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Topic: Free/Charity/Fundraising Shows
Message: Posted by: Magic-Sam (Aug 13, 2012 11:14PM)
When approached by an organisation/company to do a free show for a fundraising/charity/low budget event how do you politely tell them that you're a professional, it's my living etc etc?
Message: Posted by: charliecheckers (Aug 13, 2012 11:26PM)
I think the best way is to give it to them straight. No reason to appologize, no reason to be angry. Just share what you would charge for your service and move on.
Message: Posted by: scottds80 (Aug 13, 2012 11:47PM)
Perhaps you could provide a discount, or even if it is next to nothing perhaps consider the spin off work it may provide for you.

But then again I can imagine if you do it for one, they would expect you to do it for all.
If you're not prepared for charging any less than full price for your services, charliechecker is right. As long as you are polite and don't let the event organizer get a bad taste from your response. I would say,
"I'm sorry I can only do a show for x amount, please consider it and call me if you would like to make a booking."

I would only justify myself if they continue to push you.
"I am running this as a business which means I need to cover costs for living, etc."
Message: Posted by: Magic-Sam (Aug 14, 2012 12:41AM)
Thanks charliecheckers and scottds80 for your feedback!
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Aug 14, 2012 12:43AM)
If you want to do it I would recommend doing it for your full fee and donating the check. This establishes your price, and you don't work for free.
Message: Posted by: magic4children (Aug 14, 2012 03:24AM)
Hi Magic-Sam,
I think the key here is that they approached you, this amounts to an unsolicited cold call asking you for money. It is good to give and share your talents with organisations you feel an affinity for but it is your prerogative who you approach and why. Often the service you give for free is not valued and, in my experience, the less I charge the worse I am treated. Often the request will be “ just come and give a few hours of your time” there is little consideration for how valuable that time is and how much marketing, rehearsal and experience brought you to the point of being able to do such a gig.
My work mainly takes place over weekends so if I give up a Saturday morning it amounts to 25% of my potential income for that week, that’s a pretty large contribution and I wonder whether the person approaching you might give up 25% of their weekly income for a charity that you support.
I politely tell the approaching organisation that I already have charitable organisations that I support; I quote my full fee and offer to make a donation. The donation is then up to me, the same as any other charitable giver as opposed to being mandated by the booker.
I have been burned many times with promises of “publicity” I now have a strict policy of not working to get work. I market to get work and I work to get paid.
I hope that is of use.
Ken
Message: Posted by: bobn3 (Aug 14, 2012 06:37AM)
If you truly believe in the charity, do it. If not, just tell them you are busy during that time period. Just wanted to be succinct and cut to the chase here.

Bob Phillips
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Aug 14, 2012 06:45AM)
I only do charity jobs in my off season, because I'm booked the rest of the year. My off season is January and February, so give me a 60 day notice, and I'll try to fit you in.

If you live in Australia your off season is probably June and July.
Message: Posted by: Blair Marshall (Aug 14, 2012 06:46AM)
Magic-Sam

Suggest they get a sponsor for your performance, they get a show, you get paid,and the sponsor gets some pr.

Suggestions for sponsors..their bank (some do have funds for this type of community activity), any of their reguler service providers that cannot actually donate or give to their event, other community businesses that work within the community.

B
Message: Posted by: chill (Aug 14, 2012 07:05AM)
[quote]
On 2012-08-14 04:24, magic4children wrote:

I now have a strict policy of not working to get work. I market to get work and I work to get paid.

Ken
[/quote]

this is a great line. may I use it?
bob
Message: Posted by: magic4children (Aug 14, 2012 10:48AM)
[quote]
On 2012-08-14 08:05, chill wrote:
[quote]
On 2012-08-14 04:24, magic4children wrote:

I now have a strict policy of not working to get work. I market to get work and I work to get paid.

Ken
[/quote]

this is a great line. may I use it?

Be my guest. Ken
bob
[/quote]
Message: Posted by: Leland (Aug 14, 2012 10:52AM)
I a select few fundraising shows that I do and I do those because I approached them first, not the other way around. When someone calls asking that I donate my time, I let them know that I already work with certain groups and don't have time for another. They seem to understand that.
Message: Posted by: sb (Aug 14, 2012 11:13AM)
One thing to consider....

