Gig Business

Should I Do Charity Gigs?

By Brian Jenkins

Almost every artist or talent will be approached to do a gig for charity or nonprofit. It may seem like an easy choice to spread some good around and do the right thing, but there are often unintended consequences that can come from working for a discounted or free rate. If you’re wondering about doing a gig for charity, take a look at some suggestions and boundaries from the GigSalad community.

Opinions on whether or not to do charity gigs vary from artist to artist. Some say performing any gig for free or a reduced cost dilutes the value of your product and lowers the pay scale for other performers. Community among talent is critical, and true artists work hard to support each other’s success. Another downside is that performing for nonprofit or charity gigs can actually wind up costing you more than the lost revenue. Travel, venue insurance, or other soft costs need to be considered when evaluating the value of the gig. Even the best of situations can go awry and ruin your intentions.

Often people are pressured to perform for free as a swap for exposure or to “do the right thing.” As a person trying to make a living off your skill, you should never offer your services without something in return unless you are truly willing to donate that product.

However, doing gigs for charity can be worth the time and risk. If you’re smart and use a few of these guidelines, the rewards are incredible and you can do some real good in your community.

At GigSalad, we love it when our members do acts of goodwill and service in their communities. There are a number of benefits to donating services for nonprofit organizations or fundraisers. One of them is publicity. Any time you get your name or brand in front of people in a positive way, it’s a good thing. Work with the organization to cross-promote through their audience and your fanbase to make sure the event is successful for all.

If you are doing a charity performance, ask if you can sell merch or products at the event. You can even donate a portion of the merch sales to the cause you’re working with. You can recoup the costs of providing services for free or a discount as well as promote your brand for future gigs. Consider creating some special merch just for that particular cause or event.

Some performers are inundated with requests to donate their time and energy for charity. So how do you choose? Ultimately, it’s up to you to accept gigs for the charity and causes you care about. Perhaps you care deeply about the environment or other social issues. Maybe your life or the life of someone close to you has been touched by illness or physical challenges. All of these can create a passion and concern that more than makes up for the lack of monetary compensation. Knowing you are making a difference toward a cause you care about is all the payoff you need.

One way to avoid any tension about doing a charity gig is use a booking agreement or contract with clear boundaries and defined services.  Even though you are donating your services, make sure you and the event planner are on the same page. This helps prevent any confusion surrounding expectations. Once the expectations are set, however, defy them. Go above and beyond and add the extra special touch that only you can bring.

Do you do charity gigs? What’s your feeling on them? Let us know in the comments below!


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  1. Shaun Eli July 18, 2018

    “By offering your services for free or a discounted rate, you can use the value of your donated services as a tax deduction and save money on your business taxes.”
    NO NO NO NO NO. The IRS rules on this are DARN CLEAR. You may NOT deduct anything other than direct expenses. Period.
    If Picasso paints a painting that would sell for $100 million, and donates it, he can write off the cost of the paint and canvas, and that’s it.
    Put another way, if the charity paid you and you donated the money back to the charity, you would get a deduction for the donation but have to pay tax on the income, which would be a wash.
    Gigsalad, you should immediately send out a correction.

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      Hi Shaun,

      Thanks for your comment. We’ve removed the section in error and updated the post.

    • Elizabeth Luce July 19, 2018

      Shaun, you nailed it. Over the years I’ve had numerous misinformed people aggressively ask me to “donate” a show to their fund raiser (usually an expensive private school, telling me that I can write it off on my taxes. Absolutely false. I’ve done my research AND asked three savvy tax advisors over the years. Can you imagine the tax crimes that little loop hole would create? I can’t believe Gigsalad wrote this in the first place. The artist does a show for free, that’s their choice, for whatever reasons, and there are some good ones, but that’s personal. Plus, you do realize that calling something a tax write off simply means you get an approximate 18-25% discount on it? “Write off” is by no means the same thing as “free.”

      • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

        Thanks for the insight, Elizabeth. We’ve corrected the section and updated the post.

