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Topic: Charity Shows for publicity & referrals
Message: Posted by: itsmagic (Dec 7, 2006 09:50PM)
What are the pros and cons of doing free shows for charities?

How do you gently turn the charity opportunity down?
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Dec 7, 2006 09:59PM)
You can always be too busy.

As for the pros and cons it really has been discussed ad nausium. If you search for it I am sure you will find more arguements on each side than you can possibly read in a month. Pretty much sums it up for you
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Dec 14, 2006 08:41AM)
Remember that fundraising is a regular business. Some charities uses agents and pay as much as $400,000/year for event planners (Marketing managers)! Don't be fooled by names like "Area Director", "Avocate", "Regional Planner", "Director of Planned Giving", etc. Those are hired guns. They also work with agents.

Take a look at:


Yes, Lucy and I do a large number of "contributed" shows too. But don't confuse a "Charitable Business" with "free". The more professional the "event planner" the better the publicity too! After all, they are professionals at it. Many are very succcessful MBAs. I'm an old university professor who taught MBAs marketing the not-for-profits.

It would be unfair not to end with a wonderful fact of the entertainment industry. One of the real marks of a true professional entertainer is that in a true situation of need, the first thing he offers is himself.

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Dec 14, 2006 09:11AM)
I always say that I will try to make it unless I get offered a paying job, then I will be forced to take the other offer. I find this firmly puts the ball in their court. If they pay the caterer, the hall rental, and the band then they are just taking you for a ride. Quite often entertainment is an after thought, so forceing them to worry about you makes them take you seriously.
Al Angello
Message: Posted by: impossible man (Dec 14, 2006 09:48AM)
How about this one? A charity wanted me to donate a show they could auction-meaning I could be called on at any time. Another magician kindly referred them to me in lieu of donating anything himself. I told them I'd donate a copy of my book, but that didn't go over too well.

My strategy is going to be - pick one or two charities, go to them with offers of assistance, then I have grounds to say that I am committed to some charities when others call.
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Dec 14, 2006 10:03AM)
My strategy is, only volunteer for causes you believe in, because they will all treat you like dirt, and if you believe in the charity first, you won't mind them not appreciating you.
Al Angello
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Dec 14, 2006 10:15AM)
The thing is as Bob said, fund raising is a BIG BUSINESS.

In general the only one at the event NOT making money is the entertainment. Unless I go.

IF I choose to donate, I do it like Al. BUT I always get my full fee. THEN I donate the check back to the event.

Does 2 things. It gets your price out there as other than free, and is deductable.
Message: Posted by: RobertBloor (Dec 14, 2006 10:28AM)
The one thing a fundraiser NEVER wants to say outloud is that it TAKES money to MAKE money.

I used to perform for a fundraiser night at our local zoo. Three years in a row.
Every year after the event I got a nice thank you note. It let me know how much they appreciated me "donating" my show, and that "my efforts" helping them to raise more than $25,000 for the zoo society.

In one night?

And yet somehow they "just didn't have the money to pay my fee."

And yet somehow, the vendors got to sell food and make money.
The crappy "featured act" band got paid.
And I know the event planners are salaried at least $30,000.00/year here.

All that money and they can't "afford to pay me."

[b]Combine that with...[/b]
The last time I did there event, I had it spelled out what I was going to do for them. I brought in my own sound system, did my show to a packed house.

Then as I'm cleaning my magic up I hear someone on the microphone. Apparently the "next act" was going on. Using my sound system. My microphone. My equipment.

I never agreed to that. Nor was I ever told.

I had one other set to do outside the theatre that evening. I refused to do it until I had all of my equipment back.

They got ****ed off and never called me back. That's fine. In the long run it was a costly lesson for me.

[b]Lesson learned: (say it with me) I HAVE VALUE.[/b]

No more free work.

Message: Posted by: nucinud (Dec 14, 2006 12:32PM)
You can not count on doing free shows to get you paying gigs.
If you want to do a free show, do it because you believe in the charity.
Or you can do the show for a reduced fee.
If you get into the position where they want to auction your services, this is what I do. I give them a gift certificate for a half hour show. I also put an expiration date (usually no more than 90 days from the event). The gift certificate states that my services are subject to my availability. And if they want to hire me for more than the half hour, it will charged at a regular rate.
I learned the hard way if you don't put restrictions on the certificate, you will be taken advantage of.
Message: Posted by: mota (Dec 14, 2006 01:00PM)
Has anyone here actually got shows from charity event? My experience has been free shows make more requests for free shows. It also wrecks your pricing...once you do it free everyone wants it free.

