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Monday, July 11, 2005 

Fundraising and Music - How do you do it right?

Fundraising activity it seems is catapulting year after year in growth and the causes are as dense as disease itself. If you are one of those musicians that enjoys assisting your community, or national causes by organizing benefits..in order to preserve your credibility, you must always make sure that your i's are dotted and your t's are crossed thoroughly and when it comes to associating your music with a fundraiser...you need to go a bit further in preserving the integrity of what it is you are doing. That is, if you are truly concerned about your integrity.

So many musicians out there, unfortunately, use fundraising as a means to promote themselves and their music. They use it as a means to make a name for themselves and truthfully...their hearts really are not in the project...or if it is...it's secondary. And there are people that make it their business, myself included, to make sure that anything involved with music and raising money is legit. I organize and participate in many fundaraisers involving musicians and their efforts on a regular basis....and once I smell something wrong....or KNOW something has not been done that was promised regarding an effort to raise money, that organizer loses credibility with me and I refuse to support it. It's worth your time to check into your local efforts and make sure people are doing what they are suppose to do. If for nothing else, to take care of your own name and it's involvement.

For the sake of loose conversation....I want to share some things to make sure of when you are organizing a fundraiser as a musician to watch your own back...and if you are honest in your efforts...you'll have no problem .......

*Make sure more than one person is in charge of the money. And have someone outside of the "office" verify funds. And do not misuse monies you raise. It will backfire sooner or later. In most cases...you can go to jail for misappropriating and false pretense. And rightfully so.

*Keep accurate records of all funds raised and to where they get dispursed. If you are raising funds publicly...your financial records are suppose to be public record and you should make them available for public viewing by anyone on request.

*Remember that to be called a "non-profit", you must be of legal non-profit status. And that is expensive to pursue. Though you do not have to be a non-profit to raise money for certain causes....you cannot legally tell anyone they can deduct the donation or that you are non-profit if you are not. You may use the term "not for profit", if you are not of legal status, but you still must account for all your monies if you wish to be a credible fundraiser. It's a good idea to make it a standard operating procedure to release amounts raised after each fundraiser and how much was sent to what charity.

*If you are claiming non-profit status...you must be legally non-profit status in every state you raise money, in accordance to those states laws governing non-profits. You are not covered to raise money everywhere just because you are of approved non-profit status in your state. Look up the laws. Many states require that a nonprofit register their corporation in order to raise funds in those states. If a nonprofit is found to be raising funds, or sending solicitation letters, etc. significant fines can be imposed. You have to request information from the Attorney General and Secretary of State for each state. This can be done online. There are fees that range from $10.00-$300.00 to register usually dependent on the nonprofits previous year income."

*Have a genuine interest in what you are raising money for. Though charity work is a wonderful tool for exposure....don't use foundations just to further yourself.

Sincerity is easy to see in someone. And so is self-servitude.

As a musician considering offering your talent for free to a fundraiser...

*Do your homework on who you are working with. If they say they are non-profit in your state....make sure of that by going to your state non-profit associations and finding out. Be careful of what you associate your name with as an artist. There are too many ways to donate your talent in too many organizations to fall for the skills of one of them that may be less than honest.

*Don't be afraid to ask questions of the organizers and their habits. Where is the money going, how much has been raised so far, how can it be verified. Remember con artists....and liars, are good at what they do. they have spent years sounding good and honest to many people. An honest person will not have any problem answering those questions....nor will they have a problem producing the proof. Ask them who they have raised money for in the past...and check those org's out to make sure they got the money if you have further questions.

*Don't hesitate to put the name out there and ask if anyone has had experience or can verify the honesty of the person you question. Once a legal non-profit, they are bound to properly account for their funds. And a con-artist will find a way around it. They will fill their required Board of Directors with people that trust them, and take advantage of every loop-hole they can find to benefit themselves. If you smell something fishy...chances are you are next to the ocean. Do something. Report them to your community and make sure you have proof.


As a musician that raises money and participates in fundraising regularly...I take offense when another musician uses those things to further themselves or fund their own tours in the name of a charity or a world need. It makes the honest ones look bad...and they usurpe monies that could be used for legitimate causes.

Remember: ASK QUESTIONS as if you are giving away a million dollars.
Unless you are a professionally employed fundraiser, making a difference shouldn't be a living...it should be a way to live. A legalized Non-profit status, does not an honest Founder or non-profit worker make. Just take some time to be sure.

Rock on!
Annette Warner

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    Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social networks expert and author. She has spent over 15 years helping independent musicians and music business professionals achieve greater success. Her motto is: working smarter not harder. She also founded GoGirlsMusic.com, the oldest + largest online community of indie women musicians.

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