You had it happen… I’ve had it happen… and if you stay in performing long enough it WILL happen to you! The phone rings and it’s Mrs. XYZ calling to ask if you would be willing to donate your show for a fundraising event in their (not your.) city. The cause is right; the money raised will go to help some worthy charity. What to do? The show is 1 ½ hours away. We’ve all faced this situation and I hope to give you a few good ideas to help.
One of the first things I do is to ask, “Where will this event take place?” If it’s a local American Legion or Elks Hall, the fundraiser is using, that’s one thing. If it’s a very classy, high priced hotel or restaurant, that’s something else again. That usually sends up a “red flag” to me. A follow up question comes off my lips almost instantly after asking this leading question: “Is there anyone else on the program or is it just me? “ Now the “coup de grace”question. “Is EVERYONE donating their time and talents?” That last question can make or break whether or not I do this charity event.
Often the person calling will say, “Yes, everyone is donating their time”, in which case I tell the person I need to consult my datebook and get back with them (which I do, usually the next day). I want some time to think this through and see if it’s feasible to accept this event. This event may be appealing if it’s a cause I believe in strongly.
If the person enquiring says “We have to pay the caterer, and the DJ, but look at all the free publicity you’ll be getting!” The “publicity” is that you work for free! At that point, if they can hire a band, DJ, caterer or other special people and PAY, they should pay you as well. Immediately, but firmly (in a nice way), decline. I would also tell them WHY I decline. And they will usually act incredulous. That is the way many of these situations work.
I don’t say turn down a charity event, but let’s level the playing field. If they think enough to call you, they should think enough to pay you. After all, you are helping in your own special way. This also protects the fee structure for any working professional. Do charity events, but be sure it’s a charity YOU can get behind to support.
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