Anyone here have a different experience?
Message: Posted by: Paddy (Dec 14, 2006 03:28PM)
On 2006-12-14 14:00, mota wrote:
Has anyone here actually got shows from charity event? My experience has been free shows make more requests for free shows. It also wrecks your pricing...once you do it free everyone wants it free.

Anyone here have a different experience?

No, that has been my experience. The only thing a free show gets you is more free shows. If I am asked to donate a show and they tell me about "all the publicity you will get!" The first thing I do is triple my usual price but then "because you are a chritable organization, I'll do it for half of that."

There is one organization that I will do anything for and there is no charge from me, in fact I have turned down a paid gig just to do a party for them. That is "Make A Wish Foundation." Those parties are the hardest things I have done, but they are worth it. They are hard because you know that the child hsas a very short time left to live, but to make them and their parents happy and to see them laugh is worth more than any amount of money I have ever made.

Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Dec 14, 2006 03:36PM)
Mota, my experience is the same, which is why I take my whole fee and donate it if I believe in the cause.
Message: Posted by: Doug Arden (Dec 14, 2006 04:16PM)
In my experience, free or cheap shows will only get you more free or cheap shows.

As Danny does, I charge my regular rate and then donate all or a portion of it back to the charity, if I feel the overwhelming urge to do so.

Peter, I like your idea of tripling the fee and giving half back. I must try that.
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Jan 12, 2007 09:36PM)
The idea of charging and then signing the check over is a very old and common one. But remember, rule #1 is "If anybody gets paid, I do too."

Whatever your policy, until you know what it is, no one else will know either. There is nothing to keep you from changing it, but changing it may be an admission that there is no policy. Only you can enforce it.

It's your show!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: disgruntledpuffin (Jan 13, 2007 05:07PM)
Can I add a personal question to this?

I'm 17 years old and would love to become a pro. I know my act is good, but I'm looking to get some experience of performing for a real live audience, to pay my dues, so to speak, and iron out any wrinkles in my show. At the moment, I'm not doing this for the money, just for the education. Would shows for charity organisations be a good idea?

Message: Posted by: Christopher Starr (Jan 13, 2007 05:53PM)
Great opinions here!

Al Angello:
"...only volunteer for causes you believe in, because they will all treat you like ****, and if you believe in the charity first, you won't mind them not appreciating you."

"Lesson learned: (say it with me) I HAVE VALUE."

"My experience has been free shows make more requests for free shows."

Bob Sanders:
"If anybody gets paid, I do too."

As for myself, I rarely do charity shows for the above reasons. I'll only consider doing so for 2 reasons:

1. I really believe in the charity (that leaves almost all of them out).

2. The potential media coverage, photo op, etc. is too good to pass up; in other words, a very HIGH Profile event.

Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Jan 13, 2007 06:19PM)

There is always a need. By all means, do perform. However, my suggestion is to do your charity shows for those who either would not be entertained otherwise or did not buy a ticket. Then you know you aren't just being used.

Lucy and I try to do free shows for nursing homes wherever we are performing anyway. These people seldom get to leave their building. They are no threat to ticket sales. We were really touched by the results of one in upstate New York in 2005. One of the residents reacted by moving his arms and face to the music. It was the first time in many years he had expressed any awareness at all of anything going on. Sometimes the magic isn't on stage. But it's nice to know you were there to enjoy the magic.

Another reason for doing true charity work is that the quality of other volunteers will often shock you. They will pay someone to drive their car, lay out their clothes, and send birthday cards, but spend a day a week personally helping a total stranger make a phone call, write a letter, sew on a button, or read a magazine article. There some really fine people out there. They will be watching you too, and they know who to know!

I'm sure that you've heard it before: People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Doing charity work is certainly an audition. It will do a lot for "wrinkles".

Good Luck!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: SpellbinderEntertainment (Jan 13, 2007 06:28PM)
The one line we all hear, or you WILL hear in time, is:

“We can’t pay you, BUT you’ll get lots of exposure and lots of jobs from it.”

