IN THE TRENCHES
Charity managers suggest the following tips for nonprofit organizations seeking a partnership with a
touring musical artist:
Look for performers who already believe in the cause. Scan song lyrics and artist Web sites to determine the performer's favorite issues. Learn about an artist's music before approaching him or her about establishing a presence at his or her shows.
Work out all the details in advance. Concerts typically have three levels of management — the band, the performance spot, and the promoter — and a charity will need to communicate effectively with all of them well before the big night.
Set ground rules for volunteers. Remember, their behavior reflects on the charity. Amnesty International, for example, sets guidelines for its volunteers that include no drinking or smoking while staffing the human-rights group's tables at a concert.
"We're so strict because the venues and managers don't have to do this — if there is any problem, they'll say no next time around," says Angie Hougas, who heads Rhythm n' Rights, Amnesty's project to spread its message at musical events.
Set realistic goals for the event. Make sure the nonprofit group can provide enough volunteers and materials to realize those goals. Train volunteers so that they can explain the organization's mission quickly and effectively.
Find ways to draw people to the charity's table. Concertgoers often need incentives — like small gifts, for example — to sign a petition, donate money, or join a mailing list, notes Caleb Wheeldon, senior outreach coordinator for PETA2, the youth-oriented division of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in Norfolk, Va.
"Autograph signings are a great way to get people to your table," he says. "So is giving away prizes. Put everyone you sign up into raffle. And anything you give away that's free can draw people to the table. Whatever you do, don't just sit there and expect people to come to you."
Be responsible, respectful and patient. Remember, musicians aren't required to allow nonprofit organizations to set up tables at their shows. Ask nicely, and be polite.
After the show, remember to follow up. Contact the band's representatives after the show to let them know whether the event was effective. — Jennifer C. Berkshire