Volunteering and Donating to Charity

Feb 13, 2023

Volunteering and Donating to Charity

Even if you’re not getting actual money for a show, make sure you get paid SOMETHING. Working for free is good exposure, but a man can DIE from exposure!
– the late Harry Albacker

Some of the following comments include amounts of money in the imaginary unit called “C-shells.” These units are used to avoid any hint of illegal price fixing in the balloon industry.

Why Volunteer?

  • If I get a warm fuzzy feeling from my volunteerism, that’s great. That’s usually compensation enough for me. But I don’t complain afterwards that I feel unappreciated.
  • I think it’s great to volunteer as a clown/twister/magician/singer/entertainer. Go for it.What I’m suggesting is that if you’re going to volunteer, sit down and figure out what you want out of the gig. Motivations might include:
    • Making money.
    • Promotion for your business.
    • Pleasing a family member or the person who asked you to participate.
    • Free admission to an event you’d like to attend.
    • A warm feeling for having added to the sum total of good in the world.
  • Richard Bolles in “What Color Is Your Parachute” suggests that you prioritize things this way. Make a grid that lists the items in columns and rows.
    Money Promotion Friendship Admission Altruism
    Money X
    Promotion X
    Friendship X
    Admission X
    Altruism X

    Now, compare each item one at a time (the X’s indicate where you’re comparing apples to apples). Is money more important than promotion? If so, put a 1 (for money) under promotion, like so:

    Money Promotion Friendship Admission Altruism
    Money X 1
    Promotion X
    Friendship X
    Admission X
    Altruism X

    Are you doing it for a friend, and you’re more interested in helping the friend than in turning a profit? In that case, vote 3 (for friendship) in the next column.

    Money Promotion Friendship Admission Altruism
    Money X 1 3
    Promotion X
    Friendship X
    Admission X
    Altruism X

    Continue in this way until you’ve filled out the chart completely. You will compare each of the items to one another two times – that’s okay. You’ll be surprised to find that sometimes you change your vote the second time. That indicates you could really go either way on that particular question. Let’s say that I completed the chart this way:

    Money Promotion Friendship Admission Altruism
    Money X 1 3 1 1
    Promotion 1 X 3 2 2
    Friendship 3 3 X 3 3
    Admission 1 2 3 X 4
    Altruism 1 2 3 5 X

    Now, I count up the number of times I voted for each item and list them from high to low.

    Friendship 8
    Money 6
    Promotion 4
    Admission 1
    Altruism 1

    When I look at the list, I can see that my primary motivation for participation is to help out a friend. I’d also like to make money at the event, but I might be willing to discount my price if it will help out. I think it’s a pretty good opportunity for promotion, though that’s not a strong motivator. I don’t really care about the event or the cause.

    That’s how I honestly feel about participation. Now, when I call my friend back and say I want to participate, I can say I’m happy to help him/her with the event, but I’d like to work for tips or be compensated for my participation. If there’s no way I can be paid, I will probably go ahead and help only to be a sport for my friend. I’ll be sure to promote myself and look for future gigs.

    What if the count had come up more like this?

    Friendship 7
    Money 7
    Promotion 4
    Admission 2
    Altruism 0

    Now I can see that I probably don’t know the person I’m working with, but it’s a great cause and a good chance to get my name out in public. Money isn’t as important to me as just being at a cool place for a good cause. When I call back, I may offer to donate my services but ask that I’m on for half time and have the other half to enjoy the event. I might ask to bring an “assistant” (read *date*).

    When you volunteer to participate in an event, be clear on what your motivations are. If your primary interest is making money, be up front about that, and mention that if there is competition in the form of other twisters you want to be sure that you’re separated from them by a good distance and that they are charging for their sculptures as you are. You want to be sure that it’s a large enough event that there’s plenty of opportunity for everyone to make money. You may ask for a non-refundable deposit, or say that if the situation changes you may be forced to back out of the event.

    What you shouldn’t do is agree to participate because it’s a good cause, but then gripe because you don’t make money. You shouldn’t participate because you want promotion, then gripe because they would only give you one admission ticket.

    Be clear on your motivation, and take steps to protect your interests. That makes for a win-win situation.

  • Volunteering at the local library is good for business. These kids who spend a lot of time at the library are a different breed of children . They are well behaved and the parents usually are very interested in their children. I started out volunteering and they ended up paying me without me asking.

Don Dixon on Business Donations

  • As much as we love our friends and neighbours, can our business afford to wear the brunt of our generosity? This is a difficult thing to bring into perspective at times. Try this line of thinking…Imagine your business as a young dependant 12 year old. It depends on you for guidance and nourishment. With your help it grows an image and a bank account. At some time in the future, your mature child will reward you for the upbringing, by providing you with a healthy retirement. In this line of thinking, YOU are NOT the business. It has its own identity. Now, what happens if you now volunteer your 12 year old to donate some of its time and posessions to benefit a friend?
    1. The friend looks good for having “contacts”.
    2. The image of your business may be lowered.
    3. Your friend’s friends will expect you to do the same again in future. And if you offer the same (or less)… they smear you for not giving more, now that your business is growing.
    4. If something goes wrong, the “next to nothing” favor will become a financial burden to your business.
    5. You are denying your business (or a competitor) enterprise. Denying someone of a profit! Shouldn’t that someone be you? Should you take “food” from your child to give to a friend’s child?
    6. If you have staff, and donate their labor time, in their eyes you deminish the value of their efforts and skills. Not good for staff morale. Particularly if you then also give them the added responsibility of supervising green volunteers to get the “freebie” completed. They bust their butt for the boss’s friend!?!?!

    There are times when we need to show compassion. There are times when we should donate to charities and community efforts. I’m simply saying that as small business people, we need to think carefully about to whom and what we donate.

    Donate one’s OWN time. Donate cash from your business if the business can afford it and it becomes a tax deduction. Donate product that is slow moving or out dated. Offer the school committee a privileged extended payment plan to give them time to raise money to pay. Donate something they can auction off at a fund raiser, on the proviso that the normal retail price is advised before bidding begins. Donate materials (if you must) but charge FULL hourly rates for labor. Make an effort to donate (generously) to ONE worthy charity each year. Choose a different charity each year and thereby spread your generosity.

    There are arguments presented that one must donate at times to gain exposure. Ask yourself in each instance if it’s the right exposure. Will people at that event come only to your business when they want balloons? Or, is the exposure donated also providing exposure for your competitors? By that I mean, is it something your competitor could also provide? Could there be better ways with less risk, less cost and potential for wider exposure… for your business EXCLUSIVELY?

    It might sound corny or weird, but even donating from the goodness of your heart or friendship, can become ultimately detrimental to your business. Try to avoid letting your emotions take control. It helps to actually sit down for just 10 minutes and write a business “policy” on the subject. Write down the criteria, upon which your business may consider “freebies” or discounts. Then refer every request to that checklist BEFORE you act. When you do this, you’ll find that at the end of the year, you, your business and the deserving charities all benefit.

