Jun 22, 2023

Month of Giving 2023: The Chapter Head Roundtable

What an incredible campaign this fourth annual Month of Giving has been. And thanks to the third annual Local Chapter Fundraising Competition, quite possibly the liveliest. Things get especially exciting around this friendly competition, as fans/friends/family suddenly find themselves in a race to win the Grand Prize, and good-natured rivalries are resurrected. MASSter of Puppets took the top spot for the second year running, beating out 36 other chapters worldwide. Not to turn sappy on you, but in this writer’s mind, EVERY chapter that competed is a winner. Each chapter, each member, and each dollar combined to raise a stunning $58,768.21. Add to that the matching dollars from our partners at Carhartt and a generous friend of the Foundation, and the total from this year's competition alone exceeded $176,000!

What was this effort for? To support an organization that shares in All Within My Hands’ mission to combat hunger: The Farmlink Project. While Farmlink’s end goal may be a familiar story, it’s their process that made them stand out to AWMH. They connect farmers to food banks, delivering millions of pounds of farm fresh produce that would otherwise be wasted to feed families in need.

But let’s go back to the fundraising. What does it take to raise these sums of money? How does it even happen? Does being involved with our fledgling foundation do more than provide fans with an outlet to give? Does it also help educate about some of the world’s inequities? My mind started to spin with questions, so I enlisted the help of the Queen of AWMH, Renée Richardson. She then recruited chapter heads from some of the competition’s top performers: Don Hammond (MASSter of Puppets), April Mancuso (Harvesters of Utah), Ted Doran (Virginia Fuel), and Michal Labocha (Overkill.pl). They graciously agreed to convene around a circular Zoom table to answer a few of these questions and a few more. And I’m sure you’ll agree when done reading what a righteous group of people Don, April, Ted, and Mike are…

Steffan Chirazi: What has inspired you and your chapters to rally around All Within My Hands? Ladies first…

April Mancuso: As a fan of Metallica, I’m here to support anything they support. What they’ve given me throughout my lifetime in terms of music and what it’s done to get me through good times and bad, it’s kind of like a small way that I could give back to the band. But also, service, in general, has always been a part of my life. [AWMH] is something on a little bit bigger scale where I can continue to help others. I just firmly believe we’re all kinda here on this planet to help each other, and anyway I can find a means to do that, I tend to jump on it and do the best I can.

Ted Doran: I kinda got thrown into being the chapter head. I found out we weren’t going to be a chapter anymore, and I was like, “What’s happening here?” So I jumped in and got in touch with April, and we started doing this All Within My Hands thing. We didn’t participate the first year but got into it last year and this year. One of the big things for me is how the world views the metal community; people don’t get it. I like the idea of them seeing us do some real good in the world and do something bigger than ourselves and bigger than Metallica even. I mean, of course, having the band behind this whole thing is a great perk, and it’s what piqued my interest. But I really like what it’s doing for the image of the metal community, fans, and the bands themselves.

Don Hammond: I did a local fundraiser here in New England that Tom Brady from the Patriots was heavily involved with. My wife and I got involved, and it was eye-opening. It seemed like the celebrity aspect brought a lot of attention, and it was a great program. It was around that time when All Within My Hands was launched. To have a foundation that’s involved with the metal community is outside the box, but a lot of us could relate. During our first Day of Service [AWMH’s primary service-based initiative during 2018 and 2019], I met people at the food bank that are now some of my best friends.

Michal Labocha: I don’t want to use big words, but I think that Poles, in general, as a nation, have this ability to help; we have this coded in our DNA. We know what it’s like to get help in hard times. We are in a Metallica community, and we have a lot of friends across the world because it’s – how to say in English – tribal? You want to help. It’s part of being human. It doesn’t matter who, when, where, or how.

SC: Before All Within My Hands came about, were you already being charitable, either in a fiscal sense or with your time? Mike, I know you’ve worked with animal shelters, which is fantastic. I just wondered for the rest of you.

