Finding the Balance in Charity

The following is an opinion piece from Ann Thatcher, host of The Balcony Show on WLVU: The Sound of The Underground (Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET).

Since I was a small kid, I was taught the meaning of giving and sharing. When you have more than one sibling, sharing is a word you hear a lot! As an adult this lesson has been applied during my lifetime in many different ways; one of which is charity.

However, is charity always a good thing? When does charity become damaging? As a radio show host, I have seen artists struggle to balance their want to help their community, and be able to support the thing they love to do the most: perform.

If you are an artist, then it is almost a certainty that you will be asked to perform at a charity event at some point. Here are a few things you might want to consider first.

Is this a 501c event? Usually, any legitimate charitable organization has a 501c tax ID. So, if someone approaches you about a charity event, ask if they (or the organization they represent) have a 501c? That way, if you perform for free, you may write off the event as a charitable donation.

How many events have you donated to? Look no one likes to say “no” to a good cause I get it! But, playing too many charity events without compensation is not a good thing for several reasons. First, if you give something away all the time, if devalues the market. There are folks out there trying to make a living at this, so you may literally be taking living funds from them when people know they can get you to perform for free. Second, it does not allow others the opportunity to step up. In order to have a strong community, we need to allow each other opportunities to perform at these events, thereby being inclusive rather than exclusive.

Is charity really the platform on which you want to build an audience? In other words, do they like your music because you are the leader of all causes, or are you really good?

Should I help a friend? This is the hardest question of all. Saying no is almost impossible! In this case, I would say make sure the person or organization receiving funds from the benefit is truly in need before you get involved. Recently, I read a story where a community got together and raised money for a musician fighting cancer, who then took his family on a grand vacation to Disney World. Know where the money is going and how it is going to be used before you say yes. If you are donating your time, you should be able to ask questions.

Charity is a great thing and, if you can give of yourself and share your talent for a good cause, you should. The key is finding a balance, so that you are participating in your community, donating your time and talent for the right reasons, and can feel good about making a positive contribution to your community.

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