    Weigh up the real (hidden) cost against perceived benefits of doing balloon decor for “next to nothing”. Lord knows I’ve been guilty of giving away what I should have sold.

How to Handle Requests to Work at Charity Functions

  • We’ve been in this biz for over 16 years so we are definitely not newbies but really old oldies. We’ve learned that it is easy to “give” your entire business away in donations. Sometimes we have been asked more than a dozen times in one day for freebies. And I know it is easier just to say NO than to handle it, in our opinion, in the proper way. We state immediately that we DO NOT donate to companies, or organizations just looking for freebies and that we limit donations or discounts to non-profit, fund-raising, charitable events. And, we make sure it is a GOOOOD cause to us! So here’s our philosophy on those type donations:
    1. First you have to learn when to say YES and how to say NO. Saying yes means in no uncertain terms that my biz WILL receive public recognition in some form. Be it publicity for the event (before or after), a public letter of thanks, or something! We’re going for the publicity here not just to be nice contributors. (HOWEVER, we do also believe that if you are going to ask your city, town, community to support your business — you MUST also give support back! Not only for the good of mankind but for the good of your biz!) So when you say “yes,” always ask for some type of publicity in return. Charitable organizations lend themselves easily to the use of guerilla tactics in advertising because you can’t buy a front page ad but you can get your biz’s name and photo on the front page if you work it right! Offer balloons for the pub photos and INSIST on recognition! Publicity creates a greater impact than any printed ad because it is not perceived as an ad but rather you have become part of the news. The public will be more attentive and retentive of this information. It creates more awareness of your business.
    2. We’ve also tried a few new ideas out on donations without the fear of doing them wrong for a paying client and without wasting materials just to see if we could do an idea. We work with a benefit for our local pediatrics units at the hospitals each year charging them only for supplies, not labor costs. This has been a wonderful proving ground and we’ve received great publicity and some really good karma!
    3. When you must say “no” (AND YOU MUST), approach it with “We’d love to and it sounds like a really good cause BUT we allocate a certain amount each month that we donate and we’ve already gone over our limit!” No one needs to know HOW much you allocate and if you do a big donation that can be your allocation for months. By being kinder in saying no, it makes your business look better and leaves a better impression of your business and community sense. Setting limits on donations are a must and also evaluating if the payback was worth the effort. [Next time they ask (and they will) be blunt and say, we donated last time, but it didn’t seem to be appreciated and now we’ve already gone over our allocation, so sorry! Or say, we donated last time but we’ve already committed to other causes this time, so sorry!]
  • I do a few free events a year. I consider each request separately based on several factors. How much do I like the organization? How much it will help me (chance to test new material, working with people I’d like to try working with, publicity, appearing someplace I wouldn’t otherwise be able to appear)? How far in advance was I asked? Is this an organization that under other circumstances has hired me in the past? I only do the events that are planned ahead of time. Even if I’m available, I won’t listen to someone trying to get me for free two days from now. If they think that little of their entertainers not to make arrangements ahead of time, there’s likely to be more trouble when I get there.
  • I have received what I consider to be two valuable and wise pieces of advice on this which I am using and which DO work for me.
    1. Ask if everyone else and everything else at that function is either volunteer or has been donated. If so, by all means volunteer your services as well. If not, consider this: you are just as much of a professional as the DJ and should be compensated as well. If it is an organization you really like and would like to donate to, you can always endorse the check back over to them. But making sure you get paid will keep things on a professional level, making sure you are treated properly.
    2. When you receive a call, simply ask them to put their request in writing. And explain that you are a full time (or part time) professional, and that you chose a certain number of volunteer functions each year to do. You will be happy to look over their request and information, making sure they include the date in which they would like you, and get back to them if you are able to help out. This does a few things. Number one, it helps you to make sure they are serious about wanting you and not just going through the yellow pages looking for the first yes. And number two, it helps you to evaluate the needs and chose what you really want to do without running yourself into the ground.
  • I get asked to ‘donate’ my time to various charities. The questions that I ask right off the bat are: “What are you serving the kids?” and “If the food isn’t being donated, if the place isn’t being given free, if the caterer isn’t donating his services, why should I donate my time?” Additionally, when the same organization holds a banquet or other function in the future, they’ll pay someone else to perform. They’ve already seen you: besides, why pay someone who works for free?
  • For all charity events that I am asked to be at, I immediately ask if anyone is getting paid for any part of it. That includes other entertainers, security, caterer, etc. I also want to know if the food is being purchased or donated. Those kinds of questions give you an idea of how valuable they think you are. It could be that only the entertainers have been asked to come for free. That’s not my kind of event. If they can afford to buy food, they can at least afford to buy balloons.

Getting Paid For Charity Functions?

Doing It For Free

  • I have my limits when it comes to freebies. I do a free story time one Friday per month for the local Library (which is a small ‘free’ branch, and is always on the brink of closing) This service benefits me, as well as my community. Other than that, I only do six freebies a year, for groups that I feel meet these following criteria:
    1. They are a worthy cause.
    2. They can not afford to pay for my service.
    3. They have given me enough advance notice for me to check out #1 and #2.

    I also donate two gigs to the local public television station’s annual auction. I have received generous tips from the successful high-bidders for every show I have done, so those pay for themselves, as well as provide excellent word- of-mouth advertising.

  • I am charitable around the causes I feel I have a personal connection with, i.e. my church, my local YMCA, etc.
  • Sporting organizations for the physically or mentally challenged, organizations in urban areas that keep kids off the streets… if they don’t have the budget, I’ll consider them as a freebie.
  • Book your charity events on weekdays whenever possible, so as not to conflict with paying jobs. If you agree to perform at a charity event for free, do _not_ cancel for a paying job (there is no excuse in the world). Money can always be earned, but once your name is tarnished, you might as well leave town.
  • I have provided services to my daughter’s school several times, whether it’s twisting balloons or providing art materials and instruction, but these things are hobbies for me – no one expects me to be a superstar, and everyone has a good time. I have a career that takes care of my family.
  • I know a twister who used to carry pockets full of balloons wherever he went. He used to make them for everyone. I asked him if he ever got any shows from all the balloons he gives away ‘off duty’. He said “I usually get calls for free ‘donation’ shows; a lot of them are surprised that I charge for my services.” As my wise old grandfather used to say, “If you work for nothing, then that’s what your worth.” Grandpa taught me to charge for ‘charity shows’ and then write a check to the charity after.
  • This is a personal preference. Depending on the non-profit and the way it is set up (are they a real charity? Is anyone else getting paid? Did they hire a “professional” fundraising company to run it in which case the company will make about 20% of the money they bring in?) All of these factors count. I usually make them pay my usual fee and then donate some money back after the show. If you work for free, that is what most people think that you are worth.