AM: I’ve always been involved in some sort of service, but especially with our chapter. We’ve always done a Day of Service. We have a blood drive called All Within My Veins that I think we’re in year three of. I’ve also donated time at animal shelters. I’ve been sober for almost three years, so I work with women at least twice a week who are also trying to stay sober. It’s a huge, huge part of my life. The whole Month of Giving is probably the most stressful month of the year [laughs], but it was so worth it. So worth it.

TD: I didn’t do a whole lot before this. I donated here and there when I felt the cause was something I was interested in. I had contributed a little bit to the Claddagh Fund that the Dropkick Murphys were doing but never really got that involved. I also work with the Fairfax County Police Department; I help out with their events and stuff – I get paid to do that, so kinda like you, Renée. But All Within My Hands struck a chord with me, and I like the things that the foundation supports. The actual organizations that you’ve selected to put the money towards seem to really appreciate it. The fact that AWMH takes the money and actually does something with it is a big part of it for me. A lot of these charities, you don’t know where your money is going. I feel like we are helping in this case.

DH: We’ve had a family business for years, and being in business, you always get approached by different organizations and outlets asking for help. So, we had various organizations that we would try to help out. We are big supporters of animal shelters; donations would always go that way. Same with local youth sports: Little League teams, football and hockey sponsorships, and stuff like that. Putting money into the community was something that my dad was always on board with – supporting the people that supported us as a local business. That’s continued for me now as I’ve started my own business. But it has expanded beyond that. My dad is a two-time kidney transplant recipient, so we support kidney foundations. Along with the transplants, there were a lot of medications involved and a lot of issues with mental health dealing with the side effects of all that. So in the past two decades, we’ve tried to support all kinds of different outlets related to local community issues, family issues, fire victims, and stuff like that. I always want to help! I was never a wealthy person and never will be a wealthy person, but time can be as important as money. So, whatever I could do, that’s what we’re here for.

SC: Have you each learned something about an area of charity or need you did not know before?

TD: Learning about the amount of food that goes to waste kind of blew me away, and that it’s an environmental issue as well. I didn’t have any clue it was that bad. I knew it wasn’t good, but everything seems worse or bigger than I thought. It’s something we can change. We can’t cure it, but we can make a difference.

ML: Yeah, I’m totally with that. This is for sure what we have in common. It doesn’t matter which place in the world you choose; there’s a huge amount of food wasted generally, in grocery stores and huge malls too. And all those stupid regulations that they cannot pass this food to all who need it because of...

TD: Politics!

AM: We do a couple of hours of service at the Utah Food Bank, and I remember them telling me the numbers: in Utah, one in 11 individuals is at risk of missing a meal. One out of nine Utah kids is unsure where their next meal is coming from. The Utah Food Bank distributed 67.3 million pounds of food last year. I knew the numbers were big, but I never knew that it was that – I don’t even want to use the word common – but it’s more common than I thought it was, you know? It’s so easy to take having three meals a day plus snacks for granted.

SC: Indeed, and we could really get going on some long conversation here, but let’s move on to this competition, shall we? Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the competitiveness of this! How important are the prizes? Come on. Is it about the prize? Is it about winning? Which is more important?

AM: I know we’re not gonna win with Don in the picture. I mean, we try our fricking best. It’s 24/7, nonstop. I was up till midnight on the 31st getting all those last donations. I’m like, “We gotta at least get second! Let’s beat Virginia,” you know?

My chapter has a group chat, and we talk on a daily basis. There are a couple dozen of us; honestly, they’re my family. So we were in our chat that night, and I was doing the numbers. I’m like, “Okay, this is how much we need to beat Virginia.” One chapter member was saving [her donation] till the very end. She doesn’t even live in Utah; she lives in Southern California and donated a thousand dollars. And then another member’s donation was around $1200. From there, it was like, “Okay, we need this much and that much,” and it just went on all night long.

DH: You talked about the prizes. I don’t have any prizes. I gave them all away. Fiona Remillard is instrumental in helping me. That’s one thing I would definitely pass on to the other chapters. Obviously, we all know that you can’t do it by yourself. And I feel like in conversations I’ve had with all of you, we all have a right-hand-somebody on board. It’s not hard to get people to be enthusiastic, but it becomes a situation of “less talk, more doing.” You have to find those people in your chapter. We have a bunch of other members that may not be able to bring as much to the table, but they get on board.

