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The Ideal Donor, Really?

With the economic situation being what it is, I think we all have to dig deep

We all get solicitations from charities and, I suspect, we give to those most closely aligned with our personal philosophies. And from time-to-time those causes that we feel inclined to support may result from a heart-wrenching story we’ve seen on the news or an affliction that’s come too close to home.

With the economic situation being what it is, I think we all have to dig deep knowing worthy causes are probably suffering deeply. Hell, Bernie Madoff alone has wreaked havoc on the non-profit sector.

Who can argue that charity is a good and blessed thing?

The expression “charity begins at home” is certainly true in my home. My husband is a fine artist and ever since we’ve been together I’ve been amazed how often he is asked to donate work to a worthy cause that’s holding an auction. Monthly would be a conservative estimate.

I realize that artwork is visceral and a tangible expression of beauty that’s readily marketable in an auction setting. But I am nonplussed that artists are at the top of the list as donors to every possible cause under the sun.

Have you ever heard of the expression starving dentist? Of course not. So why do charities prey (I know it’s a strong word) on the very individuals in society who have the toughest time making a living?

I can tell you that if you pose that question to the ones with their hands out, invariably you’ll hear that “it’s great exposure.” Right. The bidder at the charity auction no doubt never heard of the artist, is not particularly enamored with the piece on the auction block and is motivated to bid primarily out of guilt or largesse. Tell me again why this helps the artist?

I once read that most professional fine artists in the country made $2,500 per year from their art. (That was quite some time ago, so let’s be liberal and say $10,000 per year to adjust for inflation.) Yeah, they’re the perfect candidates to donate to charity.

And from a practical standpoint, one could argue that the artist could spend all of his creativity on charity. My husband works in oils and it generally takes him about two months to complete a painting. At the rate of requests he gets, that’s six paintings short each year to meet charitable obligations.

Fortunately, my husband’s reputation and success have grown to respectable proportions and he has enough published reproductions to make donations that do not impinge greatly on his income. But he is in the tiniest minority.

I can see why art and Caribbean trips and spa treatments make the far more appealing items on the auction block. Who would bid on a free tooth extraction from the starving dentist, after all.

Don’t get me wrong — we are happy to help, especially when we have a relationship with the charitable organization or the cause being championed. This is not often the case, however. I want charitable organizations to acknowledge that they’re reaching out to donors who are often being painted into a corner. Free root canal, anyone?

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More Stories By Karyn Price

Karyn joined the Bailiwick Company ten years ago, and spends the majority of her time managing media relations and corporate, employee and marketing communications for her telecommunications and technology clients. She currently leads the company's public relations practice. With an eye toward results, she works diligently to secure meaningful coverage for clients in relevant print and online publications, as well as in key financial and analyst reports. Her new-found passion for social media has ignited additional interest for the clients she serves. Prior to joining Bailiwick, Karyn was the communications manager for the Bucks County Conference & Visitors Bureau, where she publicized the beauty, art and culture that the region offers to leisure travelers. Under her direction, the county saw a 43 percent increase in travel leads. She has also spent time in advertising. Karyn holds an M.A. in Professional Communication from La Salle University and a B.A. in Communication from Elizabethtown College. Outside of the office she enjoys music, spending time with family and reading great novels. Please note that the views expressed on this site are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of the clients I represent.

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