Doing It For Tips

  • Our usual procedure for non-profit organizations is that we come in at no charge to them, ask for tips per balloon (and in our case face-painting too) and then we take out the cost of our supplies and divide the rest 50/50. We haven’t had any complaints about this method. They are usually just happy to have us there, our costs are covered and we usually make enough to make it worth our while at least. We have a whiteboard sign that says: DONATIONS TO: and then we fill in the name of the organization. When people know that part of the tip is going to the charity they are there to support, they tend to tip a lot more. You’ve also got to remember that charitable work is great PR for your business.

Doing It For a Discount

  • I have a good friend who’s a graphic artist. Every now and then, his church asks him to volunteer. He is the first person to carry a bucket of cement, swing a hammer, work as a camp counselor, drive the elderly to doctor’s appointments, chaperone campers, whatever they ask.But when he’s asked to do an art project, he charges the church his normal rates with a 10 percent discount. Why ten percent? Because he tithes 10 percent of his earnings to the church anyway. Why does he charge them? Because it’s his business. It’s the way he earns his living. He’ll volunteer to do anything that doesn’t take away from his livelihood. Why? Several reasons:
    • People value more highly what they pay for.
    • People are less likely to make unreasonable requests if they know that it will cost them extra.
    • Artwork puts groceries in his cupboard.
  • I’m often asked to twist balloons for office functions, school and community events, etc. I donate my time, and usually the balloons. I love to twist, and it’s a good chance to stay in practice. But I haven’t twisted as a job in 20 years. When people ask me to provide technical documentation for their software I charge them the standard rate for this area. Yes, even my good friends. That’s my livelihood. The same is true for my web development, I’m a professional web site developer. Any work I do now is paid or promotional.I think it’s great to donate your time to the community, and twisting is a great way to do it if it isn’t your primary source of income. If it’s your job, though, it makes sense to be paid for your efforts, or to receive promotional consideration.
  • I get so many people asking for donations for events at day cares, parades, pet stores, etc. They will all say “but we’re a non-profit agency.” Aren’t they all? I do most of my business with non-profits. A donation of your time should mean that the customer will still cover your costs, including travel time, supplies, and your labor. Otherwise you’re paying them to be there! I explain to these inquiries that I do one benefit a year; I cannot afford to do a lot of them. I explain that a ‘donation’ will be equal to half my regular rate. I may suggest that these inquiries find a well-to-do parent who might personally sponsor my entertainment at the event.
  • Children’s sports groups, such as playground programs, little league baseball, and the like, can be financially qualified by asking the following question: Have you no budgeted moneys for services such as mine? I then explain that I can negotiate with them, since I will be able to advertise at their event. Sometimes I get my whole fee, sometimes I go as low as half fee. If I go that low, I usually am able to put out the tip jar in the bargain.
  • When we do work for a charity, if I am concerned about identifying that I am charging a lower fee (and many times I am not concerned), it will only be a verbal acknowledgement: “My normal fee is a strawberry and an orange, but because I support your organization I will charge you only an strawberry.”
  • I do charity events for a discounted rate. As an example… if I were to charge a strawberry and an orange per hour for a job, then because they are a charitable event I will only charge them a strawberry per hour. However, when I invoice them I show that my hourly charges are a strawberry and an orange per hour. Then I put down under the category of “Charitable Discount” how many oranges they are getting off. This shows them your FULL VALUE, as well as, how much you are donating to them. People really appreciate this and it makes it much more tangible. Also, should they ever want you for something that is not charitable you have your full price for them to see.Should an old client from several years ago look your records up again, you have your original non-discounted price right in front of her. If she asks why you’re not giving the same discount it can be explained that you choose a different charity to donate to each year. You would be happy to help her this year at your regular fee and put her on a waiting list for future charitable discounts. This maintains your professionalism and full value as a “real entertainer.” This actually happened to me this year with a large charity. I took care of them last year with a 100% complimentary visit… they tried to have me back again this year after they had not followed thru on their end of the bargain last year. I told them not unless they paid my full value which was already shown in my invoice to them for last year. They claimed they couldn’t afford me this year if they had to pay. I told them they had two choices… one, to simply not have me, as this is my full time living and I spread my time around to charitable functions, or two, to find a sponsor to pay my fees. Two days later I received a call that they had a sponsor. I will now being doing this event at my full rate. If all goes well and I am treated with complete professionalism at this year’s event I will more than likely allow them a charitable discount again next year.
  • The arrangement I’ve used a few times which seems to work quite well is that I charge these groups $x to turn up, and then give them half of my profits from selling / gathering donations for balloons. The end result is that if it’s a good day, the group gets entertainment for free, a little profit and I get paid well, whereas if they’ve put little effort into publicizing the event so it’s poorly attended, I still get at least enough to cover my costs. This arrangement also has the added benefit of deterring time wasters.
  • A satisfying approach that I have used for years makes requests simple to deal with, is fair to all and is usually accepted. You don’t have to ask for letters, try to remember what you donated to whom, feel guilty or work for free: I give 10% off across the board to schools and charities.
  • When we get requests for donations we become selective as to those we can do. We usually offer to do the job at our regular prices and then give a percentage donation back to the organization. This way we get paid for our supplies and our time as well as getting a donation that we can use for tax purposes. We find that those that appreciate our work are more than happy to work with us this way.

Doing It For a Write-off

  • I have found that the best way to handle charitable events is to get your fee from them and then write out a check for the same amount and give it back to the charity. If you work for free, that is what you are worth. I can’t tell you how many times my magic students volunteered to do shows and they were stuck in a corner somewhere or showed up only to find that they found someone else and forgot to call them. By having them make out a check to you, they will know what you are worth. They will treat you with more respect. The other advantage is that when you have physical proof (your check) that you donated something, it is much easier to take it off your taxes. It really is the best way.
  • What I would suggest is to have the charity event pay you your full fee, but at the same time give them a check for the difference. That way you are giving them a break and getting a break at the same time. If you are persuasive, you should be able to talk them into it. I have done this a number of times.
  • Wake up! If they pay you full price, you have to pay income taxes on that amount. When you give a check to them you can receive a donation credit – HOWEVER, I had understood that in many cases only 80% of your donation is tax deductible. If so, where do you draw the lines in order not to pay taxes on income that was donated? Are you really gaining? or are you just “inflating your balloon bottom line?The other problem that I can see with this system is that when you look at your income from year to year, you may not be getting a really accurate picture of where you really are. It would seem to inflate your income and also cause you to have miscalculations as to growth. Good records are necessary in order to gathering knowledge about what direction you need to make adjustments in order to have good growth.
  • Q. If you perform at a discounted rate, can you write off the discounted dollars as a charitable contribution, thus helping at tax time?A. As a balloon twister and an accountant, I would be careful of doing this. First, you cannot deduct as a charitable contribution the value of your time. So if you give your services free, this cannot be deducted. I have also heard many people say they will do an “exchange of checks”, you give me my fee and I will donate “X” amount back to you. Nothing is accomplished by this, except maybe increasing your tax bill. Money you receive for your “show” is subject to self employment taxes but your contribution does not reduce the self employment tax. Thus your Taxable Income stays the same but your taxes increase. I know we are supposed to be getting a kinder more gentle IRS, but I would not want a paper trail as described above. It could be construed the same as the exchange of checks situation.
  • One thing to keep in mind is all expenses associated with the charitable event can be deducted as a business expense (you are promoting your business by making this appearance), thus lowering your self employment taxes.
  • You will inevitably be informed by most organizations that they’ll write a letter stating you donated services worth $X so you can use it as a tax write-off. In the US, that doesn’t work. The IRS lets you write off actual costs, not potential costs. too bad: I am worth $1000 per hour but for charity only get $5. So far, I cannot write off the $995 per hour. Maybe with the new, kinder IRS that the law will change but somehow I don’t feel optimistic… 😉

