- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

If a warmed heart isn’t enough to convince the youth of America to volunteer for community service, perhaps free tickets to big-name concerts will do the trick.

Cell phone service provider Boost Mobile teamed up with RockCorps this summer to reward four hours of community service with free tickets to see artists ranging from Coldplay to Eminem.

Volunteers in Herndon spent four hours cleaning up Runnymede Park on July 9 with rock radio station DC101 and Volunteer Fairfax in exchange for tickets to the Sept. 30 Coldplay concert. The volunteers won the chance to earn their tickets by calling in to the station’s popular “Elliot in the Morning” program.

Similar cleanup projects have taken place in Los Angeles, Chicago and Minneapolis. The tour held two events in Atlanta before returning to Washington to team up with hip-hop station WPGC 95.5.

The program’s primary target is New York, where community service opportunities are available throughout the summer. Five thousand participants will earn tickets to a hip-hop and alternative rock concert at Radio City Music Hall on Sept. 24. The only way to get tickets is giving four hours of community service.

RockCorps producer Stephen Greene said young people — the program’s target demographic is 14- to 24-year-olds who aren’t already involved in community service — are eager to serve in their communities but aren’t sure how to get involved.

“If you haven’t done it before, you’re not sure how to get plugged in,” he said. “By using music as the draw, we pull them in and get them introduced to a nonprofit that’s doing work in their community.”

Mr. Greene said concert tickets are used to introduce young people to community service. He said more than half of the participants in Boost Mobile RockCorps events continue serving when there isn’t a free ticket on the line.

Jeannie Sanders, executive director of Volunteer Fairfax, said it’s too early to tell if volunteers at the DC101 event will continue to serve. “I know that once someone volunteers, you greatly increase the percentage chance that they’ll revolunteer,” she said, adding that her organization saw an increase in interest after the radio station heavily promoted the event.

RockCorps developed out of the Greenbucks Foundation, a Colorado-based environmental group that incentivizes environmental cleanup projects by producing exclusive concerts for volunteers.

The group says on its Web site (www.greenbucks.org) that “when people get involved in improving their community,” even when they are motivated only by a concert ticket,” often their original motivation for doing so becomes irrelevant.”

The group “never loses sight of the traditional idea that volunteer work is its own reward” but finds that “persuading a wide range of people to actually show up and go to work with a sense of excitement sometimes needs more than traditional ideas.”

Offering concert tickets provides a “common bond … which then forms the foundation for the realization that the volunteer work is itself valuable,” according to the Web site.

Both Greenbucks and RockCorps focus on community involvement with the hopes that participants will gain an understanding of how their work can positively affect their own environment.

Boost Mobile senior manager for event marketing and sponsoring Daryl Butler said the company wanted to encourage members of its market to get involved in their communities and thought RockCorps has “a tremendous amount of value.”

“As we more finely tuned our brand objective to present Boost Mobile as a lifestyle brand that connects with young people based on things that they’re interested in we identified a need to move from form, function, and capability to areas that are more meaningful to young people,” Mr. Butler said.

The offer of free tickets is more of “an added bonus” than a reflection of the true motives of volunteers, Mr. Butler said. “I have been involved with young people for quite some time, he said, “and what has always been the case is that young people want to contribute.” He added that the incentive program “connects the head to the heart.”

It’s too early to be talking about next year’s program, Mr. Butler said, because there’s still a lot of volunteering to be done this year. But said Boost Mobile is already looking for ways to improve the program in the future.

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