I often receive calls or emails from charities looking for entertainment for their fundraisers. Many times this is accompanied by a request for us to donate our services. While I don’t mind being asked, it’s rare that I can accommodate such requests since I’m a relatively small business and my expenses running a NYC-based business are not cheap.
One thing I do to mitigate the charity’s costs is to auction off song requests. We do the normal song battles and tip wars that are typical to dueling pianos in which the guests can stop and start (and re-stop and re-start) song requests by bidding and outbidding with their accompanying tip money. We’ve made a fair amount of money for our fundraising clients using this mechanism.
The second thing I suggest, which is even more powerful, is for the group to seek corporate sponsors for the entertainment. If the entertainment costs $3,000, sell the entertainment sponsorship for $6,000 which raises $3,000 for your organization right there! With dueling pianos, we’ve had situations where one piano was sponsored by one business, while the second piano was subsidized by another. Each sponsor had their banner on the side of “their” piano, and the entertainers played off each other using the company names. One pianist would say that his side, the TD Bank side of the room could sing louder, and get them to sing. The other pianist would say, oh no, the Columbia Bank side can sing even louder than that. And so it went. We created real value for the sponsors, and they were thrilled to become part of the show.
Another possibility is to offer your perspective entertainment company free advertising or publicity to help defray their costs, in exchange for a discount. I’ve accepted these offers before, but for me to seriously consider such an arrangement, the advertising and publicity has to be legitimately something that would benefit me. Be careful to be clear upfront as to why you’re calling. I’ve had people reach out to me and impersonate a real client, asking for a quote, only to find out after 4 emails and a couple of phone calls later that what they really want is a donation of our time in exchange for something that I don’t want or need. I’d rather just be asked on the first communication so we’re having the right conversation, rather than be led on.