Doing It in Exchange

  • I have adopted two policies:
    1. To work for only those charities I would support monetarily (if I could)
    2. To send a proposal to those organizations I like.

    For those organizations that meet my criteria, I send a proposal. In the proposal I request:

    1. Mention in all event advertising, distribution of my advertising materials (in press kits, registration kits, and on site)
    2. Recompense for materials used (balloons, etc.),
    3. A parking voucher.
    4. A tax receipt for the difference between what I _would_ have earned and any considerations given. I have waived this tax receipt and any other recompense _if_ I am allowed to busk at the event.
    5. I may also ask for exclusivity as a balloon artist, but that is rare.

    I also make inquires about any performance requirements, and specify exactly what I will do and when. You might also ask for a letter of reference as part of your conditions. The letter can be countersigned as a contract.

    I should point out that I am negotiable on these conditions. Sometimes the event is such that they cannot comply with some of the conditions. My point here is to create a comfortable situation for both me and charity, so that we know what is expected. Most charities read my letter and say, “Well, we were looking for someone less professional… someone looking for exposure.”

    PLEASE, if you are starting out, think carefully about the advice I’ve given. When I started out, I was burned by some charities who did not do what they promised and/or treated me shabbily in other ways… Even as a beginner you have a value, you are doing the charity a service. You owe it to them, and you, to do the best you can by treating the show as a professional booking. Look at what was said and modify my comments to do suit your style.

    As a result of my policies I do a very small number of very special charities, but I look forward to them.

  • I give discounts when I want to (family, good friend, organization I’m a member of, power groups). First, they need to ask; it’s not an offered choice. Second, I know what I want in return – and it’s a lot. For instance, a grouping of balloons and tasteful sign at the entry table, a verbal announcement by the master of ceremonies about who created (not donated) the decor , a full page ad in their program, a brochure with a booking special handed to each guest or at each plate; and finally a set of labels (not a mailing list) with the names and addresses of everyone who attended the event within one week of the event (which I use to do a fast mailing after photocopying the labels that are then added to my mailing list). These requests are outlined within our contract along with the stated full price of the decor.With family and friends, it’s just the first two requests; with other groups it’s sometimes even more – like if there’s a banner of donation amounts – we usually get into the top 10 lines – about as far as anyone will actually read.

    So, exposure to influential decision makers and that mailing list are my carrots. I usually do two non-family events a year – about 50-60 tables each. And yes, they do bring in new business at full price.

  • On the rare occasion that I donate my services, it is usually in exchange for an advertising and/or promotional opportunity. Part of the deal is that I get my name and phone number in the program or mentioned on the radio, etc. Community involvement is a very good business move, as long as the community knows about it!
  • Many of you have said that it’s worthwhile to donate your time for promotion – that’s true, so if you’re donating for promotion, be sure you’re getting a level of promotion equivalent to the services you provide. If you normally charge 100 C-shells an hour to perform, and the event has a program that sells advertising at 100 C-shells per page, ask for and expect a full page ad for your trouble, not an acknowledgement in the list of volunteers. Then you’re being compensated fairly and the organizers treat you like a professional. If you’re simply given an opportunity to promote yourself, be sure you have plenty of cards, fliers, a banner, whatever it takes to promote like crazy. Make it worth your while.
  • If the customer can *and does* deliver significant advertising, I have been known to alter my price. So if you think you can get enough worthwhile advertising guaranteed, you may want to consider it. Does this association have a newsletter? How big is the association? Are the members medium to big shots who might be valuable corporate contacts? Do you trust the promoter to follow through on the advertising, or can you get it in writing?
  • Solicit charity functions. Every single time that I have done a charity function with a smile on my face, I have gotten a HUGE thank you, free endorsements in whatever media/newsletter coverage they have, and most importantly — the people who planned it feel like they owe me a big favor (they do!), and recommend me to their friends. In addition, I often get asked for references. Who do you think I refer them to for a glowing review?

Doing It For Exposure

  • Working for free for exposure is more productive than working for a small fee when you’re starting out. When you work for free, others will call and ask you to volunteer for their organization too. You can always say no, and few people will argue when you tell them that you need paying shows. I only wish I had done more volunteer work up until now. Remember, the more you work, the more you work!
  • I had to retrain several non-profit organizations to pay for my work because some other balloon companies were donating their work for “exposure.” This is how people in our industry devalue what we do. If no one donates to an event, believe me they will get decorations from someone who was paid for their efforts. I just booked an event from a non-profit organization that told me “last year so-and-so company donated this, but their number is disconnected.” Well, I am getting paid so next year I can answer the phone regarding this event and others. By the way, when you go to pay your bills or your house or car loan, do they give you a break because you donated some work this month? Think about this! “Exposure! I don’t need no stinking exposure! My work speaks for itself!”
  • They will tell you that it’s a great way to be seen. Consider that this charity found you. The other five that called during the same week also found you. Do you really need more exposure? If they promise publicity, will you be mentioned by name? It won’t help you if an ad in the paper says “balloons for kids” if no one knows who you are. Get everything in writing.
  • Don’t buy into the old “free advertising for your company” line. It is never as good as getting a payment to cover the real expenses of doing business. You might want to offer a 10-40% discount, etc. It’s up to you. We are all finding more and more need to help, but it has to be tempered with what you can do both with time and money. You might consider getting your NO FEE groups to talk with some local business about becoming underwriter for the advertising and decorating. Businesses can get underwriting from suppliers.
  • We always took a project that meant something to our staff and did it each year. One year it was the reading program at our public library, another was a fund raiser for a local self-help group for the handicapped, and every year we did the decorations for the scholarship program at our collage. Everyone else we told very nicely that we had chosen our public service (not charity work) for the year but would be happy to put them on the list for consideration next year. It was a life saver. It also gave us the freedom to be able to help with other projects that someone in our group felt strongly about.
  • We would like to pass on some advice that we have learned from our years of selling balloon decor. Just like most everyone else, we too were “enticed” to provide discounted prices because there would be hundreds of guests present – celebrities will see it – there could be TV coverage – the guest of honour is very influential in the corporate world – the owners of the venue could book you regularly – as sponsor, your company name will be printed on the menu… the list is neverending.Yes, we fell for all the lines for the first couple of years. We needed exposure! We wanted to be the name on everyone’s lips when someone said, “balloons?” The reality is, it doesn’t happen that way ! Do your balloon work for the right commercial price – always. Project an image of “professionalism” from day one. Professionals charge professional’s rates. Will your dentist give you a discount just because you promise to mention how good he is at the next PTA meeting? Actually…. I would expect to pay MORE to have a better than average smile! Wouldn’t you? You don’t have to charge as much as a dentist, but you do have to charge enough to make a PROFIT.