Is anyone else getting paid for the event? The venue, the food provider, the DJ, the newspaper for advertising, the printing company, and so on... If any other service or goods provider is being paid, then there is no reason for you to do the event for free. Their services and their time is not more valuable than yours.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Aug 14, 2012 11:51AM)
[quote]
On 2012-08-14 12:13, sb wrote:
One thing to consider....

Is anyone else getting paid for the event? The venue, the food provider, the DJ, the newspaper for advertising, the printing company, and so on... If any other service or goods provider is being paid, then there is no reason for you to do the event for free. Their services and their time is not more valuable than yours.
[/quote]

This has always been my thoughts on this situation as well.
Message: Posted by: MichaelDouglas (Aug 15, 2012 11:35AM)
I've had about 4 calls in a period of 2 weeks requesting a free or discounted show. I just had to explain that I get these requests often and am unable to accommodate all of these types of requests. People generally understand. However, I do them at times. It think that it is good to give back in some form or another. When I choose to give back to the community via donating a show, I make sure to get some promo pics that I can use on my web site and/or facebook. Marketing survey's have recently shown that customers generally prefer to support businesses that are socially active in charitable causes. With that said, sometimes it's good to just give or help without tooting our own horn about our donation.
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Aug 15, 2012 11:52AM)
I turn down almost all of the requests I get, and just do 2 or 3 per year that I have some kind of personal connection to. However, sometimes they realize what a benefit you are to the event, so the following year they may be willing to pay you, which happened with both the donated gigs I did a few years ago.
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Aug 15, 2012 01:31PM)
I do Children's Hospital during magic week in October, I will do a fund raiser for a very sick kid, I did a free show for my grand daughters birthday, and that's about it.
Message: Posted by: Close.Up.Dave (Aug 15, 2012 01:59PM)
The way I think of it is, I'll take the gig if I can personally ensure that the positives outweigh the negatives. I seek out charity connections because I know that they can do me good, and turn down the ones that come to me/offer nothing. The one that I'm doing this year is a gala for the national diabetes association. I am not paid, but will be compensated with free dinners (at $150 a pop for me, my wife and 2 friends), a large ad in their program, and the freedom use their name in the local media. My connection in the organization is friends with a news anchor who will also be contributing to the event. That's footage I don't want to miss out on. All that while being able to showcase myself and network with major players in town that I know are going.

At other charity events I'm done I've gotten free concert tickets, gotten spin off shows, and made a major connection that helped me get a scholarship.

Don't work for nothing; the something you get doesn't have to be money if you find it valuable.
Message: Posted by: murrari (Aug 15, 2012 03:35PM)
To echo what has already been said, I only work two or three charity events a year that are close to my heart for free.

When other charities contact me, I explain that I could do 300 free shows a year but as I'm a professional I have bills to pay like everyone else and therefore need to charge them. To add value, sometimes I suggest a free 10 minute 'cabaret' spot. It's a chance to highlight my stand-up work (10 minutes is a 'taster for potential clients) and I'm still getting paid for the evening which I see as a win:win.

Free advertising is not usually enough of an incentive for me and I'm usually not interested in free tickets and dinner etc. but each to their own.

Working for free and finding out at the event that everyone else is getting paid (caterers, toastmaster, DJ etc) will leave a sour taste in your mouth. I know this has happened to many of my contemporaries and it happened to me too. Just once though. Lesson learned!
Message: Posted by: Paddy (Aug 15, 2012 03:56PM)
I just had a call today from a "non profit" and when I quoted her my rate she almost wet herself. I told her that was my charity rate and my usual rate was twice what I quoted. She then said "we are a non profit.' My response was "my landlord is not non profit, Krogers really frowns on being non profit. Get a sponsor for me then and I will perform."
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Aug 15, 2012 04:04PM)
[quote]
On 2012-08-15 12:35, MichaelDouglas wrote:
I've had about 4 calls in a period of 2 weeks requesting a free or discounted show. I just had to explain that I get these requests often and am unable to accommodate all of these types of requests. People generally understand. However, I do them at times. It think that it is good to give back in some form or another. When I choose to give back to the community via donating a show, I make sure to get some promo pics that I can use on my web site and/or facebook.
[/quote]

While I no longer do these types of performance "for free" (the real term, rather than donate my services), let me share my perspective when I did do them. This would also be my advice to anyone who specifically asked me about this.

