M3F Developing a Culture of Coming Together

Writer Joseph J. Airdo

Photography Courtesy of M3F

Last year, Habitat for Humanity of Northern Arizona Executive Director Eric Wolverton encountered a disconcerting obstacle.

Wolverton’s nonprofit organization had committed to build two homes in Flagstaff for families that needed a little help getting back up on their feet, but it did not yet have all of the funds secured in its bank account to accomplish the task.

Having been the recipient of a $10,000 donation from nonprofit music festival M3F in 2018, Wolverton hoped a gift from the 2019 festival might help cover some of the costs associated with the construction of at least one of the two homes.

During his initial discussions with M3F officials, Wolverton mentioned that one roof costs about $25,000. He had cautiously hoped that the festival’s 2019 charitable contribution to Habitat for Humanity of Northern Arizona might come close to that.

“After last year’s event, they said, ‘Since you are building two homes, you really need two roofs, so here is a check for $50,000,’” Wolverton says. “That was enormous for us to be able to easily continue our process without delaying our schedule. We were able to provide direct savings to the selected homeowners from Habitat for Humanity through M3F’s gift.”

Set for March 6–8, M3F will take over Hance Park in Phoenix with a unique blend of live art, food, crafts and music concerts. Organizers try to present an eclectic mix of music each year to excite attendees, with this year’s festival featuring Bon Iver and Rufus Du Sol as well as a number of other musicians.

“There will be something from each genre,” says Heather Rogers, festival manager. “It is a little bit of everything that just meshes together for the weekend. I, personally, am looking forward to seeing Sofi Tucker. But a lot of the music is new to me. So I am hoping to find one or two new bands that I am just not aware of.”

Heather Rogers adds that this year’s festival will up the ante with even more spectacular special effects and light shows than ever before—all with the hope of also drawing a record number of attendees so that the nonprofit event can help a record number of people. 

M3F was built on the idea of giving back. One of the ways in which it does that is through charitable contributions. The festival donates 100% of its proceeds each year to local, family-based, nonprofit organizations.

“Other festivals give a portion or a percentage of their proceeds to and are active with charities but we take it 100% down the line and give back,” Heather Rogers says. “This speaks to the culture of Wespac Construction, the producer and founder behind M3F. We, as a company, are very into charity, giving back, volunteering, team building and just promoting all of that through our events.”

Since its humble beginnings in 2004, M3F has come a long way in not only the size of the festival itself but also the size of its charitable contributions. Initially known as the McDowell Mountain Music Festival, the event originally only contributed its proceeds to a couple of charities each year.

“Once in a while, we have taken a small portion and donated it to some smaller charities to help them out,” Heather Rogers says. “Just giving $1,000 to a charity that is still housed in someone’s basement can really change the direction that it is taking.”

Over time, M3F was able to pick up an additional charity to provide financial support to each year. To date, organizers have donated more than $2 million to deserving nonprofit organizations. Last year alone, M3F raised $509,000 for local charities.

“It was our best year yet and by far our biggest donation,” Heather Rogers says. “We accredit that to better bands and better on-site experience.”

This year, M3F will simultaneously benefit a record number of four local charities. In addition to Habitat for Humanity of Northern Arizona, proceeds from this year’s festival will also be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Teach for America and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

The funds that Phoenix Children’s Hospital receives from M3F are used to enhance its music therapy program, which makes use of music interventions to address the physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of patients.

“As a direct result of M3F’s support, we were able to increase [a] part-time [board-certified] music therapist to full-time in October 2018 while also adding a second full-time music therapist in January,” says Jenni Rogers, who manages the hospital’s child life and music therapy programs.

Last year’s donation from M3F will allow Phoenix Children’s Hospitals’ two music therapists to provide about 2,650 one-on-one visits per year to children and teens for three years.

“Without M3F, we would not be able to provide this integral therapeutic intervention that not only normalizes the hospital experience but facilitates healthy coping,” Jenni Rogers says.

Heather Rogers hopes than M3F’s financial support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society will help the nonprofit organization continue its research so that maybe fewer people will have to be touched by cancer in the future. She also hopes that M3F will have a lasting impact on Teach for America, the other organization that will receive funds from this year’s festival.

“Teach for America sends teachers into areas that are a little more underprivileged,” Heather Rogers says. “They give these kids an opportunity to have someone who is dedicated to them and shows them that there are opportunities out there, allowing them to grow.”

In addition to its charitable contributions, M3F also gives back by promoting community and culture. Organizers aim to bring people together as a community, allowing friends and family to experience the event with one another. They also aspire to introduce attendees’ to new music thereby building upon their repertoire and enhancing their appreciation of different genres.

“M3F develops that culture of coming together for future generations,” Heather Rogers explains. “As the kids we are impacting through the festival and through the donations that we make grow up, they will have a sense of pride over where they come from.”

Wolverton adds that M3F is also the perfect vehicle to introduce younger generations to philanthropy—particularly the kind that results in a good time and does not directly hurt a young adult’s budget. 

“It is very important right now for nonprofits to educate those younger generations about the importance of the role that they are going to play really soon in terms of contributing to nonprofit organizations that make their communities better into the future,” Wolverton explains.

“Nonprofit organizations are really concerned right now because the majority of our gifts come from baby boomers and retirees. Within the next 20 years, that population is going to be very declined. That it is a real concern of ours so it is great to have a partner in M3F, who wants to do that messaging.”

Heather Rogers agrees, noting that she particularly enjoys passing on stories of how M3F has impacted local charities to her 8-year-old son.

“It is important to teach everyone to give back and to be thankful for what they have,” she says. “There is always someone out there that could use just a little bit of help, education or attention. I find it very empowering to know that we have been able to give back like this, impact people’s lives and maybe just make life a step better for them.”



March 6–8 | Hance Park | 67 W. Culver St., Phoenix | $65/Single Day General Admission | $145/3-Day General Admission | 602-343-0453 | m3ffest.com

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