  2. Mike Potts July 18, 2018

    I’m not an accountant, but I’m 99% sure you can NOT deduct the “value of donated services”. Definitely talk to your accountant about that one!

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      Agreed. The incorrect info posted earlier has been removed.

  3. Ronald G Shapiro July 18, 2018

    Hi Gig Salad,

    Please check your facts on tax deductions. You said “By offering your services for free or a discounted rate, you can use the value of your donated services as a tax deduction and save money on your business taxes.”

    The IRS says “Although you can’t deduct the value of your services given to a qualified organization, you may be able to deduct some amounts you pay in giving services to a qualified organization.”

    So, if you were a one person painting business (for example) and you painted a church you could deduct (with proper documentation) the cost of the paint and one-time use brushes. You could not deduct the value of your time painting the building.

    Please correct this article.

    Otherwise, I think you provide some useful information and ideas… keep up the good work.

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      We’ve updated the post and removed the incorrect section.

  4. ISLAND JEFF CAVALLO July 18, 2018

    One of the first questions I ask is, “Who else is working/donating services? Servers/waiters? Bartenders?” If they are paying staff, or anyone else, and the musician is the ONLY one donating services, I say thanks but no thanks.
    Is the food/refreshments donated? Are they paying for those items?
    If everyone donates, that works for me.
    Are they advertising? I want my name prominently displayed as contributing music services, not a small font at the bottom.

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      Hi there Crescentia! you can always contact Customer Happiness for help with booking charity gigs.

  5. Crescentia Volz July 18, 2018

    I would love to be able to book a charity event for free through Gig Salad. I recently performed services for free at a charity event, but your site would not let me book it and charge nothing. I would be willing to pay a small service fee on my end as part of the donation of my time and services in exchange for being able to show the booking and have the client provide a review, rather than having to arrange the event off of Gig Salad and not have that booking show up on my page.

    • Brian Jenkins July 20, 2018

      Hi Crescentia! I’m glad to hear you’re willing to do charity gigs. Please reach out to our Customer Happiness team about how to book them through GigSalad.

  6. Marlo July 18, 2018

    The advice that donating “time and talent” is tax deductible is innacurate. From the IRS publication on charitable giving: “Although you can’t deduct the value of your services given to a qualified organization, you may be able to deduct some amounts you pay in giving services to a qualified organization.”. This includes certain expenses like supplies travel.

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      Thanks for replying. We’ve removed the incorrect information and updated the post. I apologize for misleading anyone.

  7. steve July 18, 2018

    We do some charity gigs. some we charge for, some not. For the ones we charge for we usually distribute our song list ( usually around 150 tunes) and tell the audience if they have a special request it’s a $10-$20 cash donation to the charity. One of my friends bands always charges full price, then donates some back. The real problem is that while everyone likes great live music, most people have no idea of the work and expense that goes into making it …..especially when you transport multiple trucks of expensive equipment set it up , then tear it down. It’s not like the celebrity bar tender who shows up with his jeans and t-shirt.

  8. Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro July 18, 2018

    I am pleased to offer Education by Entertainment programs such as Mind Games at heavily discounted rates (or even at no charge). Any time I do this I do lose money due to my cost for prizes, supplies, travel, etc. In spite of this I do not want anyone (or any organization whose mission I support) to be deprived of my programs due to their inability to pay. I do have certain practices:
    1) The organization has to have a mission I support.
    2) No one can get paid more than I do for offering similar services for the event (or similar events). Similarly, they cannot spend huge amounts of money on other optional items. (For example, if it is a dinner event and the meal is a pot-luck buffet I’m pleased to help out. if it is at a luxury hotel and they are ordering the most expensive menu items for lunch I’m less likely to help out unless the hotel is donating the catering and venue.)
    3) The amount of money I lose cannot be excessive (e.g., event probably has to be within reasonable driving distance to my home.)

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      Great ideas, Ron! Thanks for the input!