    Put yourself in the shoes of a typical guest at that wedding. When was the last time you enjoyed the food, or the flowers, or the venue to the point where you just went ahead and booked that company to service your next family function? And if you do follow up on businesses that have impressed you, don’t you also phone two others just to check that you are not paying too much? Particularly if it’s a wedding! The real bummer comes when you discount a job on speculation… and two months later one of the bridesmaids says,” Jennifer said you gave her the balloon decor at 30% off. Why is the price for my decor much the same (or higher) than your competitor’s prices? How can you justify such prices for balloons?” All of a sudden you are on the defensive! Worse still, she is going to tell Jennifer and everyone else that Ajax balloons tried to rip her off! Tiffany has found a balloon decorator cheaper and fairer than Jennifer’s! Unfortunately, you have set a bad precident for your business.

    Seriously, spend your promotional time, effort and dollars where it will generate business enquiries for jobs charged at THE RIGHT PRICE. Send a complimentary arrangement to the wedding venues for their office, increase the size of your Yellow Pages ad, window displays that stop traffic, create the BEST portfolio in the business by paying a photographer, join the local Chamber of Commerce and the QBN. Get the idea?

    I just wish there had been someone around to tell us when we were giving away far too much of our product at discounted prices… always on a “promise” of more business – after the event. Well, nowadays Dolly is thinking of introducing her own “promises”. She could promise to provide extra balloon decor at the wedding (at no extra charge) as a reward for all the business the bride’s family bring us BEFORE her wedding day. Hmmmm?

    If you are concerned about your lack of hands-on experience, practice by making those complimentary delivery arrangements for the local hairdressers, the hotels, the medical centre etc. Be confident…. you can do it! Establish your full commercial selling price and stick to it! You will survive. You will build a professional reputation. You will have a successful balloon business – SOONER.

  • When I was first starting out in the balloon business, several years ago, I gave deals, cut prices and donated, donated, donated… I did indeed get some (and I emphasise some) business from this, but once I decided that I’d had enough of not making any money, my business really took off! I never want to get caught in the price game with my prices being “cheaper” to one and not others. Wouldn’t that be an uncomfortable situation? Instead of all of the “freebies or discounts” I now make a “gift” that I leave at every event I decorate for to remind them that I appreciate their business. Plus, everywhere it is feasible I leave my name–balloon weights, etc. so the guests do indeed know where the designs came from. I do very little advertising, most of my business is word of mouth from satisfied clients, which you will have too. Just do your absolute best in helping plan the decorations, design and install the decorations and remember, you can never spend too much time with your clients… they will spread the word for you!!
  • One word of advice for “newbies” – be careful when corporates or non-profits tell you they will trade you decor for advertising. When we first started, we thought this we be a good way to get our name out into the community. Our so-called advertising was a one-line name among fifty others. Nothing said we had done the decor.
  • Don’t do work for “exposure.” You should be charging big bucks for the amount of work they will want you to do. They want a big, professional job, and should be willing to pay for it. The “great exposure” line is an old one, and it may be partially true, but if you do this for free you will probably be sorry afterwards. I learned my lesson several years ago when I did one of these freebies, and got nothing in return! It cost me $300 in product and $300 in labor (not counting my own time). It was a small job, but I was still upset about it because none of the vendors or participants in the event did any business with us afterwards. Now we do ONE freebie a year for a charity event – and make sure our name is in the program for publicity, and it is a SMALL donation – not one that takes a crew of 8 all day to do!
  • Large Corporations seem to know the value of balloons. They want them at their events. We as professionals should see that they have them. We should see that they have the opportunity to BUY them. If we continue to give them away, “because 30,000 people will see them”, we help to continue the idea that they have no dollar worth. So… SELL Smith and Biney the balloons. They can well afford them, and they should not get them for nothing. If we expect companies to see the value, we must stop treating balloon decor as something we can give away.
  • Regarding working fundraisers, I pass along a quote from one of my mentors, the late Harry Albacker… a legend among kid show magicians in the Pittsburgh area. He once told me, “Even if you’re not getting actual money for a show, make sure you get paid SOMETHING. Working for free is good exposure, but a man can DIE from exposure!”

Donating to Charities? — ALWAYS!

  • We made a business decision early on to NEVER say no to a request for a donation. Now that may sound like a pretty dumb decision but let me explain further.For the requests that we feel are worthwhile (we’re suckers for anything involving children), or that we have learned will, in fact, give our business good exposure, we make the decision as to what and how much of a discount/donation we want to give and we have a set budget for that type of donation.

    For ALL other requests, we have a stock answer for them that goes something like this: “Your event/project sounds very worthwhile. We’d be happy to donate a dozen balloons to help you out. Of course, you’d have your choice of all our wonderful colors. Just let us know the date and time and the name of the person from your organization who will come to our shop to pick them up.”

    Although we’ve not said “No” to them, we have found that 9 times out of 10, they will turn US down because they don’t feel it’s worth their while to come all the way to our shop to pick up only 12 balloons. However, the few that DO take us up on our offer are always very grateful for the donation and we feel good that we never have to say “No”.

  • I once sat in one of Bruce Walden’s classes and the subject of what to do if a charity asks you to donate your services came up. His suggestion was to tell the person asking for a donation to put it in writing, on his letterhead… because you have to take it to your partners for approval. Chances are you will never hear from them. It works because I have done it several times.
  • Bruce Walden made a suggestion in one of his classes that worked very well for me . . . when you get someone that wants a donation, ask them to send it in writing. 99 times out of 100 they won’t reply.

Donating to Charities? — NEVER!

