arts, local, nonprofit profile

Local Nonprofit Profile: Pianos for People

This young man is Royce Martin. Please allow him to create an inspirational soundtrack to the next 4 minutes of your reading life.

Royce began playing piano only a few years before that performance. He wrote that piece. He has won competitions already after only a short time playing. He may very well be a prodigy.

And he got started thanks to a donated instrument from Pianos for People. This fairly new nonprofit supplies pianos to needy individuals in St. Louis. They began in 2012 and have recently passed the mark of delivering 200 pianos. Thus they’ve already made a dent in the needs of the community, but there is much more yet to do.



Pianos for People collects and restores (as necessary) pianos in reasonably good working order. From there, they donate these pianos to needy individuals or families in the area. Pianos for People works on the principle that playing music changes lives – it gives hope, it soothes the soul, it allows for creative outlet, it teaches discipline and focus.

You can read the history of the organization here. I won’t go into that with this profile. I will touch on some positives and negatives, and give some challenges and opportunities.


What I Like About Pianos for People

This organization serves a need people likely didn’t know they had. Most people can identify that they’re hungry, cold, or sick. Or that they don’t have adequate transportation, education, or social skills. There are hundreds of organizations around the country to help them meet those needs.

Not many know that they are missing music in their life. But, when that opportunity comes to connect with the harmonies of this world, if there are barriers in the way, many will let those chances slip through their fingers.

Pianos for People works to change that. They give pianos away because it allows people to meet that burning desire inside of them. A desire they may not have been able to identify, but was still holding them back through non-expression nonetheless.

They give away pianos. They give away lessons. But more than that, they give connection to the community. They bring together people who need pianos with pianos that need people. That’s a great line. But it’s theirs, I can’t take credit for it.


Challenges Ahead

Currently Pianos for People is still growing. They’ve delivered the 200th piano this year, but there is more need. As evidenced by this statement on their website:  “We sincerely apologize, but applications for a piano are presently closed as we have reached our capacity for 2018. We will begin accepting applications in September 2018 for 2019 delivery.”

So there are clearly people who want a piano, but capacity within the organization is lacking to make those dreams come true. This is likely due to a combination of factors: not enough pianos donated, not enough restoration time available, not enough administrative capacity, etc. Each of these can be handled in time, and with money, which suggests that there is a lot of growing yet to come.

Another challenge is the relative newness and obscurity of the organization. With traditional charities like the United Way or American Cancer Society, there’s a big, recognizable name associated. This makes fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and community interaction much easier. Pianos for People will need to expand their reach (in a responsible way) in order to make a bigger name for themselves and reach more people

This is evident by looking at a few nonprofit review websites. Charity Navigator and Guidestar, which provide ratings of the administrative efficiency and fundraising efficiency of nonprofits, have virtually empty profiles. And Great Nonprofits, where users or clients of an organization can make a review, has nothing. Again, these are likely due to the fact that Pianos for People is a fairly small, fairly new organization. In order to create greater credibility, leading to greater impact, leading to greater change in the community, they’ll have to be intentional about creating a positive public profile. The good thing is that as they start basically from scratch they can craft that image how they wish.



Obviously there is an ongoing need within the St. Louis community for the instruments and lessons provided. In addition, I think that greater expansion throughout the region would be a big boon to the validity of the organization. And it would greatly increase the potential donor pool, not just for cash and grants but for pianos as well.

Second, I would not be surprised to see Pianos for People expand to more instruments, not just the piano. A piano is large, intricate, delicate, and, frankly, a lot to maintain. I suspect that in a few years there will also be a market for accepting, restoring, and giving away other instruments, such as trumpets, violins, flutes, drums, etc. These may be more accessible to people who don’t have the floor space for piano. Or for those who do want to experience the transformation that comes through playing music but don’t have an inclination to play piano. Or even an opportunity for those who are just out of a piano delivery area yet may be able to accept an alternative instrument.



I think Pianos for People has a good thing going. They’re small, but they have incredible opportunity to meet unspoken, unmet needs in this community and around the country. Better still, around the world. I think they’re on the edge of something great. Stay tuned, it’s about to get very interesting on Cherokee Street.



animals, local, nonprofit profile

Local Nonprofit Profile: St. Louis Pet Rescue

Working as a copywriter I get the opportunity to discover great nonprofits doing great things. Occasionally I will share some with you, for two purposes:

  • I’ll raise some awareness of the organization and provide it some additional exposure, and
  • I’ll get practice at writing, giving me a chance to use different styles and creative techniques from traditional fundraising.

Today I’m sharing a profile of St. Louis Pet Rescue (STLPR), which is a foster-only animal rescue organization run by volunteers.




Foster-only               There is no permanent facility. That’s because the goal is to get animals out of shelters and into foster homes, where they can be acclimated to living with humans. Although there is a desire to someday have a place where people who are unable to care for their pets can drop them off instead of abandoning them, even that would be a temporary step on the journey through foster care to adoption.

Animal Rescue        STLPR adopts dogs and cats from shelters around the St. Louis area. These animals would otherwise be subject to space regulations, time limits, and/or adoptability problems and would be killed.

Volunteers                There are no paid employees. Everyone is a volunteer. There are foster owners who are helping to socialize and volunteers who staff adoption events on weekends at PetCo. And there are young students who post flyers on community bulletin boards. In all, hundreds of people in the St. Louis area generously give their time to making STLPR a positive, welcoming organization doing much good for the animals needing love in the community.

Plus, they partner with nearly two dozen veterinarians and animal shelters in the area, for supplies and emergency placement until foster care can be arranged. This means they’re not flying solo – they have a wide network of support.



STLPR earned Second Place in the 2017 Rescue Bank Stories Contest, for the most compelling story submitted on behalf of Deacon.

And Great Nonprofits, a nationwide organization evaluating the fitness of nonprofits across the spectrum, recognized STLPR as a 2017 Top-Rated Nonprofit. STLPR was one of only 4 animal-related Missouri nonprofits to receive this award.





Why do I like them?           First, they’re local. They are all around – my neighbor fosters dogs with them and therefore I can see that they’re really doing what they promote, and they’re improving their own communities in the process.

Second, they’re all-volunteer. There are good and bad elements to that. Good in that it costs less, bad in that there’s less accountability and less incentive to make sure things get done. But it’s clear from the stats on the Great Nonprofits that there is a lot of good being done (over 500 adoptions in the past year), even if they’re not bragging about it.

Finally, they know their mission, and they’re working it. They don’t pretend that they’re going to get involved with lobbying, or protesting to end current shelter practices, or embarking on a shame campaign to try and end the practice of abandonment. They do one thing (foster animals out of shelters) and they do it well.

How you can help.              For more information, check out their website. If you’re in the St. Louis area, volunteer or adopt. Or visit an outreach event at the PetCo in Fenton on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. No matter where you are, you can donate. Or, you can share this post with your own network to get the word out.


I hope you have been as encouraged as I am to find out about a quality organization like St. Louis Pet Rescue. May we all continue to be well by doing good.