When the first Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival came together in 2002, its founders -- college friends Ashley Capps, Richard Goodstone, Rick Farman, Jonathan Mayers and Kerry Black -- didn't want to just organize a music event. For four days a year in Manchester, Tenn., they wanted to create a community. "That original fan base, they were looking to be represented, to camp, to see a good live show," says Jeff Cuellar, vp strategic partnerships at festival promoter AC Entertainment. Before long, that vision grew: "We wanted to provide a positive impact that extends from our Bonnaroovian community to the state of Tennessee and beyond."
That meant ensuring the festival had a charitable component. Since 2002, organizers have donated over $7 million to a wide range of causes, from Habitat for Humanity to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. In 2009 the festival's founders launched the Bonnaroo Works Fund, which claims a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales and oversees on-site activities like a silent auction and a 5K run. At the end of each fundraising cycle, the BWF board distributes grants between $1,000 and $10,000 through an online application process to nonprofits with Tennessee-based arts, education and sustainability initiatives.
While festival organizers made a habit of one-off donations from the start, like setting aside $30,000 to help build a skate park in Manchester that opened in 2008, the fund raised a record $250,000 in its 2014-15 cycle, just after its inaugural executive director, Nina Miller, pushed to register it as a 501(c)(3).