As mentioned above, others are getting paid for their services (caterer, etc.) albeit at a discount or special discounted price more than likely. The thing to remember is if you are even considering doing these types of events is to create a win-win deal between you and the charity, person or event contacting you. They must have something invested in you (and the deal) to truly value and appreciate your services.

With that understood, the next thing I point out is there are more than one way to profit in business. We often focus primarily on income or money paid for our services. However, there are other non-monetary things that could be beneficial and lucrative to you and your entertainment business. There is always the concept of offering a reduced "donation or charity" rate, but other things of value to you could also be radio, television and newspaper coverage, proper (as provided and approved by you) credit and inclusion in all printed promotional materials (ads, media, posters, fliers, tickets, signage, etc.), an exhibit booth at the event, direct affiliation and sponsorship inclusion with any celebrity or main feature highlights, on-air or newspaper feature stories with their media contacts and co-sponsors (they have the ability to arrange this with their media buys or trades), press coverage at the event, the opportunity to offer, present or distribute your promotional materials or promotional activities/contest/campaign at the event, and any other possibilities and opportunities that could showcase, promote, expose and directly present your business and offerings to all attendees and the community/public.

Let me give you an example. I once was asked to Emcee the seasonal Grand Opening Gala for a newly restored historically cherished theater (now Performing Arts Center) in the town in which I grew up. It was beautiful and the main attraction of the downtown area. It was named one of the top 10 theaters in America at the time. It was a gem. Each season they would kick off with a major celebrity performance and announce their lineup of shows and productions for the season (year). They called and asked me if I would be willing to offer my services to M.C. the show, and post performance VIP event for all the sponsors, season ticket holders and VIPs. I said yes, as I thought it would be beneficial to me. I agreed to do it because Frank Sinatra was the major celebrity (it was a secret at the time) performance booked to kickoff the season gala. I can tell you I was treated like a pee-on (sp). I did a great job and many others congratulated and thanked me, but no one from the theater or their board of directors. They specifically kept me away from Sinatra, although they of course wanted to use my sound system for the entire after event party. I was not even mentioned in the "acknowledgments and thank you's" at the event, no mention in the show program, no mention in any print or media...absolutely nothing. Not even a verbal thank you. I did receive a thank you note a couple of weeks later, not even signed by a human.

I decided that while it was cool to be part of the Sinatra event, and I did hang with my buddy Tom Dressen and Frank Sinatra Jr., I was not appreciated, respected and would not do it again if they asked, which they did again a few weeks later for another event. I said no for the next nine months each time they called.

Then about the same time the next year they called again for the celebrity Seasonal Kick-off Gala, I again said no. This time they called back on my answering machine (yes it was a while ago) and asked me why I would not be willing to work with them. Before I returned the call, I made some notes to explain my position. As I was doing so, I began thinking about what WOULD make it worth my time and interest. When I called them back and gave my reasons for declining their offer, the person apologized a dozen times and asked me if there was anything they could do to change my mind.

Here's what I said I'd be willing to agree to:

My name and logo on ALL printed materials related to and used in promotion of the event.
A 1/2 page ad (they gave me a full page) in the show/event program
Billing on the Marquee (it was small on the bottom, but nonetheless on there)
Inclusion in all media, including at least one radio segment interview and newspaper feature story
Acknowledgment on stage during the performance
A one on one interview segment with their featured celebrity at the VIP After Party.
And a photo op with the featured celebrity

Amazingly they agreed to everything I requested. I did it under these conditions annually for seven years working with George Burns, Steve Allen, Tony Bennett, Loretta Lynn, Tony Danza, and Tom Jones. It ended when the last time I did it when I got in a huge argeument with Dionne Warwick because I called her out on her uncooperative diva bulls**t. The theater agreed with me, I was asked back again but declined.