  9. Pastor Bob Williams July 18, 2018

    I have done a lot of services for the poor in spirit and homeless. We like to align ourselves with other organizations that do free feeding in the parks. We have the opportunity to do the praise and worship & share God’s Word. it’s a win win situation.

  10. Wayne July 18, 2018

    I have made it a policy to NEVER discount my rates, even for charities. Why?

    Once you do it for one charity, they will tell others and you will be inundated with requests from many others. They DO talk to one another. They may tell you that “you did it for ….” so why not us?

    I have my “rates” and they apply to everyone, period! (Excepting an occasional performance for close friends when I make the initial offer, not if they ask me first.)

    Finally, IF you offer a lower rate and book it, you are precluding yourself from a regular full-price gig from a regular customer.

  11. Vick July 18, 2018

    No, free gig generate more free gigs. People die from “exposure”.
    When asked to “donate” a performance suggest the requester find a sponsor to make a donation to pay for your time.
    Well run and operated fund raisers, non-profits and charities have a budget for real entertainment.
    That said we all have a few organizations we work closely with or donate to as a way of giving back or supporting causes we believe in
    Many well meaning people will ask not realizing what the cost to the performer is.

  12. Josh Isenberg Pure-Piano.Com July 18, 2018

    When I am asked to reduce my fee or value for a charity event, my goal is to WOW them with my charity package. Yes, yes, yes. And I believe rather than reduce your fee by some insignificant amount, donate your services BUT create a value package that’s right for you and what you offer. This way, I take back control right from the start. I almost always say, “yes”. Here are a few examples, First of all, there’s an opportunity to get in front of and play for 100-400 people. Since I don’t advertise, I consider it a small price to pay to perform for 400 potential clients. If only 1 % book me over the next year, that’s 4 paying gigs. Not a bad return on my time. Second of all, I ask that I be listed on their sponsor placard and / or in their brochure for the event. Brand and name recognition is priceless advertising. Again, 1% is 4 gigs and they are paying for my advertising. Third, I request, if appropriate, a special thank you by the MC for the part I played in their evening’s event. And lastly, if they are having a silent auction, I offer my services to be a boutique and unique offering on the silent auction. In my case, I offer the charity 2.5 hours of piano playing time for a simple soirée or even a private dinner party or holiday function. I usually suggest my retail value on the silent auction at $475. Now they know they called the right person because I’m actually making them money by doubling down on my donation. This usually blows their mind, projects professionalism and now I’m seen as a hero and not a zero. Just a few trade secrets I’ve developed over the years. Hope this helps those of you who see the value in, and support gig salad. THANK YOU gigsalad for all your support over the years and for being such a big part of my business. Keep up the great work.
    Josh Isenberg Pure-Piano.Com

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      Thanks, Josh! Great tips to consider!

  13. Walt Cameron July 18, 2018

    Great content re speaking to nonprofits. Reminded me of tax benefit I had forgotten.
    Always good to give to those you can help and add value, but it has to be defined and agreed upon.
    Never wrong to do the right thing!

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      Thanks, Walt!

      Always remember to consult a tax professional and the IRS guidelines to determine what is tax deductible.

  14. Al Chance Services LLC July 18, 2018

    Value of your services is NOT tax deductible. Costs incurred to do the gig are. IRS guidelines are clear on this.

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      Thank you for that important clarification. We’ve removed the incorrect information and updated the post. I apologize for misleading anyone.

  15. James MerMan July 18, 2018

    I get a lot of requests for charity gigs. I ask them to put a request on the letter head of the organization, what they are asking for and details and then mail or email to me and then I select one each month. Funny thing in twenty + years only one group has ever taken the time to do that and I gave them what they asked for. Most groups feel so entitled they won’t take their time to write the request they will just go to the next person. If that is how they feel then they dont care if I am there or not.

  16. So, not only is it a tax write off, it’s good PR. July 18, 2018

    When I book a gig with a charity, I publically present them with a check for 10% of my payment the night of the gig. people in the audience have taken note, and called me when they needed a fundraiser. So, not only is it a tax write off, it’s good PR.

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      Another great way to do some good!

