Cynthia George, left, stands with artists Steve Hinton and Mitch Mercer, who will be participating in the art project benefiting Strive2Thrive during the Georgia Throwdown scheduled Oct. 12-14 at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds.
ALBANY, Ga. -- All the promoters, the accountants, the marketing strategists told Sam Shugart he couldn't tie philanthropy in with a profit-making venture, that the two simply did not mix.
Of course, telling Shugart he can't do something is like waving a red cape in the face of a charging bull.
So Shugart called on old friend Cynthia George, whose passion for nonprofits in Southwest Georgia is matched only by a rare few, and asked her to head up efforts to bring not-for-profit groups and agencies on board for the Southwest Georgia Music and Arts Festival's Georgia Throwdown at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds Oct. 12-14.
The idea: Provide opportunities for local nonprofits to be a part of the fun at the Throwdown while spreading the word about their mission. Those opportunities would come at no cost, and any money raised would stay with the agency.
There was, however, a catch.
"We didn't want people walking around handing out literature," Shugart said. "We wanted them to be part of the fun. So Cynthia and I have been helping the different nonprofits come up with ways to add to the entertainment."
If the 20 or so not-for-profits that have already gotten on board for the festival are any indication, they've certainly gotten into the spirit.
n The Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition is planning a "car bash" that will allow participants to take out their frustrations on supplied vehicles.
n The Young Marines will sponsor a golf ball drop that will earn a lucky participant a tidy sum of cash.
n Strive2Thrive plans to set up coin-operated pool tables to provide recreation for those taking a break from the music and will team with another agency to sponsor paintings of festival scenes by local artists whose works will be signed by musicians and auctioned.
Other nonprofits will sponsor a peanut shack, raffle a playhouse, hold a basketball shoot-out and give away prizes for playing "hotel key bingo."
"Obviously, all not-for-profits are struggling right now," George said. "Fundraising is difficult enough, but now I think people are wanting to see value for their donations. So in lining up agencies to participate in the Georgia Throwdown, I've approached it from the angle of let's be part of the entertainment.
"People are going to be at the (Exchange Club) Fairgrounds for three or four days, and they are going to want to get up from their chairs now and then and do something. We're encouraging the not-for-profits to come up with fun things to do that will allow them to make some money but will also increase awareness about their mission."
Shugart said involving nonprofits in the Throwdown was always part of his plan.
"I planned on giving a large portion of the money from the festival to nonprofits (the Georgia Music Hall of Fame is the primary benefactor) anyway, so why not let them come out and be a part of the fun?" the event's primary coordinator said. "People telling me the two couldn't mix just made me want to do it more.
"Our marketing strategy for this event is 'Dynamic Synergy,' and our motto is 'Why not?' What better way to illustrate both than by doing something that hasn't been done, something that so many people said couldn't be done?"
George said representatives of a number of nonprofits have "assumed" they will be part of the festival, but they have not yet contacted her to secure their spot for the weekend.
"I'd encourage representatives of any not-for-profit that plans to take part in the festival to get in touch with me (229-886-8147)," she said. "We have lots of room for everyone, but it's not unlimited room. There is only 'X' amount of space that we've set aside."
Asked if she's surprised at Shugart's plan to include nonprofits in the Georgia Throwdown, George said she's not.
"If it had been anyone else doing this, maybe I would be," she said. "But Sam has a special place in his heart for organizations and people who do things for the community. We've worked together to support not-for-profits for a long time, and I know this is where Sam's heart is.
"I knew with him in charge, doing this would be a lot of hard work. But I also knew it would be a lot of fun. That's the best combination in the world."