Charitable organisations are an amazing thing and as human beings we are a credit unto ourselves as a race that we give so much to so many amazing causes. It is always an absolute pleasure to lend my magic and performance skills to helping these causes when I can, especially when I can perform directly for whoever will benefit from what I do the most.
In this article, I wanted to try and help more charity event organisers succeed in getting entertainers to perform at their fundraising events. It might be a little taboo and you may not agree with some of it but if you follow these points, I guarantee you’re more likely to get your chosen performer on side and ultimately have them add value to your event. Here goes:
As entertainers we get approached literally hundreds of times a year by charities and people/organisations putting on fundraisers asking us to give our time up for them to perform for free and I don’t blame them at all. The best advice I can give here is to explain what the charitable cause is briefly then get straight into your ask. If I’m honest, we already know about 3 words into the first line what the ask is.
If you do have an entertainment budget (no matter how small), mention it early, it’s a first step to letting us know you actually value what we do, more on that in a bit.
Choose Who To Ask
Obviously, if you’re a friend of a performer, they’re a good place to start as they’re more likely to want to help you out personally from the off. If you don’t have a personal connection, take a bit of time selecting who you would actually like to perform at your event and just contact them. Magicians have friends (believe it or not) but a lot of them are other magicians. I’m sure it’s the same with other performance groups and when we all get the same copied and pasted generic email, we know, so it does give the impression that we don’t really carry any individual value for you so kind of switches us off.
Don’t Offer “Exposure” As Currency
A good 75% of my bookings come in as repeat bookings or word of mouth, every time I perform, I perform for people and as such, I get great exposure at every booking whether I’m getting paid or not. To be honest, exposure’s worth a whole lot more when people know you’re getting paid your fee for the gig they see you at, if not, why would they want to pay for an act that they know will go out for free? Avoid phrases like:
“There’ll be a lot of wealthy people there who might rebook you”
“You can give out as many business cards as you like”
“This is a great opportunity for you to showcase your talents”
To put it bluntly, we get these all of the time and it actually feels pretty insulting. I know as soon as I see any of these it’s a definite no from me.
If You Have A Budget, Use It
The difference between offering to cover expenses or nothing at all is astronomical, it’s working towards my point below of actually showing you have some value/respect for the performer’s time and skills. Is it viable to actually pay a fee for the performer? What is the event aiming to do? After all, we’re there to add value to an event and if our performance is going to encourage more people to come and donate their cash to the event in the future surely it’s worth investing in?
Take a big charity ball for example, I will never understand why people believe it’s worth investing in; drinks, canapés, 5 course dinners, a fancy venue, prizes, etc. but not in the entertainment? If the entertainment’s not worth having, why bother having it?
As a rule of thumb (holidays aside), entertainers usually earn their crust from a Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, although we’d love to, we can’t really afford to allocate time to do a gig that falls in that spot without charging our full fee or something at least close. If it’s a cause I appreciate and I know can’t afford the fee, sometimes I offer to try and squeeze in a bit of time before, after or in-between my “proper bookings” but I can never promise anything unless they can offer me the fee. If you really have no budget at all, suggesting this as an option as long as you can be flexible.
What Can You Actually Offer The Performer
If there’s something you can actually offer the performer in return (DON’T USE THE “E” WORD), maybe some awesome pictures or video footage if you have a photographer or videographer coming. Could you or your business do something in return for the performer? Can you add them to all of your publicity as a sponsor of the event as well as including them in your social media campaigns? Whatever it is, make sure you stick to your side of the bargain.
THE BIG ONE; Value & Respect The Performer’s Time & Skills
All of the above lead to showing that you actually value what we do for a living, it’s pretty tough to get onside with someone when you know they don’t value what you do enough to pay you what you’re worth. The long and short of it is if someone asks me to do a charity gig for free, I know that paying me to do so would be detrimental to the cause and they actually value what I do only then would I actually consider it.
If you do get an entertainer to come and do the booking for you at a reduced fee or for free, value them as much if not more than you would if you were paying their fee. So many times I’ve turned up to help out a charity, only to find nobody there who actually knows who I am or what I’m supposed to be doing. Other times I’ve agreed to give an hour of my time and I find I’m sat doing nothing for 45 minutes as they’ve not bothered to avoid a clash with speeches or stand up bingo. I can assure you this very rarely happens when a client is paying you as they want to get what they’re paying for.
If someone’s doing you a favour and you’ve arranged for them to come to your event, the least you can do is be available to meet them when they get there.
I hope this article has been helpful to you and will assist in future events, I’m always happy to help if you’d like any additional advice, just give me a shout.