If you buy this one, you probably also believe in the tooth-fairy. You will never get solid paid gigs from doing free “charity” gigs.

There are (just a few) causes I personally believe in and WISH to support. I generally approach them, and offer my show in lieu or in addition to giving.

These causes are few, but I’ll bend over backwards for something close to my heart.

I’ve often had them ready to book a show, then add:

“Oh, by the way, this is a Charity event. Can you give us a lower rate???”

I don’t care for being snuck up on and bushwhacked...so, at this point, I say something close to:

“Oh! You’re a non-profit! Well, you have less overhead and bring in tax-free donations, so my rates for this type of show are one-third MORE than what I originally quoted you. If you’d told me right away this was the case, I would not have made that error.”

This usually astounds the “fundraiser”, and hopefully teaches a little lesson as well. And I personally know professional fundraisers who make over 100K per-year,
and so obviously don’t give THEIR expertise away to charity for free either.

I know this may sound harsh, but as I said, if it’s “my choice” or “my chosen cause” you get everything I’ve got to give.

And, please, don’t EVER do a free show because you EXPECT to get lots of publicity or gigs as a result. Do it from the heart, or not at all.

Last year, as an experiment, I had the charity include a coupon in the program. It offered, for ANY gig booked as a result of their show...
-I would take $200 off the price of the show they booked,
-AND I would donate another $200 to the original charity,
as long as it was booked within six-months of the fundraising event I did.

Not ONE of those coupons was redeemed during those six-months in 2006.


Posted: Jan 13, 2007 7:43pm by Bob Sanders:
Lucy and I try to do free shows for nursing homes wherever we are performing anyway.
These people seldom get to leave their building.

It’s great to give substantially-reduced cost shows to nursing homes or retirement homes, and it is true these folks need all the divertissements and kindness they can have. However, most performers do not know that by Federal Government mandate, ALL such care facilities MUST have a set budget for entertainment, or they will not be entitled to their federal funding.

They therefore must bring in entertainment and activities for their guests or patients (who have either paid out-of-pocket dearly to be housed or are there by Government Medicare if they don’t have funds).

These mandated budgets are what allows them to pay for magicians, etc. It’s not a great deal, but these are gratifying shows to do.

However, either those funds are going to someone else or being kicked back by some less reputable homes, so do not feel bad about charging as a professional entertainer when bringing in this needed service.

What I’ve done in the past is taken the fee from the show, and used it to purchase small stuffed teddy-bears. These are then given to the residents and patients at my next show and can bring great comfort to some lonely people.

So take the fee, but also give something back.

My two-cents,
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Jan 14, 2007 02:18PM)
There is an old juggling expression, Eskimo's and jugglers know that "you can die from exposure". Jugglers call it the "E" word.
Al Angello
Message: Posted by: SpellbinderEntertainment (Jan 14, 2007 02:46PM)
Al, maybe I'm thick, but I just don't get your quote or metaphor?
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Jan 14, 2007 03:03PM)
When someone offers you EXPOSURE instead of money for a performance, they are offering you nothing. EXPOSURE to the elements can often times be a cause of death. Two different kinds of EXPOSURE; one will kill your career, and the other will kill you.
Al Angello
Message: Posted by: SpellbinderEntertainment (Jan 14, 2007 05:57PM)
Ohhhhhh, right, I was slow on that one.
Too true, too; not quite the exposure you bargained for.
OK, I'll take my meds and get back on track. <grin>
Thanks for the clarity!
Message: Posted by: jlibby (Jan 14, 2007 09:01PM)
I remember some years ago a woman called and pretty much told me up-front that this fundraiser she was working on had a budget for everything EXCEPT children's entertainers. She seemed embarrassed about asking me to donate a show, but I just flat-out told her (but nicely) "no."

In my experience, I have never, ever, ever, ever been offered one red cent for a charity or fundraiser show; around these parts, they expect the entertainment to be free, unless it's a band. Either that, or I've been dealing with the wrong class of fundraisers!

See ya!
Joe L.
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Jan 19, 2007 09:11PM)

You are in Texas, where charity is still charity instead of a front for a business. Volunteers there are easy to get. Sometimes folks just have good neighbors!