  17. Steve Featherston July 18, 2018

    “Playing out” has never been (or probably ever will be–but who knows for sure …) my primary source of income. But gigging on the side does support my “guitar habit.”

    This year, I have played for free at 2 small county libraries, 9 Christian summer camps & a city “party in the park.” Had a blast at every event.

    And I have been paid to play about 25 places so far this year. Those were fun too. The money I made bought new sound equipment, another guitar, strings, etc.

    And I have turned down both “free” events & paid events.

    But if you play a venue gratis, they will more than likely expect you to play for free in the future.

    Been playing guitar / singing for years, and I can pick/sing with the best of them. Lots of time, effort & money have been put into reaching my level of musicianship / performing. If I ever felt in any way that wasn’t “valued” I wouldn’t play that event.

    The places I played for free were for kids or charity organizations that could not afford to pay, ran by people I know personally. My listeners enjoyed what I did & I had fun entertaining them.

    But if my living was solely from playing, I would approach things differently, but still play a few places for free.

  18. Coac Dave July 18, 2018

    I play some farmers market gigs. I could be doing three or four per week if I wanted to play for free. The issue is not playing for free or charity, but the people out there who do play for free all the time, thus taking money out of the professional’s pocket. They say you get what you pay for, but seems many people who are in charge can’t tell the difference.

  19. Catherine Rogers July 18, 2018

    My tax preparer says time and talent cannot be deducted, only tangible goods. I sometimes offer a reduced price for those charities I wish to support, but there is a limit to how much I can afford to do per year, especially as I already give money to special causes.

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      The tax information previously included was inaccurate. The post has been updated. ALWAYS confer with a tax lawyer or accountant about tax deductions.

  20. Douglas Gortner July 18, 2018

    i volunteer for Alive Hospice here in Nashville. They are a terrific charity and very well run. They have a good piano in its own room which they tune whenever I request it. I actually picked up a sideman when playing at one of their art who openings. They also gave me a wonderful online review. The Lord has been very good to me and this is one of the ways I pay back. As I said on their website, “I get way more out of this work than I give.”

    I also advertise a 40% discount for Non Profits that has gotten me some work on weekday afternoons, so not a time when big money is likely to show up.

  21. Mr Esteban Sax July 18, 2018

    Yes, I do charity events sometimes. Music make people happy….so, let’s play!!

  22. Cynthia Zuber July 18, 2018

    I’d do a charity gig..
    but I don’t have merchandise to sell. Me and my band/duo would like to receive at least a small stipend. We promote the charity as well as play our songs.

  23. Geoff Williams July 18, 2018

    > Another great benefit of doing charity gigs is the tax
    > benefit. By offering your services for free or a discounted
    > rate, you can use the value of your donated services as a
    > tax deduction and save money on your business taxes. Ask
    > for a receipt or letter of donation for the value of your
    > services. If the charity or organization is a 501(c3)
    > nonprofit, your donated time and talent should be tax
    > deductible.

    Sorry but your advice is outright WRONG. According to

    “If you provide professional services for free to a qualifying nonprofit organization, you cannot claim a tax deduction for the value of your time or services on your income taxes, according to IRS Publication 526: Charitable Contributions (see the section, ‘Contributions You Cannot Deduct’).”

    “Although you cannot deduct the value of your time or services, you can deduct the expenses you incur while donating your services to a qualified organization.”

    This probably includes meals, mileage, tolls, etc. (but check IRS Publication 526 for details).

    Please correct this info before you get people in trouble. Thanks.

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      Hi Geoff! Thanks for the feedback. That section has been removed from the post. I apologize for any confusion.

  24. Doug Anderson July 18, 2018

    I will entertain at charities with which I have a personal involvement. If any other charities request a “donated show”, I send them to my website to fill out the charity form. This weeds out the “freebies” from those that are genuinely in need of help.

  25. Geoff Williams July 18, 2018

    When I’m asked to perform at a charity gig, I contract to 1) have them pay my usual fee after which 2) I will donate all (or a large percentage) of my fee back to their 501c organization that evening.

