it since I had volunteered for them. I did that show when I first started performing more, so I was willing to do what I could to "get my name out there". Luckily it was well worth the 2 hours of free walk around.

A different charity asked me how much I would charge for 3-4 hours of walk around. I quoted him a price and he played the "we don't have much money" card. I lowered my price to a semi-reasonable amount considering I had nothing going on that date anyway. He then simply asked me to do it for free. He had a good reason too: They had no money left because they had booked a really expensive expert on square dancing. That made me feel good. It also showed me that charities have money, they just are willing to cut corners so they can get name brand performers.

There was another charity I had done a free show for as a favor to a friend. It went great and even booked a different show out of it that was paid. About six months later they were having another event and the coordinator emailed me because they wanted me to work for them. However, they needed me to be an usher. They didn't need my magic because they had already hired other magicians. Needless to say I didn't even bother responding.

The way I now see it, you're better off trying to become that name brand performer so you can get paid for "really good causes". Otherwise, you very well may be the last minute add on who has been endowed with this great opportunity to "get your name out there".
Message: Posted by: Paddy (Oct 6, 2010 12:55PM)
Like Spellbinder I have a couple that I not only will do freebies for but have actually turned down a paying gig to perform for the charity. These are groups like Make A Wish that have no paid staff. When other "charities" whose directors make as much as $1 MILLION a year call I quote them a rate of $5000 an hour. Never had a taker yet. Most non profits I will just double my rate and then give them a 50% discount, and yes I have booked several that way.
Message: Posted by: jlevey (Oct 6, 2010 07:50PM)
[quote]
On 2010-10-06 13:55, Paddy wrote:
Like Spellbinder I have a couple that I not only will do freebies for but have actually turned down a paying gig to perform for the charity. These are groups like Make A Wish that have no paid staff. When other "charities" whose directors make as much as $1 MILLION a year call I quote them a rate of $5000 an hour. Never had a taker yet. Most non profits I will just double my rate and then give them a 50% discount, and yes I have booked several that way.
[/quote]

Just curious... is this approach ethical?

Why not just tell them the truth? --let them know your real fee (perhaps tied to the show's real (perceived) market value in your area --perhaps tied to your ego ;) or simply tied to what you feel you "should be paid". Then, gently let them know that you wish you could perform for free, that their organization is (of course) a on a mission for wonderful cause, but that your schedule is very tight and you are in demand and that you simply cannot lower your fee. Or, perhaps as we occasionally do, offer a small reduction in exchange for free publicity etc.). Or, (as I sometimes do) ask them to pay your regular fee then pay them this same fee back, in the form of a "donation" (here in canada, this amount then becomes tax-deductible). In this latter approach, the end result is that you do the show for free, but you also make certain that you insist (ever so politely) in receiving significant publicity in exchange fo rthis donation (ie. your business card in their program booklet, DJ or MC announces your presence in the room over the loudspeaker, to all guests (several times throughout the night) and your web link is place (for the year!) on their charity's web site (increases your SEO).

The above are simply a few suggestions to consider. This approach has worked for us over the years (though admittedly, we only do teh "donated" shows for one or two select charities per year, so ultimately the tax deduction is not very significant. In most instances, we simply charge our normal fee, less a nominal amount (ie. $50), in recognition of their non-profit status and the good cause they are committed to.

They seem to appreciate this as they can tell their board members or social committee that they are paying less than a "for-profit" company would pay (in exchange for some pr).

In this way everyone feels like (and is) a winner.
Just food for thought. Like I said, it has been our approach and works for us --may certainly not suit everybody.

Hope its helpful and makes sense to some.

Jonathan
Message: Posted by: Paddy (Oct 7, 2010 10:13AM)
Is that ethical? Yep. Charities want to believe that they are getting a deal, so I let them believe it. My family likes luxuries like food, a place to live, some clothes. I make a charity feel good plus I feed my family. Ethical? Charity begins at home.
Message: Posted by: Ken Northridge (Oct 7, 2010 10:49AM)
I shared this story on the Café in another forum years ago but I think its worth posting again and certainly addresses the subject.

I got a call from the Philadelphia 76ers (I know, hardly a charity) asking me to donate my time at one of their games because they were having Harry Potter night. “You know, you could hand out your business cards if you want,” they said. (WOW! Work for 3 hours for the privilege of handing out my business cards.)

I gave them my standard line, “I would love to be a part of this event. It sounds wonderful! But, please understand I am a professional and this is how I feed my family so I will need to be paid.” I then quoted my FULL price. They called back later and offered me half the price I quoted, plus 2 lower lever tickets to an upcoming game of my choice. I took it, with the understanding it was a one time thing and I would expect full price next time. Then they asked me if I could get 4 other magicians to go for this same deal. So I got the opportunity to give work to 4 of my buddies that night too. It was a fun gig and we had a good time.

I think the main thing to remember is not to shut door so quickly requests like this. Act like a professional and you will be treated like professional.
Message: Posted by: sb (Oct 7, 2010 01:17PM)
The best advice I have seen on charity shows.... is from Dean Hankey, a few years back, right here on the Café. (and mirrored by Alan and Suspectactics, up above....)

I have since adopted his policy (but it might be a little different from his original posting)

I find out if ANYONE else is getting paid. Caterer, venue, DJ, advertising, other performer, headliner, etc.... If they are getting paid, then I am asking for money as well.

OUR TIME AND EXPERIENCE IS NO LESS VALUABLE THAN THE DJ OR CATERER (etc...).

If I like the cause, and wish to help them. I still get paid, and then can decide to donate my fee back to them. (I have actually done this a few times).

