How to hire an entertainer for a charity event:
I’ve had people ask me to perform at charity events in ways that were: Rude, strange, egotistical, unfriendly and demeaning.
But I’ve also had people ask in ways that were: Charming, friendly, funny, and pleasant.
From my experience running fundraisers and as an entertainer, here’s what you should know…
What you say: “We’re on a tight budget” or “We have no budget for you at all”
What you mean: “Although I value your time and expertise, I am trying to keep our spending down”
What the entertainer hears: “We considered everything in our original budget valuable and worth paying for. Then thought of you last minute as something cheap, that isn’t that important. I don’t think you’re worth paying”
Because what you may be unaware of is: Professional entertainers have been involved in thousands of events. We understand budgets and planning. We know when we’re considered unimportant. We know you paid full price for certain things and we’re not one of them. That hurts our little entertainer feelings.
Instead try: Charm – “Do you have a reduced rate for charity work? I hope you’re available. We’d love to have you perform”
Even if you have no budget, don’t start with …”We have no budget for you at all” This won’t get you a good response. At least have the courtesy to ask for a reduced rate. Or try get someone to sponsor the entertainment. If it’s worth having, it’s worth paying for, as suggested by fellow magician Alan Hudson from London here in a blog too.
What you say: “We’re a small charity in need, and we rely on volunteers and donations from people like you”
What you mean: “I hope you understand the pressure we’re under”
What the entertainer hears: “I’m trying to put you on a guilt trip to do the gig”
Because what you may be unaware of is: Professional performers usually do more than their fair share for charities already. You don’t know if the entertainer has done 10 charity gigs already this year. Or if they have a certain charity they are tied to, for all their charity gigs. Find out first.
Instead try: Tact – “We’d like to have you on board with this event. We know you could add something special to our event”
What you say: “It’ll be great exposure”
What you mean: “The people here are likely to book you in future, this could be a win-win”
What the entertainer hears: “Nobody knows who you are, you obviously need exposure. I’m doing you a favour. I know nothing about your line of work. You should take the risk of people perhaps booking you after seeing you here, but I don’t want to risk paying you”
Because what you may be unaware of is: Many professional magicians and singers and comedians you’ve never heard of, perform 300-400 paid shows per year. They get exposure at each and every one of their paid gigs, as well as getting money. Exposure isn’t something they want or need. Exposure isn’t something that only you can offer. It’s available at every paid gig. Unless the level of exposure is literally 10,000 times something the entertainer can get at a paid gig, it just doesn’t matter. And even then, there should be a budget for entertainment. Don’t offer exposure. Mountain climbers die from exposure.
Instead try: Being specific about the amount of exposure, and stop trying to make the entertainer believe you’re giving them their big break. If your “exposure” angle were true, you’d be my agent and getting me loads of gigs, not running the fundraiser. Try This: “We understand that you will be giving a reduced rate so to make up the difference, we can’t pay money but we can add value on other ways: We can put a picture, video, description of your services, and a link on our website, in our mailing list of 4000 before and after the event, and on our brochures. We can put your brochure and business card in every single welcome pack and share all your information on our social media, before during and after the event. We will be recording the event and can arrange for your performance to be recorded also for use in promo material. All in return for a reduced rate.”
What you say: “But it’s just for half an hour”
What you mean: “We’d like to have something special like you for the guests, even if it’s for a short time”
What the entertainer hears: “I don’t understand that spending half an hour at this gig, means you could have to turn down a paid gig. I don’t understand the performers business or schedule”
Because what you may be unaware of is: Even if it’s a 30 min slot, the entertainer will need travel time and set-up time that could stop them from doing another show.
Instead try: “If it suits your busy schedule could you fit us in? We’d really appreciate it”
What you say: “So-and-so the celebrity is doing it for free”
What you mean to say: “We hope to find people who can share good will with us, such as so-and-so the celeb”
What the entertainer hears: “Why aren’t you as nice as so-and-so? ”
Because what you may be unaware of is: The multitude of reasons why so-and-so would do it for free and we shouldn’t such as: They have a family or other personal connection to the charity, they owe someone a favour, they know the main organiser as a close friend, they know the venue owner, they know a sponsor etc…
Also… MAJOR POINT: So-and-so may not be too happy about you sharing the fact that they are doing it for free! Try not to annoy the person you’ve gotten to do it for free, and the person you’re trying to get a bargain from.
Instead try: “We’ve gathered a lot of good will from celebrities like so-and-so. If working an event with them is something you’d be interested in, let us know”
What you say: “We saw you at X event and you were great, could you do our fundraiser for free?”
What you mean: “We’d love our guests to enjoy themselves like people did at your show”
What the entertainer hears: “I saw you perform and don’t think you’re worth paying”
Because what you may be unaware of is: That’s a stupid thing to say.
Instead try: Not saying that. It’s a stupid thing to say, especially to someone you want to work with
And the bottom line: Having played the part of both a fundraiser organiser and an entertainer, I have never heard of a great experience; for your funds or the guests, when someone does it for free. A paid, professional performer at a fundraiser will have your guests in a great mood, which means that they are far more likely to donate, buy raffle tickets, attend next year and bid on auction items. A paid professional entertainer will be an investment if you pick the right one. They will add to your cash income from the event.
But if you get some amateur to do it for free, they could destroy the mood in the room by being unprofessional to your guests. Which could spell disaster for the bottom line of the funds actually raised. Invest in the right entertainer and everyone is a winner.