I think it’s safe to say that most of us feel good about giving back to our communities and helping those who have less than we do. Charity is something that most human beings can connect with, and if properly approached, charities can also be a great way for bands to expose themselves to more fans, draw more people to shows, and most importantly, connect on a personal level with the communities they play in.
Charities have employees, sizable e-mail lists, and press contacts. Any time you work with a charity, you automatically expose more people to your band and your music.
But let’s begin by clarifying what “getting involved” means. Getting involved with a charity doesn’t mean donating the money you made selling t-shirts at your gig. You probably need that money to buy gas and get to your next gig, anyway.
Charities require more than money. Many are in need of products like used books, canned goods, clothes, and so on. Beyond that, many charities would be happy to see more people join their e-mail list, or get people to volunteer for a day or two.
These are all things you can easily call on your fans to provide, as long as you’re strategic in picking a charity to work with. Think about your fans. When you look at your audience at a show, do you see a bunch of people with tight jeans and glasses? Congrats, you have a hipster fan base. Now ask yourself, what do hipsters connect with? Well, hipsters ride bikes. Awesome. Now go look for a charity that collects bikes for underprivileged kids.
Once you’ve found the right charity to work with, you will immediately have an advantage in pitching your band to clubs. Venues really love being involved in their communities. It gives them a chance to get some good PR. It also gives your band that same opportunity. Local press, blogs, and radio stations are always looking for a nice angle to connect with their community.
To further capitalize on that angle, it helps to turn your shows in that market into an event that benefits the charity as well as your band. You can do that by offering incentives for your fans to come to the show. For example, let’s say you are working with a charity that is collecting used books. You could offer fans a deal where everyone that brings 3 books gets $2 off the cover charge at the door, or maybe a free drink at the bar. Maybe the person who brings the most books gets a free CD and t-shirt.
Doing things like these ensures that talent buyers will remember your band. Who wouldn’t remember the group whose fans brought a bunch of hats and gloves for the local shelter?
Your partnership with a charity doesn’t have to stay local, though. A lot of bands now ask their fans to donate funds through websites like Kickstarter to finance their tours. Connecting your tour with a charitable goal, something like “We plan to collect 3,000 cans of food for Feeding America by the time we complete our tour,” can mean a lot to people when they are deciding whether to finance your band.
There are numerous ways to partner with charities as a band. You just have to get creative. But most importantly, you need to be collaborating with a charity because you believe in it. It can’t be a PR stunt for your band. If you approach it that way, it will show. So do your research, connect with an organization that means something to you, and help other people while doing what you love.