‘Playing For The Cause’ Works To Link Artists, Local Charities

1For artists who want to make a greater positive impact beyond simply the songs they write, Playing for the Cause acts a link between said artists and charitable non-profit organizations. Here we speak with founder Lynn Cook about PftC's creation and goals.

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Guest Post from PledgeMusic News

Many artists and bands want to use their platform to make a difference beyond the songs they write. Some of those musicians will have a passion for a specific organization or need, but others lack that sort of connection. Enter Playing for the Cause, an important link between artists and non-profit organizations and charities in the very towns through which they are touring. It’s both a great need and a brilliant idea, so we wanted to ask founder Lynn Cook about the genesis and operation of PFTC ourselves.

How did the idea for Playing for the Cause first come about?

I had been working in traditional fundraising for a long time and was frustrated with organizational structure that didn’t allow for reaching out to people my age and younger, to the point I was considering leaving the field altogether. I took some time to think about what wanted to do, and that included a weekend in Nashville to see my favorite band. The bass player’s daughter, who is the same age as my son, had a brain tumor and received treatment at St. Jude — thankfully she’s in remission now).

A few weeks later, the band put out a video chronicling a day in the life of this little girl and asking fans to text to give $10 to St. Jude. They were reaching out to their fans, but their methods were a bit flawed in that the video was too long and too sad to be effective as fundraising video. We estimate their results could have been as much as 10 times better if they would ask their fans to give at shows. Happy people in a crowd are more likely to give than those sitting at home watching a video.

This realization led to several conversations which made us realize that beyond just an increase in giving, this kind of engagement would lead to a stronger relationship between musicians and fans. The overwhelming thing we heard in fan research was they wanted any money the gave to stay in their hometowns and that by working with local non-profits, fans felt musicians really cared about them and their lives locally. The overwhelming thing we heard from musicians was they liked the idea, but they were worried about getting paid.

This lead to our four main goals: To raise awareness of community-based nonprofits throughout the music industry, to join recording artists and fans in a culture of giving, to distribute funds raised to local nonprofits, and to make sure musicians are paid for their work.

Do you often find that the heart is there to do something, but the execution keeps it from paying off like it could — as in the example you gave?

To answer your question, we are pleased any time an artist attempts to do something, even if we think the execution could have been better. What we are hearing more than anything is they want to give back, but don’t know how to choose a cause or they have concerns, justifiably, about their bottom line. If choosing a cause is the problem, we have a screening process that helps musicians narrow their focus. Since we never charge musicians for our service, its easy to make sure philanthropy is accessible to musicians at every level.

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Do you have a favorite recent story of a way you’ve connected an artist with a cause/fan in need?

Is it a cop-out if I say they’re all my favorites? In all honesty though, we maintain a pretty strict intermediary role between the non-profits and the artists. We’ve found that since we are making sure the non-profits are all local combined with the strict tour schedule so many artists maintain, it’s difficult for them to find a way to visit and interact in a tactile way. Most of the interaction comes in the form of social media and talking to fans at shows.

This is different, of course, if it happens to be in a musicians’ home town. We had a young jazz singer here in St. Louis that was doing a series of small Christmas concerts to celebrate his holiday album. He came to me talking about his memories of bringing diapers to church as a young child. We helped him figure out that he was remembering a diaper drive for Crisis Nursery. The shows were small, but we still managed to raise almost $500. His grandmother even made cookies and set-up a little bake sale. It was adorable and very sweet, but not something we’d necessarily recommend for a larger audience.

How does a local non-profit or charitable organization sign up for potential help? Is that even possible?

We keep a database of non-profits that allow us to pre-identify potential grantees. Non-profits can fill out our sorting form. If we have a grant that they may qualify for, we will notify them when the full application is available. The full application is super simple. I’ve spent a fair amount of my career filling out giant applications that, in the end, cost more in staff time to complete than the money awarded. We aren’t interested in being that kind of funder. We also recognize the importance of operating income for non-profits, so we never put restrictions on our grants.

What is the biggest need for your organization at this time?

Our biggest need right now is for artists to try our services. Even though we never charge an artist for using our system, we are offering a reduction in our operating fees for new artists. They can use our system for “free” for one show or three shows for 10 percent. This means a higher percentage of the funds raised go to partner non-profits.

Where would you love to see Playing for the Cause one year from now?

In a year, we’d love to have 20 nationally touring artists playing shows with an average attendance of 1,000+ using our system. Once we’re fully operational on a national scale, we plan to investigate international giving, starting in Canada. Although I did have a conversation with a really interesting French musician a few weeks ago….

Click here to find out more information on Playing for the Cause.