    This is a great way for me to get exposure working with them AND receive a tax break from my monetary contribution.

  26. Mazurka Wojciechowska July 18, 2018

    I very rarely do charity gigs. I used to get inundated with requests; now that I have set firmer boundaries, not so much. For example, if the “pay” is “exposure”, I just say no. People *die* of exposure! Once in a great while, if I’m really excited about the cause, I will say yes, and then there are no strings attached. But I loved your idea about the tax write-off. If I ever do a charity gig again, I will take advantage of it.

  27. Daniel July 18, 2018

    Ask your accountant If your lawyer’s time is worth more than the deduction you’re not going to get because you’re a musician and take the standard deduction in any case. Be sure to pay your accountant for their time! In the meantime, try not to die of “exposure” at your “gig.”

  28. Michael Roy Baldridge - Origami Entertainer & Artist July 18, 2018

    Look at the IRS website. Professional services offered (including entertainers) cannot be deducted from your taxes.

    • Brian Jenkins July 20, 2018

      Always consult a tax professional when dealing with deductions of any kind. The inaccurate section has been removed and the post has been updated.

  29. Mochi July 18, 2018

    I’m sure there are a lot of Charities that a really Worthy. I think deciding to pick one that is close to my heart is a great idea. Thank you for that advice. However, the biggest trouble I’m having is convincing them that they should use a live band instead of just turning on the radio or playing some music from Google or Apple or something. I’ve been to a handful of Charity functions where they’re just using someone’s playlist. I think the worst charity function I attended, they had a three piece, violin cello and another violin playing classical music and folks were not only walking around them but walking in between them also while they were playing. Nobody really seemed interested in what they were playing even though they were really very talented.

  30. National Santa™ Tim Connaghan July 18, 2018

    Charitable and non-profit events
    Most of us cannot donate our services to every non-profit group that calls. We all have our favorite charities and non-profits that we support. But there is a limit to what each of us can do. Here are my suggestions on how you might handle these requests.
    • If the charitable event is totally managed by the charity and it is not a major fund raiser, but rather a community event or social event for children, and it is not on a peak work day, I try to volunteer or find a fellow performer to attend the event.
    And since I do have to pay for gas, liability insurance (yes you should have liability insurance even for charitable events), and cleaning my wardrobe, I may ask for a small stipend. We all have basic expenses and often a charity will have a small budget or may have a donor that will cover the stipend.
    Additionally, I recommend that you do this business-like. Send them some form of invoice or agreement. It should detail the time, location, what you will be doing and, most importantly, the rate you would normally charge for an event like this. And then below the rate, you write ‘Donation’ and the amount that you have donated. And, as this is not costing them, I recommend using your highest rate.
    Doing this accomplished two things. One, the client or charity immediately knows your prime value. You are not a “0” or no value. This gives the charity an amount to include in their annual reports for “in-kind services” or donations other than money.
    Secondly, having your value known, it will give any of the donors or others attending the event, information on what you might charge for a regular event. Sometimes doing a charitable event will lead to some paid bookings.
    I did a charitable event one time, and Robin McGraw saw me. I ended up being booked for a big party and three days on Dr. Phil! (And they called me back the next year, too!)
    • If the event is a fund raiser, or a media event to promote donations, or possibly the event is on a peak day, I may suggest the above and possibly offer a discounted fee or at least request a stipend for my appearance.
    • If the event is a major fund raiser, a gala $$$$-per-plate dinner, with entertainment and dancing, or a community event or media event that is sponsored by a corporation or company, where they get all the publicity for their charitable works and one of the key attractions for the guests is that I am appearing or performing, I charge my normal fees.
    Of course, if the charity is my ‘favorite’ charity, I may do the work as my personal donation or only ask for the stipend. (By the way, your services and talent are not tax deductible. Only actual costs: gas, dry cleaning, give-a-ways, etc., are deductible>)
    • A key phrase that was told to me, one time by an entertainment agency, was: “If money is to be made, the talent gets paid.”
    I often get requests to, “donate my services,” or that, “it’s for a charity,” and am told that my appearance “will help promote you and get you more work.”
    I will evaluate their event and depending on what they tell me, I will use one of the above suggested responses. Sometimes my response is, “Thank you, but I have already booked other charities this year.”
    Or they tell me that coming to a big, Saturday-night gala or dinner will help them as, “This is for the Children.”
    My response to this is, “I love doing visits with children and would be glad to arrange a visit, to see and entertain them. If I do this, I will do it on my own time, and where it will fit into my schedule. This is usually before, after or in between my other contracted bookings.