I can't tell you how much exposure, credibility and ultimately business (high end) I received from doing this arrangement. People still come up to me years later saying they remember those great events and the fine job I did. The press picked up on the Warwick story and many people sided with me on the way she treated myself and others from the theater and event.

My point is to show that we can profit from these arrangements in ways other than monetary. But it has to be win-win for both parties as each gains something valuable, and they (the client) has to have something invested, understood and executed in you and your performance, rather than you just handing your services to them free for the asking.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Aug 16, 2012 09:28AM)
The simple fact is it costs money to raise money.

We have always done fundraising on our own terms.

But if you believe in the charity or the cause or the family involved there is nothing wrong with doing it. I simply say be realistic about how this works is all.

I almost guarantee the place it is being held at is getting paid and so forth.

There are reasons magicians have this happen to them. One large one is THEY FALL FOR IT constantly. Always seem to have. I am not sure why. People do ask though, because it "seems" as if we have no real overhead accept for our time. They watch our shows and it is not like the meat guy or the hall, or DJ, it seems as if we have really nothing that costs much. This perception leads to asking to donate your time.

Also you find that when people think it is more your "hobby" than your profession they are more willing to ask you to donate stuff. Nothing against doing magic as a hobby, but this is how they think, not me.
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Aug 18, 2012 12:46PM)
These non profit organizations pay for everything to make their event a success with the exception of entertainment because there is always a stupid free magician who want EXPOSURE, but in most cases you only EXPOSE your get is to other free jobs.
Message: Posted by: sb (Aug 18, 2012 02:34PM)
When someone wants you to work for free, because of all the exposure, and shows you will book as a result.... you can tell them, "that's great, pay me my full fee now, and when those other gigs come in, I will donate 10-20% of those next shows fees to your group." Oh, and be sure to explain to them, that since this is such a great opportunity for me to get more gigs, that this deal will ensure that the original group makes way more money back than the original booking fee! How can they possibly say no to their group actually making more money!



(obviously I don't practice this...lol)
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Aug 18, 2012 05:37PM)
Look up The Donner Party and see what can happen from exposure. Here is a hint. You die and your friends eat you.
Message: Posted by: espmagic (Aug 21, 2012 06:06PM)
This started by asking about money/fees. So, if you agree to do it without getting a paycheck, you still need to get something for yourself. My wife and I have done many fundraisers for tax receipts - our normal fee consedered as a donation to the charity itself - and then we use the receipt at tax time for our benefit.

You don't pocket any actual cash, but you save at tax time on what you might have spent.

Lee
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Aug 21, 2012 06:20PM)
Lee
Just exactly how much less tax do you pay when you turn in a $100 receipt? My suspicion is that they are not even close.
Message: Posted by: Howie Diddot (Aug 21, 2012 06:29PM)
I performed a free show about a month ago for younger kids, the parents were not attending, only staff; and the deal was that I would do every trick I purchased for my show that I had not performed with yet because of various reasons, mostly I was not comfortable with and to test it out.

I mixed them in with my perfected tricks and everyone of them did quite well; now I feel more confident using the tricks I was holding back.

It was unfortunate that they were too young to understand Hospitality, I would have loved to perform that one..
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Aug 21, 2012 07:02PM)
[quote]
On 2012-08-21 19:06, espmagic wrote:
This started by asking about money/fees. So, if you agree to do it without getting a paycheck, you still need to get something for yourself. My wife and I have done many fundraisers for tax receipts - our normal fee consedered as a donation to the charity itself - and then we use the receipt at tax time for our benefit.

You don't pocket any actual cash, but you save at tax time on what you might have spent.

Lee
[/quote]

This becomes a wash at the end of it all.
Message: Posted by: Bill Hilly (Aug 21, 2012 10:19PM)
[quote]On 2012-08-21 19:06, espmagic wrote:
This started by asking about money/fees. So, if you agree to do it without getting a paycheck, you still need to get something for yourself. My wife and I have done many fundraisers for tax receipts - our normal fee consedered as a donation to the charity itself - and then we use the receipt at tax time for our benefit.

