Discover the Art of Face Painting
FACE painters are generally kind and generous people who enjoy making children happy. But when it comes to the vexed question of charity, there’s a fine line between offering support for a cause and being exploited. I’ll get to that shortly.
With so many good and deserving causes in need, a generous face painter could easily spend every weekend working for free, donating goods and services for all types of events and charities and making everyone happy in the process. While this may be a noble way to live, good quality products and materials aren’t cheap; assuming your goal is to operate a successful business, if you are always working for free, my guess is you are going to struggle to make ends meet.
The vexed question is: to give or not to give? And if so, who to and how much? Of course it’s a personal choice and one that is likely to reflect your own values and beliefs. When there’s a charity or cause close to your heart, then the decision is usually easy, but at some point you will need to draw a line and decide how much of your time, energy, products, and potential lost earnings you are willing to give up.
So my suggestion for you is to draw that line today. Take a few minutes to think about your priorities now (or when you finish reading this article) and the next time you get asked to donate your services, you’ll be prepared with a confident answer.
* Community fundraisers – for schools, sporting teams, play groups, church groups and the like;
* Established, national or international causes – generally these registered charities which are managed by Not For Profit (NFP) organisations and any contributions you make may be tax deductible. Some examples include: Red Cross, RPSCA, SIDS for Kids, Children’s Hospital, etc
* ‘Emergency’ fundraisers, which usually occur unexpectedly as a result of catastrophe or misfortune. eg supporting a local individual or family following illness or the like;
* To this list I will add a fourth type, but one you should approach will LOTS of caution: the phone call soliciting your pledge for an organisation (which may or may not be a charity) in exchange for advertising in a publication you have never heard of, and are likely to never see. In my experience, these are often scams. Never give out any personal information over the phone and always request their proposal in writing. Even then, weigh up whether or not this is the best way to support a ’cause’.
Step One: Decide in advance how many charity events you plan to support throughout the year and shortlist your preferred charities.
My tip is to make the initial contact and offer a proposal. For example, I like to support the local group who rescues and rehabilitates injured wildlife (WIRES). So I let them know I’m available to paint at their annual event and every dollar I make is donated directly to the cause. In June I help raise money for SIDS and Kids (research of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by donating a percentage of my income from my market stalls in this month to the organisation. There’s even a website dedicated to Australian charities – a great place to start.
Be prepared for unexpected charity fundraisers. These may be in support of a local family who have endured an illness or catastrophe. If you can’t be there in person, donating a gift certificate for a charity auction or raffle can be a good solution.
Once you have preselected your charity beneficiaries, it’s then a lot easy to say: “I’m sorry but I have already allocated my charities for this year. But perhaps you would like to consider an alternative?” – see below for some ideas.
Step Two: Put a value to your contribution and consider the ways in which you can most effectively donate. And don’t forget to set limits.
If you don’t value your time, skill and cost of your products, why should anyone else? When you’ve been asked to donate your services to a charity event, don’t assume the event planner knows the best way you can contribute. Many will hope you will simply be an attraction. Let’s look at some alternatives that are far more effective;
* You agree to a cash donation resulting from your services on the day. You charge your standard pay per face rates and then return some or all of the income by donation. This may be anything from a small percentage of your profits to all your takings on the day. The choice is yours, but you should get a receipt and you may find your donation is tax deductible. And don’t forget to set reasonable limits. ie. you will paint for up to 4 hours (or whatever it may be). I often do this for school fetes, fairs and fundraisers, setting an agreed rate and making the donation by cheque afterwards. In exchange, I ask them to confirm in writing that no other face painter or volunteer painter will be there to conflict with my business. Everyone is happy;
* You agree to a discount on your standard rate – but make sure you have the charity discount clearly marked on your invoice so there’s no confusion for other events down the track;
* You offer your fixed standard hourly rate and propose to collect a donation on behalf of the charity to recoup their costs;
* You offer a credit voucher (for a pre-determined value, ie birthday party valued at $200) to be raffled or auction as part of a fundraiser. This can work well as you don’t need to attend the event to contribute. Plus an auctioneer is likely to give your business a plug as they try and sell it to the crowd.
Let me clarify. I don’t mean all charities are not equally deserving. After all, what child wouldn’t benefit from a little art therapy and one on one time with a face painter? But some event planners will ask you to work for free even if they have an activities budget. They assume you’ll be happy to work for the exposure and warm fuzzy feeling alone. But if you have bills to pay, and you value your time, you can ask if the other activities on offer are being contracted. If so, you’re being exploited – it may or may not be intentional. Again, if this is a charity or event that means something to you, the decision to contribute may be easy. But not all charities ARE charities, and too many event organisers undervalue professional face painters. It’s our job to teach them what’s fair and what’s not.
Sometimes offering an alternative solution will satisfy everyone, sometimes it’s OK to say ‘no thanks; and move on. Forgive yourself – you are not being cold-hearted, just business-minded. Whatever you do, trust your gut and do it politely, but there’s no harm in offering up a few options. And if you have to say, I’m sorry but my child has a doctor’s appointment on that date – no-one will hold it against you.
I’d love to know how you handle charity requests as a face painter? Did you start out as a volunteer? Are you still a volunteer? Have you ever felt like you’ve been exploited? How do you set limits and decide who benefits? Please comment below and share this post with your friends.