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      Thanks for the info, Tim. Good thoughts!

  31. Jeff Abbit July 18, 2018

    I was told by more than one tax accountant that there is NO tax benefit to doing a charity gig, even for a non-profit 501(c3) organization. You can only write off something tangible and donating your time and talent is NOT something tangible.

    • Brian Jenkins July 20, 2018

      Your tax professional is right. The outdated and irrelevant section has been removed and the blog post updated.

  32. David Etheridge July 18, 2018

    Just because you are donating your time doesn’t mean you can’t be sued by either the charity or someone attending the event. A contract, mine are called Performance Agreements, is essential for every job, not just pro bono jobs for charities. Setting the performance parameters in writing is the best way to clearly define expectations and protect yourself. If you are performing pro bono, remember to have a professionally produced banner or sign near you so people know who you are. Of course if you have no presence on social media or don’t have a website, someone having just your name may make it difficult for them to contact you if they liked what they saw and/or heard and wanted to contact you about a paying gig. Also don’t hold back in asking the charity if they will be running any ads or producing any programs for the event. If they are, ask them, in a way to make it sound like it’s kind of expected by you, if they will include your name, photo, website address, phone number, etc. in the ad or program. If they want something free from you, but won’t give you a mention in their ads or program, I’d have to lean towards saying “No” to their request. You may get more value from the ad mention then you would if you were getting paid for the performance. If you are a good performer and all of this is Greek to you or it is something you never thought of, you and your entertainment career might be better served if you went with a competent, professional promoter/booking agent, like me, who sees what you do from the business side of things.

  33. Sandra Chavez July 18, 2018

    Through experience, I do not do charity events for free. I usually state that because I do this for a living and have overhead such as,conventions, insurance, supplies and artists to pay, I only participate in charity events if there is a sponsor or underwriter that will pay our full fee. If we are booked for 2 hours or more, we donate a $150.00 gift certificate which with a letter from the organization can be a business tax deduction. It allows us to make a contribution and get paid.
    Exposure is underrated. Don’t fall for that line. The only free event I’ve done, I received free radio advertising with their event. That was totally worth it.

  34. james day July 18, 2018

    There’s always the Sick musician fund every year. I just do it w/o my guys and use teh back up band.
    Also when i di a free gig fro a promoter I expect return favors like booking at his blues festival.

    Our band policy is 1 charity event a year. And it must be fun and returns fro us..easy load in maybe food.

  35. Jimmy Brogan July 18, 2018

    are you sure the tax deduction part is accurate? I’ve researched this in the past and just did a google search and everything that i found says that services are not tax deductible, only expenses such as transportation and parking. I often do charity shows and would love to write them off. Could you point to a place where i could find this information. Thank you.

    • Brian Jenkins July 20, 2018

      Hi Jimmy! Thanks for reaching out. We’ve updated the section about tax deductions and removed the incorrect information.

  36. Kipp Sherry July 18, 2018

    Your tax advice for charity gigs is wrong. The I.R.S. no longer allows for charitable donations of “services”. You can only write off the cost of “goods”. So to say my normal fee for a show is $500.00, thus if I donate the show I can claim a $500.00 donation, is a fallacy. This is no longer allowed.

    • Brian Jenkins July 20, 2018

      Thank you, Kipp. That section has been removed and the blog post updated.

