Thank you, I love you. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my black little heart.
To give is Divine — seriously. Whether you have a black heart, red heart or pink heart, the legendary “Drag Queen of the Century” Divine knew it best. Charity has always been part of being a drag queen.
Today among the RuPaul DragCons, YouTube makeup artists, Live Facebook Jewelry Auctions and all the drag queen social media influencers, it is easy sometimes to forget the history of drag. Drag queens have always been about giving back and making a real difference. It’s not just about glam or putting on makeup.
I started giving back to charities with the first drag show I ever did back in 2008 at the Charlotte Eagle. I learned quickly that giving back was a powerful way to show the positive influence of drag queens on their local community. I have come a long way since then, but fundraising for charities has always been something I try to do regularly. Here are some of my lessons learned so you can also raise money for your favorite charities.
1. Putting the “FUN” in Fundraising. You’ve got to give them fun! People like to have fun and raise money, so drag shows are perfect. Choose a fun idea and run with it. Don’t be a copycat. Always try to do something different and unexpected with your fundraising.
2. Think about your AUDIENCE. If you are raising money for a children’s youth charity, think about the audience who might give and how to do an event that maximizes their giving. The audience for your drag show and who you are trying to attract are an important part of planning your fundraiser. Don’t just rely on the gays. Diversify and target your audience based on your charity.
3. It’s all about the Location and Time. Having a fundraiser at midnight at a local gay club is not always the best option, especially if it is on a weekday. Now, that’s not a read, but you have to think about where and when people show up. You can raise more money if you consider the location and time of the event.
4. Donating your Services. Always consider whether you will be donating your time or if you are paying yourself at the charity event. If you are getting paid to perform, then you should not ask others to work for free in the show. If you are not donating your tips, then you should not ask others to donate tips. Be transparent with expectations in regards to what you are donating and how the budgeting will work for paying performers (including yourself) on the front end. If there is a show budget, is that being donated to the charity?
5. Part of Proceeds or 100 percent benefiting Charity. On your promotions, you should be clear how the charity is getting contributions. For instance, you can say “Part of every ticket sale will go to the charity.” You can even say the exact dollar. Or you can say, “All door proceeds benefit the charity name.” Don’t leave it to be a mystery. You also should mention how money is being raised at the event itself, too. And if people ask, be prepared to explain it further.
6. Does the Charity know? When you raise money for a charity and they don’t know you are doing so, that’s when the shade meter comes out. You should always inform the charity that you are having an event and using their name to raise money for them. Then they can ask questions, and you can share how you are raising the money — from the door, from doing a song, etc. Some charities may not want you doing so. It is wrong to raise money at a public event if you have not at least had a conversation with the charity.
7. Paper trails are necessary. Documentation of your fundraising is always important. If you raise $369, then tell the audience that night or post on Facebook the amount and what you raised, so there is a public record. Then get a cashier check or write a check with the amount to the charity. Take a photo or print a copy to keep in your records. Likely the charity will send you a “thank you” note, so be sure to keep that in your records too. There are a lot of shady ladies out there, so keep your fundraising legit, and be as open about it as possible. Your work can also inspire others.
8. Reach out to your diverse community. I believe drag can change the world, and it already has. The best way to share drag is through fundraising for charities. Diversify who you raise money for. There is nothing wrong with doing several charities and sending a message of inclusion beyond specific LGBTQ non-profits, too.
Well they say “it is always better to give than receive.” I guess that is true for fundraising, at least. Hopefully, these tips can help you get started fundraising as a drag queen or continue with your drag queen charity work. Feel free to share in the comments other advice for fundraising. I truly believe that giving back to our community is not just good for drag queens, but it is our duty as drag queens.
DRAG TIP: Have a lot of dollar bills ready at your drag charity events, and be sure to see if you can get volunteers to help go around and break bills for your audience.
SHOUT OUTS: Check out Buff Faye’s Queen City Real Housewives Drag Brunch and Buff Faye’s Toy Story Drag Diner coming up. Go to AllBuff.com to get your tickets now.
Buff Faye calls the Queen City her home and wants to own a pet goat named “Elsa” one day (plus she loves to raise money for charities). Find her at your favorite bars and hot spots. And don’t forget her monthly Sunday drag brunch. Learn more at AllBuff.com. Follow on Twitter @BuffFaye.