Enjoy it!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: Jim Snack (Jan 20, 2007 06:51AM)
There's a lot of collective experience in this thread. Let me add a few thoughts from Volume One of my Success in Magic course:

"Whenever I receive a request to donate my services for a "good cause," I evaluate it carefully. After all, this is a business and I won’t survive in business if I don’t get paid for performing. And I only have a certain number of performing days available each month.

The first thing I consider is: who is asking? Do I have a previous relationship with either the person making the request or someone else in the organization who recommended me? If I receive a call from a volunteer who is simply going through the yellow pages trying to get a magician or clown to perform for free, then I decline, particularly if they have never even seen my show! But if it is from the activities director of the local community center who has hired me in the past, then I’m willing to consider the request.

Even if I don’t have a relationship with the person requesting, I might be willing to consider it if I am interested in developing the relationship. This probably won’t happen if the call comes from a college intern or other volunteer. If the director of an organization is willing to call me personally to make the request, and has seen my show and really wants me, then I’ll consider it.

The second consideration is whether or not the request is from an organization I feel positive about. For many years, my sister was a very active volunteer with the Make A Wish Foundation. Even though my sister no longer volunteers for that organization, whenever they call, I am open to the request. The same is true for the Hole In The Wall Camp in Connecticut. I’m a pushover for sick children.

The next thing I always ask is: who else will be performing at the event, and are all the other performers also donating their services? The last thing I want to find out is that everyone else is getting paid except me! This can happen, especially when the organization has spent its entire entertainment budget on the “headliner” and now needs some local performers to fill out the bill.

That’s when you get the call from the college intern who has been assigned the task of finding some strolling performers who might be willing to perform for “the exposure.” Trust me; the headliner will get all the exposure, you will be lucky to get a thank you letter.

Furthermore, I ask if everyone is donating his or her services, not just performers. Is the theater or hall being donated? How about the band, the caterer, or the sound, lighting & staging company? If money is budgeted for these services, then I feel it should be budgeted for your entertainment also.

If I have a personal connection with an organization or feel positive about their particular cause, if all the other performers and service providers are volunteering their services, and/or if the exposure is with the media or in front of potential buyers, then I’m open to the request. Before I agree to do the show, however, there is one more strategy I sometimes employ to try to turn it into a paying show.

Turning a Request for a Free Show into a Paying Gig

I explain that I will be willing to donate my services as long as no one else calls wanting to hire me for the same day. If I get a request for a paying job on the same day, I will have to cancel my donated show with their organization in order to take the paid engagement. After all, this is a business. I only have a limited number of performance days available each month, and the day they want is a prime one.

“But we want to advertise you in order to draw people to the event,” they plead.

“Okay,” I reply, “I’ll donate my time, if your organization covers my expenses.”

“How much would that be?” they ask.

I explain that performing is my business, and like any business I have overhead, expense for office rent, props, etc., which amounts to about 50% of my gross income. If this were a paid performance, I tell them, I would have charged a fee of, say, $400 for the show. If the organization will cover my business overhead, 50% of that, or $200, I will donate my time. They may advertise my performance with full assurance that I will not cancel at the last minute to take a paying job. As long as they cover my overhead for that day, I can perform and still stay in business.

More often than not, they find the funds to cover my overhead, so they can advertise my appearance, and I don’t feel so bad when I have to turn down a paying gig for that day.

You probably won’t want to employ this strategy every time you get a request for a free show, but when you are on the fence, trying to decide whether or not to donate a show, try it. You may discover that it is possible to turn a request for a free show into a paid performance. Granted it is not your full fee, but getting paid something is better than nothing, particularly when you are starting out. Furthermore, you won’t feel so bad when you have to turn down a paid booking on that date because you are already committed."


Posted: Jan 20, 2007 7:58am
One more thought, regarding how to gently turn down such a request.

When I am initially contacted, I will tell the prospect that I might be available on the date in question, but I have a tentative hold on the date from another organization that I will need to call before releasing the date.

Then, I can collect the information about their event that I discussed above and still back out if I don't like the sounds of it. I simply call them back a day later and say, "I'm sorry, the other client confirmed that date, so I'm not available."