  • At some point you have to say “No” – Put your lips together like you are going to kiss someone. Then put your tongue on the roof of your mouth like you had peanut butter stuck up there. Start making a strange sound deep in your throat. At precisely the same time lower your tongue from the roof of your mouth, open your mouth wide, and let that sound come out your mouth rather than your nose. I’m going to get this some day.
  • In the twelve years I have been a performer I have donated my time twice. Both times i regretted it. In that same span not donating my time has come back to haunt me only once (in the form of a lost opportunity to showcase my talent). No big loss when you compare it to the hundreds of times I have stuck to my guns and not done a free gig.
  • I think it was T. Myers who said ‘I do a charity event once a month’. This is a great way to handle the issue. Pick a time frame (once a month, twice a month, twice a year) and if someone asks just tell them that your charity-twisting is booked for that month. This way they can either find another month, or pay you for your performance.
  • You know what a benefit will get you? Another benefit! I am so tired of people asking for donations or free stuff. My reply is that we are not available that day unless they are a client of mine. Or I sometimes ask for cost of materials, only if they are a good client with lots of repeat business. Doesn’t it seem that the largest companies are the ones that ask for the most freebies?
  • This is a pet peeve of mine! Little companies do not have to donate to big companies that can afford to pay for their decorations. Forget the exposure. There will be plenty of that when people see what you do for a living! Donate to a favorite charity. Pick one or two and turn the rest down. I don’t mean to be unfriendly, but I have been doing this too long and heard too many people wanting everything for free.
  • Your “ACT” –what ever it is– is your “LIVELIHOOD.” Don’t give it away. Because when you do, it makes me look bad, because I will not.
  • Here’s what I would suggest to help avoid bad feelings in the future. When someone asks you to participate in a charity event, don’t volunteer on the spot. The “I have to check my calendar, can I get right back to you?” excuse always works.
  • For some reason our profession gets an unusually high number of requests for donations from charities. After all, balloons cost only pennies and its such a fun business who would ask to be paid? Here’s a solution I heard from a fellow business person. When he gets a call from someone asking for a donation he says,” Hold on, I will ask my employees if any of them want to work for free.” He holds the phone out to his staff and hollers, “Does anyone here want to work for free?” Of course the whole staff hollers back, “NO!!!!” He gets back on the phone, and says, “I’m sorry, nobody here wants to work for free!
  • Be careful you don’t donate yourself out of business. Once people know you do balloons (schools, etc.) they will be calling you for free balloons. We pick 1-2 charities that we donate to during the year and we give a 10% discount to schools – but that’s it. As my daughter says, these people that call for donated decorations are professionals at getting free stuff. Once we put our foot down and said “no, I am afraid we can’t donate” the money miracously appeared to pay for the decorating. Some non-profits can get people to underwrite the decorating or have other methods. Don’t give in so easily to a plea for free or discounted decorating. It’s great to help your community but your in business – don’t forget you have to help yourself.just yesterday a group of students (from one of the most expensive universities in the country ) came to my office asking for a donation of balloons in trade for publicity. I asked them what they wanted, and when I showed them some pics from Images magazine, they were very enthusiastic. I wrote “necessary list” on one paper and “wish list” on another, then I told them that if they wanted any donation from the first list, I would give them up to 30% off of the cost of the items, according to the percent of their purchase from the second list. Now they have a problem, they can obtain some free balloons from my competitors but if they want a great decoration with an excellent job from a professional they will have to pay for it.

    I want to make an invitation to DON’T DONATE YOUR BUSINESS, I know it’s great when you help to other people, but try to help to people without any economic resourses (orphans, houses of older people, etc.). Never help the people that can pay for it.

  • A church or school doesn’t expect the janitor to work for free, doesn’t expect the minister to have a day job, doesn’t expect free food from the grocer’s for every event (though there are instances where all of these things happen). There’s no reason for you to donate your services if it causes you hardship or makes you feel uncomfortable.

Donating to Charities? — MAYBE!

  • There should be no “standard” or expected way to give to charity. Genuinely greatful charities are willing to accept whatever is on offer. So offer whatever it is that it suits you to give on behalf of your business. May I suggest the following – as I teach in my classes; You need to sit down and write for yourself (and for staff if you have them) a company policy with regard to donations and charities. Doesn’t matter if you are a sole trader working from home. This becomes a great management tool for ALL businesses.
    1. Clearly define in your own mind, the difference between “donations” and “sponsorship”. When the local little league asks you to sponsor the team, think about the “What’s In It For Me”.For donations you can’t expect any return. However, when asked to sponsor, you should expect something in return for your “investment”. Many small businesses often fall into the trap of giving product or labor as “sponsorship” when the ultimate return is almost nil. Therefore, it should have been considered in the context of being a “donation.”
    2. Decide on an annual budget for charity donations (or “freebies”)
    3. Decide whether you will donate product, labor, or both.
    4. Choose ONE specific charity by name as the ONLY charity to whom your company will donate. Change it annually if you like.

    Now, when you get the person on the phone or at the counter asking for your “kind support,” it is so much easier to close their pitch with; “We have already committed our total budget for charitable / sponsorship contributions for this year. We will note your charity / cause for consideration in next year’s budget.” Or “No, I’m sorry, company policy does not allow me to donate money that we simply do not have in this years budget! You know what it’s like – we can’t give what we just don’t have!”

Volunteering at Hospitals

  • On holidays, I’d give Children’s Hospital a call. They were very gracious and let me come that same day to make balloons for the kids. Understand something about holidays – only the very sickest children are in the hospital. They are in traction, or horribly burned, or recovering from emergency surgery. I was warned that I might be shocked by what I saw, or that the kids might be surly due to boredom, pain and separation. The warning was right, in some cases. But I don’t have to explain how great a Christmas that was. All I remember is the light in their eyes, the smiles. I made balloons at hospitals every holiday after that till I graduated college.
  • Check with your local hospital before you make an appearance with 6 gross of balloons. Some children’s hospital will not allow any balloons of any kind into the hospital. However the “rules” are usually the whim of the head nurse, so smile (even on the phone, you can hear a smile), speak quietly, and cheerfully follow all instructions. This is a great way to gain experience if you’re just starting out – the kids are extremely appreciative of anything to break up the monotony, and since you aren’t working for tips it doesn’t matter if the tail has a bulge or the eyes are too big.
  • I go to the pediatrics ward and do balloons. I’ve found that by making balloons for the nurses first, then asking about doing it for the kids, the nurses are very accommodating. They have usually have reasonable rules like no balloons in a room where there are kids younger than three (I think we can all agree with that one). The last hospital I worked in wouldn’t let me do it if there were any kids on the ward less than three. That was rough, but I think also more strict than most.
  • The Big Apple Circus (out of New York) has a caring clown unit that visits hospitals. Caring Clowns visit the hospitals up to three times a week in two-person teams. Apparently they go through six week of training, learning how to respond to the children.
  • I’ve done a few hospital visits, and found them very difficult. I rely on a lot of group participation, and physical comedy in my act. I’ve found that when kids are sick, it is often difficult for them to participate. Also, my routine, full of large demonstrative movements, is restricted by the room size. I’m also acutely aware that these kids are a little afraid, being in a new and sometimes unfamiliar environment, getting pricked and poked, and just not feeling well. I hold back on what I normally do.
  • One of the mistakes I made in visiting children’s hospitals is that I forgot that the kids are sick and tired and drugged. If they felt good enough to play, they’d probably be at home. As a volunteer, you have a good handle on what the kids are ready to handle. Quiet activities that last a while and break up the boredom may be much more appreciated than a quick and boisterous balloon twist.
  • I have gone into the hospital where my wife works and twisted balloons for the people working there, including a roomful of balloons for a head nurse’s birthday, but not in the rooms with the patients. If a patient comes to the desk and I am twisting, they can take one if they want, but no more room service. I have also done gigs in the VA hospital, and a couple others. However, again it was for the staff, with few balloons going to patients.
  • The funny thing is that several of the local care centers have no problems with the balloons. In fact I did a gig last night for a care center family party. I doubted there would be many kids, and I was right. However, I noticed an elderly lady that looked like she was down in the dumps. I twisted a bear with a heart for her, then proceeded to twist figures for most of the people in the center. It went great. The care center personnel apologized for not having as many kids as usual, but stated that I put smiles on many faces that normally didn’t smile. They were happy to pay my fee, and asked if I would come again. The smiles, and happiness I saw on their faces was worth every bit as much as the money they gladly paid me, so you know what my answer was.
  • I just did a gig at a hospital for a 5 year old with cancer. The parents asked me to do balloons and magic. I told them to ask the hospital because of the latex alergies they don’t allow balloons. I was given the ok to twist as long as I did so only in the child’s room. So exceptions are made. We did a bunch of magic and balloons. One of the most rewarding things I do is performing for sick kids and watching them laugh. The parents told me that she has not had fun like this in a long time. My point is just to ask the nurses on the floor; sometimes exceptions are made.

