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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Playing for the Cause Connects Bands and Their Fans with Charitable Causes

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 4:48 AM

Mike Tomko and Lynn Cook, music and charity professionals, respectively. - TOM CARLSON
  • Tom Carlson
  • Mike Tomko and Lynn Cook, music and charity professionals, respectively.

"I've been in fundraising a long time, and when you have people happy and in front of you, they're more likely to give you money," says Lynn Cook, founder and executive director of Playing for the Cause, a newly christened 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in St. Louis. PFTC, which was awarded a $25,000 grant from Washington University through the school's Youthbridge Community Foundation in May, works as a middleman between bands looking to make charitable gifts and the many nonprofits in cities around the country.

The seeds for the project were sown in June 2013, when Cook saw a video released by one of her favorite groups, the Avett Brothers. The YouTube clip "A Day With Bob and Hallie Crawford" shows bassist Bob Crawford with his daughter Hallie as she undergoes cancer treatment and recovery, urging viewers to donate to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Cook was inspired by what she saw, but not in the way the clip intended.

"It was everything that a fundraising video shouldn't be," she explains bluntly. "It was kind of long and sad, and you didn't understand that there were actually some happy things happening in the video. It was just put out there, and they hoped people texted to give $10 in the end."

From here, Cook's project started to take shape, beginning with focus groups and market research, through which she found that people were much more likely to give if the money remained local. And although fundraising through music is nothing new, Cook believes that combining the two in an official capacity will benefit every group involved: the bands, their fans and the charities they support.

PFTC provides gift management for musicians who tour on a national level. A traveling band picks from six broad "causes" at the beginning of a tour -- Animals & Environment, Arts/Culture & Humanities, Community Improvement & Involvement, Education & Research, Health, and Human Services -- and Cook connects the artists to organizations in each city that support that specific category. Funds aren't whisked away to some larger national organization that might only cater to one group; PFTC ensures the money will stay inside the city where it's raised and directly benefit the cause chosen by the band.

"We provide the platform for a band who wants to be philanthropic," says board president Mike Tomko. "We not only connect them with organizations, but we do all the things in between, like printed materials, a text-donation platform, Web donations and things like that. They can very simply ask for money for their cause."

Continue to page two for more.

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