Message: Posted by: RSD (Jan 20, 2007 12:29PM)
This is how I handle freebies: I work ONE show a year where I volunteer my services. I work with the same LICENSED charity every year on the same event. If I get any other requests, I politely tell them I already have an affiliated charity. Furthermore, I get paid my normal fee via cheque from the organizers. I then turn around and donate the equivalent in cash back to the charity. This ensures two things...1) My show fee goes directly into the charities kitty and not into some "event expense account" and...2) I get a tax charity receipt, which I can then claim on my income tax at the end of the year.

On a side note, I have found in the past that very rarely that I get paid gigs out of charity work. I find that I just get more requests to donate my time and get branded as a freebie performer. I started this policy of mine about 6 years ago and have not had a problem.
Message: Posted by: Christopher Starr (Jan 20, 2007 04:29PM)
Excellent advice, Jim. Thanks! ;)
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Feb 12, 2007 08:43AM)
"Freebies" aren't quite the same as charity shows to me. To me, charity shows are an investment and obligation I gladly honor. They offer an opportunity for the organization get more than just my performance.

Charity shows gain their importance to me because of a philosophy ingrained in me by a mentor long ago. It goes way beyond the entertainment industry. Simply put, the philosophy is:

[b] Success is a trust to be administered. [/b]

"Freebies" are a something for nothing. At best, they are a gift. At worst, they are another extension of social welfare programs and simply squander resources with a politically correct deception. There is no accountability for responsibility in "Freebies". Fun and productive are unrelated terms. Producing fun is not always responsibly productive. It can even be contraindicated.

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: Paddy (Feb 12, 2007 07:51PM)
Funny this topic popped up today. There is one show I do every time they ask, and that is for the "Make A Wish Foundation." Anytime, anywhere, I will help them when I can. But today I received an email from my church about a kids carnival in March. Not asking for anything, just a publicity thing to all the congregants telling us about it. I checked and am not booked for that day, so I called them up and volunteered to be there as my clown character, doing magic and balloons for the whole congregation. When they asked my fee, I told them, "One Dollar."

I do know that the committee running the thing will put my name and info in the church bulletin, plus they asked me for about 100 business cards for them to hand out for me. I usually don't even think of doing things like that, but just got caught in a senior moment and gave it a try. I'll let you know if I get any paying business from this.

Message: Posted by: TrickyRicky (Feb 12, 2007 09:10PM)
I will only do the Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.
Once you do a charity freebie, you will be bombarded with requests for free services. These organizations pass your name around to each other. Whenever I get calls for charity, I tell them that I only do the Sick Kids Hospital.
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Feb 20, 2007 11:32PM)

There are times when I simply want to do the show and know it matters. Then my standard line is, "I don't charge family." I've never felt abused from this either. It seems to be treated as a valued gift and puts pressure on them to step up to the plate and work harder.

Message: Posted by: danspada (Mar 6, 2007 02:17PM)
I actually work in a non-profit for people with disabilities. I am the Marketing Director but am slightly involved in our event planning, and I can tell you first hand that sometimes free gigs are great exposure, but make sure you're not being exploited. I know for some of our events we will promote certain aspects of the event to gain further exposure...for instance, if it is a well known band, we'll do PR and put the bands name on everything. However, if it is, say, a lesser known act, like a magician, then we don't usually promote it...sorry, guys.

BUT...one option you can do is tell the charity that you are booked on the day they ask you to volunteer. But tell them you would love to do a benefit show where, say, half (and I just throw this number out there) of the proceeds will go to the charity, while you keep the other half. That way, they are likely to still promote you (in PR, posters, and their website, maybe even their newsletter) and you are still making some money on the side.
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Jan 12, 2010 10:09AM)
Well it is resolution time for a new year. How many of you made one in this area?

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander

PS --- Do yourself a favor for 2010. Make a calendar specifically for this area. Look at your investment. Would you be willing to pay a substitute to do this for you? If not, why are you doing it?
Message: Posted by: Steve_Mollett (Jan 12, 2010 06:10PM)
Drew McAdam's "Making Money from Magic" recommends free charity shows to gain exposure and networking in a new market (notably for those starting out).

Thoughts on that?
Message: Posted by: Steve_Mollett (Jan 14, 2010 04:39PM)
Message: Posted by: Reuben Dunn (Feb 4, 2011 09:21PM)
After a few years off, after moving back to California from the UK, I've spent some time going over assorted threads; just hoping to catch up with things.