Restrictions at Hospitals: Latex Allergies, etc.

  • Why is it that the hospital doesn’t allow balloons? Latex allergies? Possible choking hazard? Loud, frightening pops? Clutter and mess? Over-stimulation of the children?
  • The Hasbro Children’s Hospital did a survey and found that most children’s hospitals DO NOT allow latex balloons in their hospitals. They do allow mylar.
  • The hospital where I work has a frustrating “no latex balloon” policy. They cite the latex allergy and choking risk. I have given them all the statistics showing that actually choking on a balloon is very rare (much less common than choking on various foods and coins especially) and the latex issue is ludicrous (at least in this hospital) because in each and every room is a box of latex gloves which nurses and other care-givers use routinely in patient care. This is a case of “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts”. In short what the hospital is doing is giving lip service to a public health issue and getting all the PR benefit (because they REALLY care) without actually having to make a real effort.
  • This may come as a surprise to some, but many pediatricians and nurses actually *like* children, and don’t take pleasure in refusing them balloons, the way they do in the movies (sorry, Pat-ch in the Hat!). There are some potential hazards in allowing balloons into children’s wards, and in these litigious days it’s not surprising that a hospital administration would prefer not to deal with the problems they might cause.So my advice would be to respect the wishes of the hospital and try to brighten the kids’ day with other activities instead of trying to “pull a fast one” by using surgical gloves. You could try simple origami, plastic ducks, sing-alongs, Mad Libs, Yahtzee, coloring books, tissue flowers, paper bag puppets, paper plate masks, tongue-depressor houses, lots of things that aren’t latex.

    Yes, they could get paper cuts or gag on a crayon or eat paste, but those items probably aren’t specifically restricted. With a little creativity, I think you can come up with dozens of activities that will make the kids happy without breaking the rules or interfering with the duties of the nurses and doctors.

  • I am a HealthCare Risk Manager. Hospitals have serious liability each day within their scope of practice, and they have to assume the liability in order just to go about business. But, to invite potential liablilty into the confines of the hospital is another animal altogether. Should a balloon pop and impair hearing, or should a child choke on a balloon, what part of their liability insurances would cover the damages? None. So, they cannot allow any particular danger into their quarters. It seems silly, until you weigh the financial risks against the benefits of having balloons in the hospital. It’s not that big of a loss not to have them. It IS a big loss, should an accident of any type occur. I hope that this helps those of you to understand that the hospitals are not trying to keep you from giving “good medicine” to their young patients. But, sometimes avoiding a small potential but avoidable risk is the best choice. (By the way, chances are, the doc’s themselves blow up latex gloves…)
  • As a health care provider, I can tell you that there are latex free gloves and a lot of medical equipment that had latex is being made with latex free material.
  • An allergic reaction to latex is a serious problem. One that an already sick person may not bounce back from. I wouldn’t expect anyone to take a dog or cat to visit a person who is allergic to animals.
  • I don’t know what the big deal seems to be. If you are going to the hospital to visit and improve someone’s day and your only means of doing that is twisting a few balloons, then maybe you need to reexamine your entertaining routine.
  • We received the following letter from Kaiser Medical. Has any one else gotten this letter sent to them?

    Valley Service Area

    6600 Bruceville Road
    Sacramento, California 95823-4691
    (916) 688-2000

    July 12, 1999

    2901 Rubicon Way
    Sacramento, CA 95821

    Dear Sir/ Madam:

    Kaiser Permanente enjoys a relationship with area florists which provides encouragement and happiness to our members that are hospitalized or work in our system. We want to continue this encouragement while providing a safe and healthful environment for all those who visit our facilities. This letter is to inform you that Kaiser Permanente has implemented a new program to reduce the potential for latex allergic reactions in patients, visitors, volunteers and employees who frequent our facilities in the Sacramento Valley. The elimination of latex containing products from the items that you deliver to our facilities will assist us in controlling latex sensitivity reactions and increase safety for all those who visit Kaiser Permanente facilities.

    Individuals who are sensitive to latex may have a reaction when exposed through touching latex, coming in contact with airborne latex or inhaling latex particles. The reaction may range from minor to life threatening. The key to preventing the reaction in sensitive persons is to eliminate or reduce as much as practical the potential for contact with latex. In order to do this, we are asking that you eliminate all latex containing products from deliveries to our facilities. Latex balloons are of particular concern but other items which contain elastic are suspect for containing latex and should be eliminated unless it can be clearly demonstrated that they do not contain latex.

    We will be informing each deliverer of our new policy by providing an information sheet which describes the policy and how it will be implemented. Effective immediately, we will refuse acceptance of products and articles such as latex balloons and other items suspected of containing latex. Your cooperation in informing your customers of this new restriction as they order items for delivery to Kaiser Permanente will prevent the likelihood of any misunderstanding from occurring upon delivery.

    If you have any questions, please contact Kaiser Permanente, Environmental Health and Safety Office at (916) 688-6912.

