Gigging for Charity with Jim Gepperth

Posted by Drew Stoga on October 6, 2011

jim gepperthToday's post comes from Jim Gepperth aka My Life Media Dj Services (Lakewood, OH). He's a long-time GigMasters member and a 5-star rated DJ, but that's not even the most exceptional thing about him. Jim spent 22 years working full-time for a charity organization and now when he's not getting the crowd onto dance floor, he still donates his time as a volunteer.

I was fascinated about the two sides to Jim's career. He told me all about the similarities he has found between entertaining and volunteering and gave some great tips on performing at charity gigs.

Here is what Jim told us:

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I am often amazed at how many people show interest in my dual passions: charity work with the poor and vulnerable and entertaining as a professional DJ, host and public speaker.

As with many things in life, I didn't plan it this way. In my early twenties, I accepted a full-time job with a charity organization and on weekends began training as a mobile DJ. For many years I pursued this dual career, helping people in crises during the week and helping others celebrate milestones on the weekends.

To be sure, this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde lifestyle was a bit of an emotional roller coaster ride. I would often spend my day with a homeless family, for example, and later that evening, celebrate with others as their DJ, often in great luxury.

What I eventually discovered is that a lot of work in charity is about creating community and that sometimes comes about through event planning and celebration – not so unlike working as a professional entertainer.

When being trained as a mobile DJ in the late ‘80s, I promised my mentor that if I were to find even some measure of success in the entertainment field, I would give back to the community through continued charity work. This is a promise I have kept to this day.

As you can imagine, I have performed at many charity events. And over time, I’ve gained some knowledge that I’m happy to share with other DJ’s and entertainers:

Charity events are a great idea, but…

Donating your time to entertain at a charity event is a great way to give back to your community. Plus it’s just good karma.

However, it’s important that your motives for accepting the gig are sincerely selfless. You should not donate your service to a charity thinking that it is an effective way to advertise or that it will result in more referrals for paid business. Make sure you are taking the gig for the right reason: the privilege of helping out a worthy cause.

A few stipulations

Most charities will ask you to offer your services (donate your time) for free. Doing an occasional gig for free is fine as long as:

1) You are familiar with the organization and the people who operate it.

2) Your personal values align with the mission and purpose of the charity.

3) You can afford it.

So, can you afford it?

If you are making a reasonable profit on the other gigs, you can probably afford to give one or two away. That said, be careful about when you agree to donate your time. If DJ’ing a charity event means giving up a Saturday evening in June or another popular date, you are essentially giving away the potential to make $700 to $1,000 or more on a big gig.

A little math will help you decide if you can afford to be charitable and on what days of the year. If you realize that you can’t afford to take the gig yet you care about the charity, politely decline and send them a check for whatever you can afford. They’ll know you care and you’ll still be able to make a profit on that June evening. Having worked for a nonprofit, I know that even small contributions are always welcome.

For inquiries from charity groups that I know little or nothing about, I politely tell them that I am not able to offer my services for free but I would be glad to give them a great discount. I then give them a price quote that I can live with, knowing that I've made the offer to help but still make some limited profit on the event.

Be professional. Be prepared.

Even though you are giving your services away for free (or close to it), be sure to treat the event as you would any fully paid gig. I often generate a contract even if I am not charging a cent.

Act professionally and learn as much as you can about the event and what role they want you to play. Ask the organizers of the event for a program book or agenda as it will contain lots of information that will help you do your job.

Sometimes you’ll simply need to provide background music and access to a microphone for guest presenters, raffle drawings, etc. Other times you’ll be expected to do much more. Be prepared to do a lot of MC’ing, announcements, coordinating with other vendors and more. Lively, upbeat music (unless otherwise directed) is the order of the day, as it will keep people active and interested in what’s going on around them. I personally believe that people spend more money at charity events if the atmosphere is a lively one.

Here’s the important thing to remember: your job at a charity event is to tactfully remind everyone that they are there to support an important cause. Just as you would direct attention toward the bride and groom at a wedding, the focus of attention at a charity event is the good work that is being done by the organization. Be charming, talk up the mission of the charity, share heartfelt stories, do whatever works. Remind people why they’re there, making them feel good about supporting the cause. If you can do this while providing them a fun time, you’ll be a hit and the charity will prosper!

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Good advice, right? Leave us a comment and let us know how you give back.

Looking for a DJ in or around Lakewood, OH? Jim is your man. Check out My Life Media Dj Services on GigMasters.

Thanks Jim!

 

 

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