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An unsolicited solicitation:

I am a working artist, and I sell fairly regularly.  I am getting more and more requests from non-profits for donations for their silent auctions and other fundraising schemes…it’s expensive to paint, and I can’t afford to give to all of them.  What can I say to politely decline?


You shouldn’t.

Wait – that’s not the answer – the answer is “Oh, I am so sorry – I would dearly love to, but I just don’t have the inventory to spare right now.  Please keep me on your list and ask me again next year.”

That’s polite.

But what you should say is “Oh, I’d love to.  When is the deadline, where is the drop-off, and how many business cards should I include?”  Stipulate that the cards should go in front of the piece you donate, and that should the work not sell that it be returned to you, along with the remainder of the cards.

Don’t tell me how expensive painting is – I know how expensive it is.  I know how expensive paintings are.  I also know how expensive it is to feed the hungry and clothe the poor and buy medicine for those in need.  You can easily afford to skip a few cocktails or a meal or two, buy the supplies for a series of small works, and keep those on hand for these sorts of things.  You should also get a ticket to the event, and get dressed up and go.  That way you get your cocktails and dinner/snacks/nasty little passed hors d’oeuvres.

And then you get to talk to people and tell them why you’re there and show them your work.

You know what else is expensive?  Advertising.  And they’re basically giving it to you for the price of your time and supplies.  One hand washes the other and all that, but it’s also the right thing to do.  Do you know why?

Because no one else is going to do it, and you can.  So you should.  So stop whining about being wanted, start painting and be appreciative that your phone rings at all.  I know a lot of artists who would prefer to have that problem.

This same advice goes out to anyone solicited for a worthy non-profit.  Architects, counselors, computer programmers – those of you in health and beauty, landscape and design, retail and restaurants – giving a little every chance you get goes a long way in creating goodwill to a huge and varied customer base.  Little bits of regular exposure to your name is better than a billboard.

And besides that, it’s the right thing to do.  No go do it.


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