This comment interested me.

On 2006-12-14 16:28, Paddy wrote:
On 2006-12-14 14:00, mota wrote:
Has anyone here actually got shows from charity event? My experience has been free shows make more requests for free shows. It also wrecks your pricing...once you do it free everyone wants it free.

Anyone here have a different experience?

My first "gig" was doing a 45 minute set of "Hearing Dogs for the Deaf", which is a UK national charity. I offered my services for free, e.g., as a donation. I like the charity and have an affinity for the the deaf.

They were very gracious. They took care of me on the day, wrote a rather kind testimonial for me, and, unasked, gave me a cheque for the equivilent of $100.00 for petrol (gas) expenses. This was a welcome surprise for me as I was really only doing this for the experience.

Did I get anything in return, e.g., a lead for doing this "free" show? Yup.

One of the members on the planning committee was also in the Human Resources department of an Accounting firm that was located in Wales. Several months later I got an email asking me if I would be available for a Christmas party at a rather upscale country hotel in Wales.

In additon to that, this same H.R. person was also involved with a breast cancer awareness charity in Solihull, which is near Coventry. I did a 45 minute paid show at that, and was then asked by one of the women present for my contact details.

It turned out that one of the divisions of Price WaterHouse & Cooper were doing a banquet for 500 people and were in need of a performer. A 30 minute train ride from Coventry to Birmingham, a lovely dinner, 45 minute show and then 30 minutes of numerology readings, and a rather nice pay cheque too.

Three nicely paid gigs,all because I went to a local meeting of the Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, and offered my services for free.

As my kids would say: [b]"Sweet". [/b]

Steve Mollett wrote:


Drew McAdam's "Making Money from Magic" recommends free charity shows to gain exposure and networking in a new market (notably for those starting out).

Thoughts on that?

I think Drews book is one of the most carefully hidden books on earning money as a performer because of the market that it's aimed at, the mentalist arena. McAdams is extremely well known in the UK, in Scotland in particular, and his book is one of the best books that I've read on the subject.

He, along with Chuck Hickock, does advocate offering the services for free, as a way of breaking in a new routine/act, and towards gaining exposure and experience with an audience.
Message: Posted by: Eldon (Feb 5, 2011 12:48AM)
My experience has been about the same as everyone else that has posted here when it comes to charity shows. That being said, Michael Finney once told me that he does one or two charity shows a month, and that those shows pretty much book him enough corporate gigs that he doesn't have to do any other type of advertising or promotion. Keep in mind that the charity shows he does are usually high priced plate dinners and such. The type that corporate big wigs attend.
Message: Posted by: Ken Northridge (Feb 5, 2011 05:40AM)
On 2011-02-05 01:48, Eldon wrote:
My experience has been about the same as everyone else that has posted here when it comes to charity shows. That being said, Michael Finney once told me that he does one or two charity shows a month, and that those shows pretty much book him enough corporate gigs that he doesn't have to do any other type of advertising or promotion. Keep in mind that the charity shows he does are usually high priced plate dinners and such. The type that corporate big wigs attend.
I am extremely guarded when I’m asked to donate my time. I’ve been burned before. I once donated my time and was treated poorly, ingnored, not even a simple thank you. Then I found out other entertainers got paid and were treated like stars!

However, the Michael Finney example is why you should never say never. I suppose it takes as much experience as Michael Finney has to discern the good from the bad.
Message: Posted by: David Thiel (Feb 5, 2011 08:57AM)
I will choose who I do free shows for. And I explain to them, in advance, that I do what I do for a living and that I am interested in trying out some new material mixed in with my more polished stuff. This enables me to get some sort of fix on how the new material is faring before I put it into my paying shows.

The charity knows this and often they have been very helpful in honing components of effects that are still at the `I need a live audience` phase.

I work WITH these people -- admittedly not many -- and work to develop relationships with them so it`s more of a personal relationship. These charities have significant networks and they talk among their circles of friends.

IF you are doing charity shows to get more shows, prepare for disappointment. Either you donate your time or you don`t. This way I get valuable real world experience for my new effects, I gain a network of people who are friendly to me -- and the charity gets free entertainment. Works for me.