The arts are about sharing stories and enriching the connection between your fellow humans. You can’t represent the world if you don’t know what’s going on in it. Giving back is another way to get a quick glimpse into those communities of which you are on the outside. (And this list is all free ways to give back, no credit card required)
As an artist, it’s easy to feel like you’re constantly asking …for feedback, support, favors… but, at a core level, the arts are about giving and sharing stories and enriching the connection between your fellow humans, your audience. Your art will be more intimate, more thought-provoking, more saturated, and more thoughtful if you are in tune with what you’re feeling and with what others around you are going through. And that understanding will go both ways. Truly try to help and give yourself to others, and people will become attached to you at a deeper level and become a fan for life.
#1 Paying It Forward
First on the list, and probably the easiest to integrate into your daily life, is the random act of kindness. This is where being a good person comes into play. This doesn’t have to be a structured thing, it is simply an awareness as you’re moving through your life to notice others around you who may need a boost and to take a moment out of your day to help them. These are the little things that don’t mean much to you but can mean the world to someone else. It can be easy to overlook these little things so just opening your awareness is half the battle, then the willingness to say yes is the other half.
We often think of donations as anonymously sending money in a little white envelope and that’s the end of the story but donations mean so much more than that. Donations are about take a piece of something that you have and filling a need for someone who doesn’t have that. It’s not always money, and I’ve got some examples for you.
- Donating your like-new clothes to The Salvation Army or Goodwill
- Make meals for the homeless (rather than buying the meals at a deli)
- Donating books to your local library
- Recycling to raise money to donate to your favorite cause – Saving the environment AND giving back. Double whammy!
#3 Community Outreach
From the outside, it seems daunting to me to approach new communities sometimes. I’m the outsider and don’t have a place inside those walls. But a strong community is always looking to invite new people in.
Example: When I was in college, I went to a homeless shelter and took my guitar. We played on the New York City street outside of the shelter and you’d be surprised how many of the residents came out to hear the music, went back inside, and came back out with their own instrument. Within an hour we had a full jam session going on with people jumping in, singing, dancing, a little community was formed right there on that New York street corner.
In hindsight, it would have been great to have put out a tip jar and asked some of the gathering crowd to support the residents. I didn’t think to do that then but, it was still a greatmorning. I didn’t spend any money, I got to play with some other musicians for about two hours, and hopefully i gave back a little to a few people who hadn’t had that outlet in a while.
In a similar vein, but sometimes without the one on one interaction, local charities are always in need of the most valuable resource you can offer — your time. Volunteering is a perfect way to give back in your free time without affecting your budget. Getting hands-on at the local animal shelter or packing canned goods for families at the holidays or helping build a house for a family who just lost theirs… There are so many ways to turn a lazy afternoon into a productive chunk of time that will improve the lives of others around you.
Here are some great organizations that always have events that rely on support from volunteers:
- Special Olympics
- Local Church functions
- Local Vet offices and animal shelters
- Local YMCA
- Wildlife refuges
- Habitat for Humanity or other services Building houses for those in need
- Second Harvest Food Bank or another food bank compiling food for families
- Vitas Hospice Care
#5 Speaking on Behalf Of Others
A way you can give back every day is by thinking outside of yourself and supporting those who don’t have a voice in the conversation. I choose to represent animals and the environment because they are important to me and they don’t have a voice of their own. Don’t be a jerk. If you’re going to share a viewpoint, do so in order to help enrich the conversation. Social media makes it super easy to share stories, articles, pictures, and links for donation websites with your network of family and friends. But scare tactics, improper photos, and all of those posts that we see (you know what they are) aren’t going to get your point across as well as enriching the conversation and providing a link or more information as to how someone who may be interested can help.
- Anything you’re passionate about, really. The last thing people want to hear is you repeating what someone else has said verbatim. But add your own thoughts to it, talking about what you think is right and wrong, is fascinating to so many people. Even if they disagree with you, they will still engage and, if the conversation happens respectfully, you’ll each walk away with a little more perspective and, if all goes well, understanding.
If you’re a planner, it would be nearly second nature for you to put together a fundraiser with a group of your friends. If you’re just wanting to help, there are so many fundraising efforts going on that you can take part in that combine volunteering and charity while also being a fun group activity.
- Walkathons such as Relay For Life
- Food drives at work – I mentioned my wife volunteers often with Second Harvest Food Bank and it’s always a large group of people from her work who go together.
- A DIY fundraiser – Maybe a private concert or giving an album away for free, in exchange for a donation to a charity of your choice. Your audience would love the opportunity to know they’re getting something custom from you while helping a cause they believe in.
#7. Giving Back To Yourself
I say it many times that the life of an artist is a lot of demand, soulsearching, and hard work with no guarantee of reward or recognition for what you do. We constantly create and hope that something will come our way as a result.
But here’s a trick that I learned from a great actor friend. He says any time he finishes an audition, he’ll reward himself after. It’s his little treat to himself to let him know that he did it. Beause the payoff is not booking the gig. That’s the icing on the cake. There are so many variables that go beyond how prepared you were that you’ll never be able to control them all. So if you sit by the phone after each audition waiting for a reward, you will quickly lose all self confidence or go crazy.
So he rewards himself after each audition. Depending on the scope of the job, he may treat himself to dinner, buy that new shirt, or go away for a 3-day weekend. That way, if he doesn’t book it he was still acknowledged for the amount of time that he had put into it and can walk away with his head held high.
Join a community of songwriters helping each other reach their goals.
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