This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Last time I gave you some suggestions on how to handle requests to donate your art work. Today, here’s a simple yet elegant way to say YES, NO or MAYBE to those requests.
The most important tip of all:
BE PREPARED TO BE ASKED
Have a set piece to say when you get the request.
Being prepared to be asked will help you answer in a professional manner. It will keep you from getting caught off-guard and responding poorly or too quickly. It will give you time to time to make up your mind. It will get you the information you need to make a good decision. It will give you a gracious “out” if the answer is no. And it will leave a door open for you to change your mind some day.
This set piece can be adapted for almost any situation.
Good Cause person: “Luann, we’re having a big fundraising event for the XYZ society next month, and we’re asking a number of local artists to donate something for the silent auction. We’d love to have your work!”
Luann: “Oh, I’m so honored to be asked! Can you tell me more?”
Now is the time to ask: What exactly is this cause? (If you’re not already familiar with it.) Is it one that aligns with your values?
Who are their patrons? Who will be at the event? Are they your customers, or your prospective customers?
What other artists were asked, who else accepted, and what is the value of the pieces they’re donating? This will give you some idea whether you want to participate or not, and what company you’ll be in if you accept. And if you accept, what you’re being asked for—a $25 gift certificate or a $2,000 painting.
Once you’ve heard all the details, figure out if you want to participate or not, or if you simply need more time to think about it. The following covers all three options. (Actually, it covers four…)
Luann: “That sounds lovely, and I wish I could help you out. However, I’m swamped with requests from many deserving organizations. I can’t possibly oblige them all. What I do is collect all the requests ahead of time in writing. Then (once a year, twice a year, whatever time you want) I choose (one or two causes) to donate to.”
Now, here’s the creative part:
If you don’t want to contribute, you add, “I’m so sorry, I’ve already made my selections for charity donations for this year. But I’d be delighted to consider your request for next year’s list. Can you give me information about this year’s event, and *contact me by such-and-such a date next year?” (*Note: If you might donate next year, let them know they need to ask again. If you don’t want to donate, don’t ask them to contact you again and just forget to offer.)
If you aren’t sure you want to contribute, you say, “I’m making my decision for this period in a few weeks, and I’d be happy to consider your request. Can I get all the information from you, and let you know my decision then?”
If you want to help but don’t want to donate your work, you say, “I’m so sorry, I’ve already made my selections for charity donations this year. But I support your cause and would like to help in some other way. May I purchase an ad in the auction program?” (Or make a cash donation, or offer a private lesson, or a private studio visit, etc.)
If you decide to donate, you still give the set piece. But you’ve also laid out the conditions and raised the bar.
Let’s say the audience is your targeted audience and the terms of donation are reasonable and fair to artists. For example, the artists will get their “gallery price” or wholesale price, and/or you can set a minimum bid. You can still use the set piece to explain how your process works, and then accept their invitation.
This shows you are a professional and you understand what is being asked. It asks for them to treat you in a professional matter, too, and helps them understand what they are asking for.
The beauty of this little set piece is, you can use it to say, “yes”, “no” or “maybe”. You can use it to say no, and still leave a door open. (I’ve had people thank me for refusing them so graciously, and for giving them a chance to ask again another time.)
You can use it to say yes, and not lock yourself into saying “yes” next year, and the year after—unless you want to.
Everybody wins, and nobody has to feel bad. That’s the kind of solution I like best!