As we saw in the previous articles, there are (sadly) many different argumentations that potential clients use to try convincing you to perform for free at their events.
In none of those scenarios, it's worth to accept to perform for free, really.
There is one exception, though.
Charity is a really complicated word; it's like jazz: sometimes it's easier to define what’s not jazz than to describe what jazz is!
Charity is the same: what do we mean when we say that it's for charity?
Continuing the jazz metaphor, let me quote Bill Evans: "Jazz is not a what, it is a how".
How are they going to organise the charity event?
Do they mean that every single person working at this charity event is working for free?
Is every single supplier donating their products and services to the cause?
Are they going to allocate 100% of the profits to charity, or are they going to donate a lower percentage, keeping the rest to "cover their expenses"?
Which charity association are we talking about? Is it a trusted one? Do you know anyone that you trust, inside that association?
Would they be willing to disclose the incomes of the event, and specify how they are going to allocate them?
You can try to collect some of these details from the internet, or you can start asking them few of these questions and see how they react: you might be able to tell straight away if their request is genuine, due to a sincere need to maximise the profits for the cause, or if they are just trying to save some cash because you're a performer and “you don’t really need to be paid” (they won’t say it, but they might think it!).
So, after you properly checked that it is a serious, meaningful charity event, you can decide whether you want to donate your performance or not.
There are performers who accept to perform for charity, and others who don’t do it: there’s no right or wrong.
Since it's charity, everyone can choose if they want to do it, and how they want to do it.
Other industries call these decisions "pro bono": it's something that you voluntarily do for the public good, with no remuneration.
As any other professional, though, you should know that pro bono is just a thin slice of the cake: it's just a minor part of your business (if you don't consider your performing job a no-profit organisation!).
Finally, when we deal with charity, we should be driven by the right goals: we shouldn't perform at a charity event for "exposure", for "networking", for "selling our merchandise" etc.
If you choose to donate your performance, do it because you believe in the cause and you want to make the difference, otherwise, don't do it.
In my opinion, it's better to be professionals who just get paid and don’t do charity, without pretending to be saving the world, than attending charity events for the sake of exposure, without even knowing what's the purpose of the event!
In conclusion, don’t stress about charity, don’t transform yourself into the Hulk: just smile and choose what you prefer!