    Steven P. Gerigk
    Environmental Health Safety Manager

  • You should feel lucky about not getting that letter sooner. My brother has been twisting in Salt Lake City for about 6 years, and me, about 1 year. He used to twist in hospital in the area quite regularly. I went with him one time for a Christmas charity gig. He would go to the different rooms, perform a little magic, then twist a balloon character for everybody in the room. This would cheer them up, and he always left with a smile. With the local magic club he would go to the Shriners hospital, and the Childrens Hospital to do magic, and balloons for the kids. About two years ago he started being told they could no longer have balloons in the hospitals due to latex allergies. They were welcome to continue with the magic, but no balloons.
  • All I can say about latex allergies and hospitals is, “Problems in hospitals are getting more and more common. We’ll just have to live with it. However, there are a few hospitals that will let you in, as long as you go by their rules.”
  • The gloves they use in the hospital now are not latex. My wife says she hates them, but they did it because of the latex allergies. In her 27 years as a nurse she has never had a patient with a latex allergy, but apparently there are some out there. I still wish we could get back into the two hospitals we used to do volunteer work in. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to get on with the things we can still do.
  • I have done balloons for young patients who are having a bad day and have been requested not to because of the risk. I can understand this but I have seen many I mean many children walk out of the E.R. with a rubber glove blown up and a smiley face on it.
  • I guess my point is if they can pass out rubber gloves that are blown up what’s the difference of having a balloon instead. You might want to look at it from that angle and maybe you could get a gig doing balloons in hospitals again. Also, you might want to think of flowers. There are some units that will not allow real flowers because of the pollen, but balloon flowers might be a good sell?
  • We know of a hospital that allows NO balloons, no Latex, no Foil, no helium filled , no air filled! They feel that they big balloon bouqets get in the way of the nurses while they are caring for the patients. They also feel that sometime they are put in front of monitors and the cannot read them. They feel that they collect dust. I am not defending there policy so don’t flame me. I don’t like it but I can understand their point of view.
  • Refer to the Latex Allergies section of the guide for information about Latex Allergies.

Volunteering at Nursing Homes

  • If you’re interested in going out and doing balloons, don’t overlook the nursing homes. They allow much more flexibility and need balloons like the kids. I find twisting with the elderly to be much more rewarding, because they have very few visitors. Plus if you visit often you can get to know the people more.If you’re working with the elderly make sure you have a small bottle of rose scent to spray on the balloons. The ladies simply love it. I used working with the elderly as a door to get into the hospitals. Once they get to know you the doors will open up. I am able to go about any where I want and do balloons. I get to go Ped. ICU. This is the hardest place to twist in the world, because of the very sick kids.
  • I think it’s wonderful that some donate their time to nursing homes. That’s very nice of them to offer free entertainment. But are they taking away business from someone who has to make a living at it? I used to work at a lot of nursing homes in RI (for a reduced fee). Now they won’t pay for entertainment ’cause they say that a lot of people donate their performances for free. They’re not as good as the professionals but they ARE FREE. Keep in mind that a nursing home is a BUSINESS that takes in money. Can anyone think of a place that is worth donating to because they truly have NO MONEY? Just wondering. An Example: The Arruda Family has a little girl who needs an expensive bone marrow operation and puts on a fund raising show to help pay the medical costs. The family is not making any money off the show but rather NEEDS the money for a worthy cause. I would definitely donate the show.
  • I have been recently asked to do a charity gig for a nursing home in the neighborhood. Anyone have any ideas on what i should make and do?What should you make? Money. What should you do? Ask the nursing home staff why they need charity. For them to charge old, sick people thousands of dollars a month to get ignored by nurses and eat bland cafeteria food, and then have the audacity to ask you to come in for free burns my butt. Do the food service people “donate” charity food to the residents? How about the doctors? Do they treat the patients for free? Do the nurses change the bedpans out of the goodness of their hearts?

    Sorry, but I’m in several nursing homes every season (always paid), and I see the conditions. Yes, some are better than others, but I wouldn’t let any relative of mine stay in even the one here that is considered the “best” in the two state region. So when I get calls from nursing homes that I haven’t been at before, telling me that “they don’t have a budget for entertainment”, I respectfully tell them I am in business for the same reason that they are. What gives them the right to ask me to give charity to their residents when they are charging them an outrageous amount of money?

    When you agree to do a charity job like that, keep in mind that you may be taking work away from a professional who depends on such work to feed their family.

  • If you’re volunteering your time to entertain for free in places that have the funds available to pay for their entertainment, then in my opinion, you are taking jobs away from other professionals. You’re right to help the less fortunate who can’t afford it, but the key phrase here is, “who can’t afford it.” I’ve done lots of nursing homes. I’ve been ministering and entertaining in nursing homes since I was five yrs. old. One summer alone, I performed in over 40 of them. There is a great need there. There is also great amount of money there. The next time a nursing home asks you to perform for free, because they “can’t afford to pay you,” ask to see their books.There is need for caring and sharing. There is need for love and attention. If you want to show them you care, go to a nursing home sometime and sit down and talk to the residents. Hold their hands, hug them, listen to them. But there is no need for free entertainment. These places charge an “arm and a leg” for each person there. There is NO need to be begging for entertainers to donate their time. If an entertainer wishes to do charity work, there are many other places he/she can go, places that don’t have lots of money available. If an entertainer is just looking for a “practice audience,” there are others also available.

    If you believe it every time an organization says “it’s not in our budget,” you are very gullible. (If it truly is NOT in the budget of a particular nursing home, something is very wrong there.) Entertainment should be a major factor at these places, and in the good ones, it is. It’s true, we need to “give back.” I’ve written articles on this very subject. I do a ton of charity work every year, but at places that really need it. If you, or anyone else, do freebies at nursing homes, odds are you’re taking away work from a professional. And that isn’t very nice.

  • I’m all for volunteerism. I volunteer at charites myself, in ways that won’t take someone else’s liveliehood away from them. I’ve visited nursing homes and spent time with residents before, as a volunteer – but not as a clown! Just my li’l ole self, listening to an old lady tell stories from her childhood, helping an old man arrange his closet space, helping another little old grandma pin cards from her grandkids on her wall… You don’t need to be a clown or a twister to spend time with people. And from my experience, people appreciate a little one on one attention more than they like being wheeled into the cafeteria and being forced to watch a volunteer- quality clown do his little kiddie tricks that are only interesting to anyone under the age of four.
  • The residents are PAYING for the services they are (supposed to be) receiving. Special events and entertainment fall under the heading of “services” to be provided to the residents, just as NURSING CARE is ALSO a service. (How dare those stingy nurses accept salary for working their shifts!)
  • Yes the homes have lots of money but who are you doing the shows for the staff and management or the people who have too live in these homes? All of you have said the same thing: the people are not getting the care and service they deserve. So why not make their day a little better with a good show? I do not charge nursing home to do shows for the residents but if I get a call for a staff banquet they pay.
  • Refer to the Crowd Control section of the guide for information about Visiting Nursing Homes and Retirement Communities.

SMB 3/26/00