  37. Adam July 18, 2018

    We are a very unique situation. Our Group exists in an effort to give back to the community. Unlike most of the gigs salad members we do not depend on gigs to survive most of us have day jobs and we do this on the side. A portion of every event we do goes to buy toys for less fortunate kids at Christmas time that we donate to Toys for Tots and The Salvation Army each year.

    We have had several requests come though the gig salad system that should be a charitable gift. It would be nice if gig salad had an option to say this one is on me. I wouldn’t mind paying for the referral fees just to have the event flow though the wonderful event tracking system that gig salad has. We had one such request not too long ago were a family had reached out to us though gigs salad about their boy who was in the hospital with congestive heart failure. They wanted one of our characters to come meet this little super hero. There is no way we would ever charge for something like this. We managed to coordinate the appearance and the child had a lunch time of fun with his hero at no cost to the family. Its gigs like this that give artists strength to endure other not so fun events with demanding hard to please clients. To see that kid , who is dealing with so much, Smile and become a kid again is worth more than any amount of money.

  38. Mlanjeni Nduma July 18, 2018

    Hello Brian Jenkins,
    Charity work? Yes, as performing artists these calls come in all the time! It’s so much that their speech is always the same…”Hi! We’re non-profit, and wondering if you could donate your time for…..” I think your advice on the tax-break if one does the event is wrong! There is no real tax benefit to doing these events…the write-off is too small! I agree that an artist should only do events that he or she believes in the “cause.” BUT our little company goes one further…at the beginning of every year, we decide what “one” cause we will support for the year. Sometimes it’s a school scholarship fund; an after-school club; a walk event, etc. We decide how much we’re willing to contribute monetarily then we translate that into the performance time (e.g. $ 500. would be the equivalent of one performance with the group, or 2 performances if the charity would take a solo show). We limit the charity and limit the time frames….this keeps everyone happy…we don’t feel exploited, and the sponsor is always happy to get our services. Then when we get the phone calls from others, we can decline and explain our policy of one group per year. We happily encourage them to apply for a spot at the new year.
    Thanks. Enjoyed your article.

  39. Howard Le July 18, 2018

    I can do charity gig

  40. David Hornung July 18, 2018

    Volunteering your talents/services is part of giving back to the community at large. There are some benefits and shortcomings already mentioned in your piece.

    Firstly, contributing to a worthy cause is good for the soul, and I probably walk away from the event a better person. Getting exposure as well as being affiliated with a cause or non-profit is great.

    I’ve had to deal with a ‘sliding scale of expectations’ by some organizers who don’t consider the time, expense and effort needed to prepare/perform for an event. There seems to be a lack of will to understand there is a limit to which one can volunteer/donate. The suggestion to set expectation limits is excellent. I love the idea of getting a receipt for time spent! All good suggestions in the article.

    From my experience, the exposure and branding is good, but expect contact from other charities/worthy causes. You may want to be prepared to set your limits on what you can reasonably accommodate. Setting boundaries also helps other artists get exposure, and become known in the community. The end result is a stronger and more vibrant artist community that supports charities. Everyone wins.

  41. Lou Maresca July 18, 2018

    As the leader of LIVE AT THE FILLMORE, The World’s Greatest Tribute to the Allman Brothers Band I am often asked to perform for charity events. My response is based on several factors. We have our preferred charities based upon personal experience and situations. In general, we reduce our fees significantly and ask for documentation of the difference in our usual fees as a charitable contribution which is used as an allowable tax deduction. There are rare instances where we will agree to perform at no charge but expect our travel, lodging and hospitality expenses to be covered.

  42. Eric Landau July 18, 2018

    Your suggestion about the income tax deductibility of the value of your performance is in error. From 2017 IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, page 6, “Contributions You Can’t Deduct,” “4. The value of your time or services.” I volunteer for a number of organizations and checked this out long ago; it has been ever thus! You can, however, deduct your mileage to and from the gig (it is only 14 cents per mile, a much lower rate than that for either business or medical travel mileage) as well as the value of any expendable materials which you use in providing the performance for an eligible charitable organization. Those also include government agencies such as, in my case, several law enforcement agencies and fire departments in which I have served as the honor guard bagpiper as well as in other capacities. I am an enrolled volunteer member of these served agencies, but even if you do so ad hoc, the basis for deducting those aspects of charitable donation should be the same. Consult Publication 526 (available online) for all the details.

