Article Author: Jason Scott, CAC AmeriCorps Program Director
CAC AmeriCorps Alum, Sarah Murray, served in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 Corps of CAC AmeriCorps with the University of Tennessee’s Sustainability program. I had the opportunity to speak with Sarah on Thursday, January 19th, 2023 about her new social enterprise, Concerted, which seeks to connect people to service and each other by allowing individuals to trade volunteer service hours for concert tickets.
With an undergraduate degree in political science and public policy, she always knew she wanted to serve in some way. CAC AmeriCorps and service with the University of Tennessee felt like a natural progression. Sarah describes her service with AmeriCorps as one of the most significant forming periods of her life that presented her with the opportunity to develop important relationships with people who valued connection and public service, while being able to work through the University of Tennessee’s Sustainability office to divert a lot of waste and educate people on zero waste practices across campus. Sarah had been involved in the music industry before her service and she maintained these relationships during her two terms providing consulting services to festivals like Rhythm and Blooms and Bonnaroo. Following her service, diving back into her work with the music industry was a natural progression as she continued to seek opportunity to combine her passion for music and service.
When asked about the catalyzing moment that pushed her to make Concerted a reality, Sarah talks about a dated, time-stamped, note in her phone from 10 years ago that has an early iteration of the concept that would eventually become Concerted. “Service and shows. Own a venue that people can only get into through volunteering.” In the years that followed her service, Sarah continued to put in the work, building critical relationships. Seeing the real power of connection that music and service can create, she found herself asking “if not now, when?”
Sarah discusses the challenges of starting a nonprofit and tech company and the importance of finding a tribe that compliments your own skills and talents. “Surround yourself with people who are better than you at a lot of different things. My entire career I’ve wanted to be in rooms where I wasn’t the smartest person.” Service with CAC AmeriCorps at UT Sustainability presented the opportunity to learn a lot about sustainability and philanthropy.
“One of my favorite things in life is people who are stoked about what they do, doesn’t matter what they do, they are just stoked and want to tell you all about it.”
In 2021, Sarah founded Concerted, a volunteer center incentivizing civic engagement by connecting volunteers to concert tickets in exchange for their service. Besides creating a system that creates unique incentives to serve, Sarah is actively engaged in the development of partnerships that allow all people in the community to access the benefits of volunteerism and music through Concerted’s programming. She has been working with Go Metro and TANK, bus lines in the Cincinnati metro area, to assure that those with transportation barriers are able to receive assistance in accessing both the volunteer opportunity and the show.
“I want to make sure if folks want to go they can. If transportation is the issue we will figure out a way.”
Concerted currently supports over 100 non-profit partners in the greater Cincinnati area. Partners post their service opportunities on the Concerted platform. Volunteers log their hours in the system and the partners confirm the hours that can then be traded for tickets for a wide range of concerts/shows with artists like Carrie Underwood, Elle King, Matchbox Twenty, and an ever growing assortment of artists. Sarah and her team built the platform from the ground up and have the relationships (secret sauce) that allows them access to a broad range of artists, promoters, and venues that they work with directly. All of this with the intent of creating unique content offerings with the vision of making service and volunteerism as sexy as music.
Sarah acknowledges one barrier to service is skepticism. “There are a lot of people who are skeptical of service. Having done 2 years of service, I know first hand that both the people serving and the communities served benefit. The culture of tolerance is super important. How do we get people to understand, We all want the same things. We want to feel loved and have our needs met and this is a way to get more people in the same rooms together to foster a bit more tolerance.”
Concerted is looking to expand into at least 6-7 markets in 2023 as they expand their partnerships with different ticketing platforms. Many cities have actually reached out with interest in partnering so Sarah and her team will be spending the coming year visiting these communities, meeting with leaders, and working with intention to understand and assure that Concerted is able to serve each community the way they need to be served in efforts to avoid assumptions about what a city or nonprofit market needs. Keep your eyes peeled for Concerted in a city near you!
Sarah Murray providing interpretation at Earthfest during her service with CAC AmeriCorps.
This blog post is a collection of personal reflections and expressions. All opinions represented are those of the author and do not represent the official opinion or views of the Knoxville – Knox County Community Action Committee, CAC AmeriCorps or any other party referenced.