AM: One thing I’m learning about all this is that it’s definitely about relationships and communities, just going to local small businesses throughout the Salt Lake and Ogden area. The VaporLoc, an e-cigarette store in Layton I go to, has donated $500, and now they’re Metallica fans! And just the families I have in my Utah chapter, we fight for each other, and it’s been cool to get everyone excited. And like Don said, the prizes don’t go to me. They go to the chapter members.

DH: I think demographics also play a part. Being aware of what you can take advantage of in your area and who to reach out to. You guys have all seen things that we’ve tried. We had the Blackened party, which was a lot of work. We bought a bunch of AWMH t-shirts, and I had the Chefs for Ukraine logo printed on the back. I had people running around Fenway Park and around Boston with little QR codes talking to people.

SC: Wow. That’s hardcore. You had teams running around with QR codes saying, “Hey, let me tell you a bit about what we’re doing?”

DH: It happened to be a Red Sox double doubleheader that day, so Boston was flooded with people. One of the first groups that went out actually bumped into a family from Ukraine. They were telling [our group] they weren’t sure if they were even gonna be able to go back, and we ended up inviting them to the party. Some of us learned a little bit more about what was going on for them back at home. Also, the whole Ukraine situation was important to me personally. So, for us, success meant getting people out there in the street, making phone calls, and sending emails.

SC: Can I ask about the matching corporate dollars? How did you go about procuring that arrangement, and how did that work out for you? Are there any stories or tips that leap out to you?

TD: We had a couple of people within our club that work for larger companies that would do that. The problem is that one of our people works for a company that takes a couple of months to catch up with their donations. You’ll get it, but it’ll be months from now.

Renée Richardson: I want to clarify that even if the actual donation won’t be processed immediately, we can take a reliable, documented pledge from the company and count it. We can work with you on logging your matching dollars.

SC: I’m interested in some of the stuff you buy for raffles, prizes, and so on for this month.

AM: I buy multiples. The Cliff Burton knucklebones? I bought a couple of those. The Master of Puppets Funko? I bought four of those. I buy stuff throughout the year that I know I’m gonna use during the month of May.

SC: Which brings me to this final question. You’re already thinking about next year, obviously. You’re already buying doubles and triples of items. What sort of stuff has the highest success rate in terms of getting people to part with their bucks?

TD: Weird stuff.

AM: The studio flooring. I found a piece of the bathroom. That was the biggest attraction, without a doubt.

SC: [Incredulous] The studio flooring?!

AM: Yeah, there’s One On One recording cells, little pieces of the studio where The Black Album was recorded with a certificate of authenticity. They’re $40 bucks a pop.

TD: I donated on that one.

AM: They brought me at least a thousand bucks.

DH: It’s amazing how almost “top secret” that buying the flooring still kinda is…

SC: I am floored by this story… [crickets were heard – ED].

DH: Last year, when Jason [Newstead] did The Chophouse show down in Florida, we happened to be on vacation, and we ended up going to the show. I ran into Shane Obershaw, who some of you know is the drummer for One (a Metallica tribute band). He said, “Yeah, I’m gonna try to get Jason to sign this.” And I’m like, what the heck is it? He said it was a piece of the studio floor, and I’m like, “Well, how the hell did you get that?” Two months after that, I was on this mission to find out how the hell he got a piece. Then all of a sudden, somebody messaged me the link to buy it, which was awesome.

AM: There’re still some left, too.

SC: Amazing, so do you think, for example, if Metallica was to re-insulate the studio and offer some of the insulation foam, those pieces would be prized items in the 2024 Month of Giving competition?*

DH: Oh, yeah, people would be all over it!

SC: Well, that’s it, folks, we’re out of time. Thanks for joining this Zoom and chatting!

RR: And I want to thank you all personally – thank you, thank you – for making it another awesome Month of Giving! You guys are amazing!

Group: Bye!

*Don’t get excited; I made this up. – ED

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