Concert for a Cause: Band Together

Band Together Whole Group-2

by Samantha Thompson Hatem

It all started in 2001 when Raleigh
entrepreneur Danny Rosin and four enterprising young friends – Phil Gruber, Shellie Gruber, Tom Lyon, and Skip Mangum – were feeling helpless in the aftermath of 9/11 and wanted to do something to help.

Someone threw out the idea of putting on a wine tasting to raise money. Not big enough, Rosin thought. Instead of 25 people, why not 2,500 people? Why not take their group’s collective energy, connections and experience – they were all entrepreneurs of one kind or another – combine it with their shared love of music, and put on a benefit concert that could make a real impact?

Six short weeks later, that big dream became Band Together. BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina was a $5,000 sponsor, and 1,200 fans came out to hear four bands. The event raised nearly $60,000 for a 9/11 survivor’s fund.

“It was a moment in time that was special,” Rosin, now 45, says today. “Here you had these young entrepreneurial people with access to marketing and funds. We knew we had something special.”  They’d hit on a fundraising model that worked well, too: Book good bands, attract big crowds, pay the musicians fairly, and give the concert proceeds to a worthy local nonprofit.

More than a decade later, using that same basic model, Band Together has mushroomed into a fundraiser like none other in the area. Nonprofits clamor to be the beneficiary, which means they work alongside Band Together as a partner to make it all happen, raise matching funds, and reap the proceeds. Volunteers line up to get involved, and sponsors actually ask to donate. As a result, Band Together has raised and contributed $2.1 million to local community agencies like StepUp Ministry, Urban Ministries, SAFEchild and Special Olympics. This year, with Lyle Lovett taking the stage at the main event at Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre on May 4 – along with Chatham County Line, Delta Rae, and Mac & Juice – Band Together hopes to raise $850,000 for Raleigh’s Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities.

Each year, the event gets bigger and raises more money. Bands have included The Connells, Dillon Fence, Cracker, and Third Eye Blind. Last year’s headliner, ’80s pop favorite The B-52s, raised $566,000 to fund Urban Ministry’s Open Door Clinic, which provides doctors, prescriptions and lab work for those who are uninsured.

Always stretching

Those who have worked alongside him say Rosin’s energy, passion, and ability to dream big have kept Band Together alive and relevant. “Danny is probably one of the most visionary people I’ve ever met,” says Sarah Crawford, Tammy Lynn Center’s development director. “He is always encouraging all of us to stretch to our limitations. To stretch our board, our organization, our fundraising. He’s constantly sending us emails about how we can be better.”

Band Together is so much a part of who Rosin is that one side of his business card is for his business – the local promotional products agency Brand Fuel that he co-founded in 1998 – and the other is for Band Together.

“Danny is constantly raising the bar and pushing for more,” says Lindsay Beth Gunter, a veteran Band Together volunteer. “He’s always looking for new ways to engage volunteers and members of the community, not just at the headline concert, but at events throughout the year.”

Last year, Band Together matured from the street party concert scene in downtown Raleigh it had been for years into a more polished event at Koka Booth. There was an artist village, a VIP section with a silent auction, and a chance for concert goers to “text to give.” Also new: executive director Matt “Moose” Strickland, Band Together’s first paid staff member.

With Strickland handling more of the day-to-day issues, Rosin can focus on sustaining and growing Band Together, fueled by more of his big dreams, like the possibility of a Band Together festival, or a family-friendly multi-day event, or securing national sponsors to bring in even bigger bands.

The backbone of Band Together, however, hasn’t changed: its army of volunteers. There are 500 who do everything from selecting the music to cleaning up the facilities. They’re varied in ages and careers, but all share a love of music, a passion for helping local charities, or both.

“I really think we’re able to unite different generations of volunteers with music,” Strickland said. “At its core, Band Together is a celebration of music and doing good in the community.”

Band Together is also where nonprofits can find much-needed dollars to chase their own dreams. StepUp Ministry used the money raised from its partnership in the 2010 concert to help it grow into the Greensboro community. “We were a catalyst to get them on their way,” Rosin says.  It’s no wonder this year more than 30 nonprofits applied to be the beneficiary of the 2014 concert, despite the thorough and rigorous application process.

“Over the last three years, we have taken the road less traveled by making harder decisions with partnerships,” Rosin said. “We ask them, ‘How are you going to approach this partnership?’ ”

Tammy Lynn Center plans to put in an oxygen system in a residence hall, something not covered by Medicaid; fund a bilingual intervention counselor; and provide more technology to help kids meet developmental goals in school.

“We want to use this as a catalyst to push us into the future,” Crawford said. “It gives us the funds to do something that the Tammy Lynn Center could never dream of doing on our own.”