You don't pocket any actual cash, but you save at tax time on what you might have spent.

Lee[/quote]

Five years ago I attended a seminar on taxes for self-employed, entrepreneurs, entertainers, etc. The presenter was a tax attorney and assured us that you can not donate a service and write off the fee value against your income tax.

Anyone have info on that?
Message: Posted by: Paddy (Aug 22, 2012 08:28AM)
YES! The only way to write off the show value is to get a check from the charity for your full fee, then write them out a check for the amount they just gave you. Your check is your receipt according to IRS
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Aug 22, 2012 08:47AM)
The deposit into your account is nice to show them as well.

It is about a paper trail today. You need to prove, not claim it was donated.

In recent years charitable deductions do not help as much as they did at one time. Usually the only way it helps if you are trying to avoid a much higher tax rate. It used to be a pretty good move but any more it is a wash. You don't make the money in the first place so you are not taxed on it. Big deal. There is hardly a benefit to not making the money. You also don't get taxed on money you don't make, does that benefit you?

If you want to try to drop your taxable income then the few dollars it is done by may save you Pennies.

Turns out the IRS is pretty good at this stuff. Believe it or not you can call and ask them. They are quite helpful.
Message: Posted by: TomBoleware (Aug 22, 2012 09:36AM)
When someone writes you a check for the full amount, it becomes income regardless of
what you do with the money. Donating it back doesn't reduce your income any.

Donating services can be very tricky if you trying to dodge taxes in some way.
Like Danny said, you can always ask the IRS if you have questions.

If you absolutely need paper work for your records, just reduce your fee to one dollar.
And then deduct your expenses your normal way.


Tom
Message: Posted by: Bill Hilly (Aug 22, 2012 09:42AM)
That was another point brought up at the seminar. You do a show for a charity and charge them $1,000. Then you write them a check for $1,000. You must claim the $1,000 as income. You can deduct the $1,000 as a charity gift, but you will still get taxed on the $1,000 fee. You will pay the self-employment tax (Social Security) and must count that $1,000 in any type of transaction you do that requires you to declare your income.

So doing charity work for tax purposes just doesn't work. It's not supposed to. It's supposed to be done for the sake of charity.

I'm not saying anyone here thinks or does otherwise. I'm just saying what I was taught on the tax thing.

Anyone else concur, or have info to the contrary?
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Aug 22, 2012 10:14AM)
I thought the return was very low, and now I find out that there is no return on this hair brain scheme.
Message: Posted by: Paddy (Aug 22, 2012 12:07PM)
I will state that there is ONE organization, which will remain nameless, but their initials are Make A Wish Foundation :D
that will get a free show anytime they call. I had a company call me saying they were doing a fundraiser, I was about to quote my standard rate until the said it was for Make A Wish, I then said "for you it's free." My wife & I both have personal reasons for supporting this group but it is the only charity I will support.
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Aug 22, 2012 12:20PM)
Peter
I was contacted recently by the Philadelphia chapter of the homeless veterans, and I will do a free show for them any time they ask me.
Message: Posted by: Leland (Aug 22, 2012 01:41PM)
I think each one of us would do a free show if the right Charity would to call us. The one that is dear to our hearts.
Message: Posted by: glennmagi (Mar 29, 2019 04:58PM)
To add to an old post, well I received an email asking me to donate my time for renovating an old historical Church. When I read on their website this event is to raise money to PAY people to do that renovation. So my purpose there would ultimately be to help other people get paid for the time, just not me.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Mar 29, 2019 05:20PM)
Isn't the point of most charity to get money to other people?
Message: Posted by: AndreJ (Apr 2, 2019 04:57PM)
[quote]On Aug 15, 2012, Mindpro wrote:
My point is to show that we can profit from these arrangements in ways other than monetary. But it has to be win-win for both parties as each gains something valuable, and they (the client) has to have something invested, understood and executed in you and your performance, rather than you just handing your services to them free for the asking. [/quote]

Wow, just realized this post is quite old...but nonetheless...

The reply from MindPro is spot on.
(Oh, and the answering machine was not the thing that struck me as old...it was the part with Mr Sinatra :)