Ashton Kutcher explains why his nonprofit is all about 'Iowans helping Iowans'
Kutcher spoke with the Register about the Native Fund's Metallica concert, which took place at the Iowa Speedway on June 8, 2017. Wochit
Actor. Activist. Metallica fan.
Iowa native Ashton Kutcher is helping throw Iowa’s biggest metal concert of the year in hopes of bringing attention to The Native Fund, the nonprofit he launched alongside Super Bowl-winning Iowan Dallas Clark. The organization launched by the two Iowa stars aims to lend a hand during times of natural disaster, when post-9/11 veterans need assistance and for children struggling with life-threatening disease.
The Native Fund was launched by Kutcher and Clark in response to the 2008 floods in Iowa that left families devastated and homes destroyed. The organization works in two ways, Kutcher explained: As a database of Iowans willing and ready to lend a hand in time of disaster and a financial fund to directly benefit those impacted by a catastrophe.
“Iowa has the capacity and a general generosity of people that allows it to be a state where people pro-actively prepare for the worst,” he said. “The fund is all about Iowans helping Iowans and setting up a reserve access for the people that are in need.”
Friday marks the second major-scale concert for Clark and Kutcher. The two hosted Blake Shelton with Thomas Rhett, Big & Rich and a number of other country acts at the first-ever Kinnick Stadium concert last August. The event drew an estimated 45,000 people to the Iowa City relic. Metallica is set to invade the Iowa Speedway in Newton this Friday alongside Avenged Sevenfold and Volbeat. Tickets cost $59-$303 and are on sale now via ticketmaster.com.
The Register spoke with the "That '70s Show" and "Jobs" star via phone ahead of Friday’s show to discuss plans for the Native Fun, what’s on his playlist and what the next move may be for his acting career.
I’d love to talk about how you and Dallas met and started the Native Fund. I know a lot of the back story has to do with Iowa flooding in 2008, but how did the two of you actually connect?
Yeah, I’ve been a huge Dallas Clark fan for a long time. Since he was playin’ at Iowa. I was at a Super Bowl … and we decided to meet up to say “hey.” We talked about just wanting to do something for Iowa; that Iowa has been really good to us and given us the platform to be the people we are. We were also talking about how helpless we both felt after the flood. … Iowa has the capacity and a general generosity of people that allows it to be a state where people proactively prepare for the worst. The fund is all about Iowans helping Iowans and setting up a reserve access for the people that are in need. That’s kind-of how it came up.
Why is it important to focus on events like concerts and not a more suit-and-tie gala?
I feel like the suit and tie dinners get suit and tie people to come out. Yeah, you can raise money that way. But our organization's not just about money. It’s about people helping people. The difference between a concert and a suit-and-tie dinner is everybody can go to a concert. You’re not buying a table at a dinner that’s more expensive than what you’re going to pay for every meal for the next month. There’s an affordable ticket for everyone at this. It’s about getting people out, together and connected on this mission of helping one another.
The second part of our fund — that’s not just the financial component — is creating a registry of people and what they’re great at and having an understand of who people are, what their profession is and how (we can) get hold of (them) if something goes down … whatever it is that we need we’ll have a registry around who people are, what they can do and how they can help. At the end of the day, all the money usually generally goes to paying people to do work. If you have a combination of an extraordinary database of people that are willing to help people in need out and a little bit of capital you can get a lot done. That’s really what the structure of the fund is and a suit and tie dinner wouldn’t get people of all disciplines in the house.
Actor Ashton Kutcher has come a long way from his days in Cedar Rapids, but he hasn't forgotten Iowa. Ben Yoder/The Register
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So is an event like the Metallica concert more about raising funds or about building a database?
It’s about both. We already have a pretty killer database that’s being built up of people. … Last time, at the concert at Kinnick, we got a flood of people to come in and sign up. Hopefully, at the Metallica concert, which is obviously a varied interest from going to a Blake Shelton concert, we can get a subset of people to show up to this concert and get them to sign up, as well. The capital ... a lot of the money goes toward paying for the event itself. People get that back in the good time that they have. We were able to raise some funds from the first concert and we’ll hopefully — if we get enough people to show up to this one — raise some more funds and then in the event of a big disaster of some sort we’ll have capital we can put to work. Our idea with that is to get that money straight to the people (who) need it, as opposed to having to go through a bunch of bureaucracy in order to get cash to help you out. It takes those bigger, federal organizations a lot of time to mobilize. We’re gonna have an engine that allows that to happen much more efficiently.
Why is this an important cause for Iowans?
It’s not singularly focused. It’s about the ethic that’s at the core of any great culture. I think over time, especially in metropolitan areas, people can’t count on their neighbors the way they used to. At least they think they can’t count on their neighbors the way that they used to. I think that what the Native Fund does is in the sense it becomes your neighbor. It becomes your neighbor (for when) if something goes down you’ll be able to count on it.
We aim to build it to be strong enough that it is that thing you can count on. I don't know what’s more important than that in the community … having a system that’s there for you, I think it’s really important. As we see the political landscape move into various forms … sometimes it’s important for people to just stand up for themselves and say, ‘Hey. If you’re not going to get it done, we can get it done,’ and I think that’s what the Native Fund's all about.
After Metallica, where do you see things going?
It’s our goal to keep spreading this effort out across the state. We did the first (concert) in Iowa City. We’re doing this one at the (Iowa) Speedway. We’ll probably find another venue for the next one. (We want to) just continue to get people together to think about caring about each other, building up our resources, building up our staffing our ability to react really, really quickly when something goes down and be there for people for the long haul. I imagine and hope that if if this concert goes well we’ll keep doing that again and again and again until we have a … database of people and … capital to do a ton of good.
Kutcher spoke with the Register on Monday, where he discussed the Native Fund's Metallica concert set to come to Iowa in June. Aaron Young/The Register
Since you're throwing a concert ... what music has been on your playlist?
It’s really weird. The last month I’ve been listening to a lot of Dierks Bentley and I just found out today he’s going to do a concert tour that “The Ranch” is going to sponsor. I’m pretty excited about that; I didn’t even know that was happening … Beyond that? I’ve been listening to a lot of Lumineers, a lot of Mumford and Sons. I like this new Kenny Chesney lick that he’s got with Pink. I think that’s a pretty good song. Some Sturgill Simpson … I’m down with Sturgill. I saw Sturgill like three years ago at Stagecoach … kind of all over the map. And a lot of children’s tunes, man. Like Dora the Explorer singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Wheels on the Bus.” That’s a big hit in my house right now.
Are you ready to say what your next acting project is or are you still all about “The Ranch” right now?
I’m all focused on “The Ranch” right now. Our third season’s coming out on June 16. (Note: Kutcher is an executive producer and stars in the Netflix series.) We've got another (season) that comes after that, which is pretty killer. In sitcom land, this is our second season, right? You do 22 episodes and 22 more. Technically this is the second season of the show and I think we found our legs. It keeps getting better, that’s pretty exciting. I’m working on a screenplay right now for an idea that I had for a feature film that I hope to direct. We’ll see if I can get that thing up and on its feet. It’s all about privacy ... kind of an interesting, near-and-dear topic.