I have never found the work to hand out your card approach to work to well. Because then I get called for more free events.


The key with it all is to handle it professionally.
Message: Posted by: Signor Blitz (Oct 8, 2010 12:38PM)
I love how "not for profits" hide behind that to try to get free entertainment. All that non-profit means is that they can not show a profit at the end of the year - they still have bills like any other business. They don't get discounts on utilities, rent etc. and they do pay saleries,

If they can not directly afford entertainment - they usually have it underwritten by one of their corporate donors (which is great publicity for them) or on some occasions what I do falls under the parameters of grant funding.

In other words, if it is an organization that is worthy, they are use to paying and they know that spending $$$$ for entertainment (or what ever) will bring in even greater dollars and public outreach.

It is the smaller groups that don't understand the value of sponcership and those groups typically "just get by" and go under quite often. Even if it is a non-profit it needs to be structured like a business to survive.
Message: Posted by: Signor Blitz (Oct 8, 2010 12:41PM)
Ken!

You are so right - comprimising actuall$$$$ for other items is very important to remember!!
Message: Posted by: Decomposed (Oct 10, 2010 04:18AM)
Just finished doing a free one tonight. It was getting late so I told the person not to worry about be going on stage since I had to be elsewhere. The strolling part was really good though so not all is lost. Also I got to hypnotize someone so that is always a good thing when Im doing a mentalism gig. :cool:

I am going to change my pitch the next time. Of course free shows for a great cause I have no problem but it seems in these difficult times, there are more and more calling.

Decomp
Message: Posted by: SpellbinderEntertainment (Oct 10, 2010 09:49AM)
Totally free shows also hurt magic as an art and viable entertainment,
the message sent is "magic isn't worth much"
and "magic does not deserve respect as an important craft"

In addition, it lowers the value of magic,
after free shows around town people will not pay
to see even good or great magic, the product has been devalued,
and the perception of its worth lowered.

Last, unless you're a young person just getting started,
and making it clear you are doing a freebie to gain experience,
you are potentially taking away paying gigs from other locals.
How can another magician compete with someone running around for free?

In some venues, children's hospitals, elder care facilities, small local church events, the beginning performer can gain confidence giving away free shows, and being very specific withe them why they are free, or even charging a small stipend, like for gas.
You have to get an audience to grow into a better performer.

But, consciously allowing organizations to use and exploit you and magic
(and that's what it is and they're usually doing) can only hurt your reputation,
your local colleagues, and the business of magic.

My final say,
Walt
Message: Posted by: Bill Hilly (Oct 10, 2010 11:57AM)
UNION!
Message: Posted by: Decomposed (Oct 12, 2010 04:14PM)
[quote]
On 2010-10-10 10:49, SpellbinderEntertainment wrote:
Totally free shows also hurt magic as an art and viable entertainment,
the message sent is "magic isn't worth much"
and "magic does not deserve respect as an important craft"

In addition, it lowers the value of magic,
after free shows around town people will not pay
to see even good or great magic, the product has been devalued,
and the perception of its worth lowered.

Last, unless you're a young person just getting started,
and making it clear you are doing a freebie to gain experience,
you are potentially taking away paying gigs from other locals.
How can another magician compete with someone running around for free?

In some venues, children's hospitals, elder care facilities, small local church events, the beginning performer can gain confidence giving away free shows, and being very specific withe them why they are free, or even charging a small stipend, like for gas.
You have to get an audience to grow into a better performer.

But, consciously allowing organizations to use and exploit you and magic
(and that's what it is and they're usually doing) can only hurt your reputation,
your local colleagues, and the business of magic.

My final say,
Walt
[/quote]

You said it all. Not to mention the fact there are more price shoppers then ever currently and want more bang for their buck. Its becoming difficult to bid when the new kid on the block will fit the bill and charge much less or nothing at all.
You can be the best performer in the world and have an impressive client lists but
the booker needs an entertainer in a cost cutting society.
Message: Posted by: refugee (Oct 27, 2010 11:16PM)
Hey Edd - great to meet you at Magic Inc back in August. I'm still thinking about those Miller cups... maybe. Just not sure. Anyway, the best time I've ever had at Magic Inc.; thank you.

Think about the real meaning of networking for a little bit here. Networking is knowing what you need, knowing what other people need, and helping other people get what they need.

So, if you're connected to the right people in the charity, they're going to get you in front of the people that they know can help you. Would it hurt if you were willing to show up for free, having already explained what kind of clients you're seeking? Maybe you'll be able to attend a meeting of the charity people later - and they're going to ask you where you'd like to sit. I'm sure you can think of a few people who might be intereted in meeting you because they might need your services.

Does everyone get it? Nope. In fact, that "usher" story is going to happen, and it'll happen a lot at first. You've got to know who is contacting you, and you have to determine whether or not they're enlightened people. Don't let the morons throw you though, because when you meet the right people... The right people can do miracles for you.

Also, I have a "contingency" clause in the agreement. If a bigger show comes along, I retain the right to take it. They understand that I perform across the country, and they know there's a big fee out there that I have to take. They also appreciate that I'm more than willing to spend my "night off" with them for free. (and yes, when people find out that they've got to choose between "maybe" and paying full price, they'll often go for the full fee).

Now, if you're booked up pulling down $250,000 annually, you don't have to do this... but you probably did at some point...

Thanks again, Edd, for digging up those books for me. Here's one for you: check out Networking with Millionaires by Tom Stanley. I'm particularly fond of the audio version from audible.com.

Mike Duseberg