    • Brian Jenkins July 19, 2018

      Hello Eric, thanks for commenting. We’ve removed the inaccurate section. Sorry for any confusion.

  43. Mike Crutcher July 18, 2018

    With few exceptions, my feeling is that one should not play for free. Who else is donating their services? The caterer? The venue? The advertising? Nothing like playing to pay the caterer.

    It’s not about whether or not the cause is worthy; it’s about whether or not the cause is worthy to others and why I’m being approached to “donate” first(and possibly the one approached).

  44. HarlemMermaid July 18, 2018

    Thank you for this opportunity to comment, where as what is said here has lots of valid points , some which i had not consider, like the idea of booking agreement or contract which i had not thought of. I have done several Charity Gigs, Christmas and Halloween parties for our community centers, and block parties. which bring me joy to see children faces light up when they see me and their parents showing admiration for what i do for others. Makes me personally happy to know that i can make a difference in a childs life to inspire them to believe and to do good for others without always expecting something in return. But thanks to you i shall now add an booking agreement as to how long i be at Charity Event or Party so as to feel obligated and guilty for leaving. thanks Gigsalad

    • Jodie Wachs October 12, 2018

      Excellent! I’m with you❤️

  45. David's Bazaar July 18, 2018

    I’ve performed for fewer and fewer charity gigs as my musical career moves on. It’s certainly not that I’m not charitable, it’s just those folks looking for free performers are usually doing everything else on the cheap too, and it generally just makes everyone and everything look bad. Best example: I accepted a gig to play pro bono at a farmers market a couple of years ago and they told me they would have electricity and I should just bring a small PA. When I arrived there, there was a great crowd on hand (as I had expected). But when I walked over to the musicians’ tent, I saw they had provided the tiniest little generator I have ever seen in my life. I plugged my power strip into in and it snapped, crackled, and popped – it was fried in seconds – before I even had a chance to actually plug any actual musical stuff into it. Needless to say, I tossed the power strip away, threw my gear back into the truck, and drove back home, with another hard lesson learned – and one more item to add to future contracts. And, oh, I have more examples, but for me, suffice it to say that there have just been far more bad charity events than ones that actually worked out well.

  46. Lisa Powell July 20, 2018

    Thank you for the tip In the email regarding charity work I learned a lot and will be mindful of all that was suggested.

  47. Mrs. Kate Carpenter July 29, 2018

    I have been in the music business for over 25 years. I have learned that people value what they pay for. I offer to play for my small town’s festival for free each year. They respect me and appreciate me and I am cool with that. There is another festival I will play for free (no performer gets paid and it’s a fundraiser for a pioneer settlement), but I will book a couple of gigs close to that so I can make some money. Schools often want performers for free. I have to say no. I will reduce my fee, encourage them to get a sponsor. If they really want me to come, they must find a way. I can’t fill my gas tank or my tummy for free. Usually when there’s a will there is a way. That’s my 2 cents!

  48. Jodie Wachs October 12, 2018

    I think that every company should do at least one charity event a year! It does not decrease the value, it actually raises your value. Take us here at Romancing Joe’s- we pick one charity per year to donate to. We also have Singing Telegrams in which are becoming popular! Well in Springfield we have many poor children that go without a Birthday celebration. We have the perfect clown-Stella. So what Romancing Joe Company does is offers Stella the Singing Clown Telegram to these children-Complimentary of course and with all the birthday fixings❤️ Cake, Balloons and a small gift. Even though WE know that the parents will probably never buy from our company, we do it from the heart. If you’re a small business or even a huge one, taking care of your community is a great way to make everyone feel wonderful! Especially the children. Cheers to Stella❤️


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