I was working last week on The New Hunter – a Coloring The Wind product which combines a portrait from Dale Webster and a poem from me. Dale’s been living in Kenya for the last few years, and much of his recent work has featured people from the Maasai tribe, undergoing incredible hardship at present because of the associated effects of drought, disease and poverty.
As I prepared our poster for the store, I had an uncomfortable feeling. This was wrong. We were proposing to make money by portraying the lives of distressed people. But it occurred to me that we could make it right. Sure, as artists we have to make a living. But what if we donated a sizeable amount of our net proceeds to the people who were affected?
The way I see it, it works for everyone. I was talking last week (in Elevating Sales) about the importance of finding customers who really need our wall-art. So it must surely be a good idea to approach one (or more) of the charities who work in Africa and offer to support their work via our sales. Immediately, this approach identifies – creates – a need. Since the more sales we get, the more money the charities will receive, it makes sense for them to support our work and help to promote the products – assuming they like what we’re doing of course. So, although we’ll make less money from each individual sale, we’re likely to make more sales in total. It’s exactly the same principle as selling your product via a retail store or a merchandizing outfit.
It works for customers too. There’s no better feeling than buying a gift that you’re sure a friend will love, knowing at the same time that your purchase is helping to make a real difference to the lives of people who are suffering.
I talked about the idea with Dale, who saw the point straight away and agreed to participate. We were on the way.
It seemed such a good idea that I started thinking about some of the other work we’ve produced as well. There’s Gatekeepers, which looks at the impact Man is changing the environment, not always for the better. So why not use it to support an environmental charity? Then we have Pearson’s Disease, dealing with the onset of Parkinson’s Disease … so a Parkinson’s charity.
The next question was which charities? In all the areas I’ve mentioned, there are several – so which would I choose? I decided that I wouldn’t. How much better, I thought, to ask the artists themselves to make two decisions. First whether they’d like to support a charity from the proceeds of their work. No pressure if they didn’t, but whatever percentage they wanted to offer, Coloring The Wind would match. Secondly if they wanted to do it, let them choose their own favourite charity.
There was only one rule I need to insist on. No partisan donations. I want the charities we support to act without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions.
I’m pleased about this decision. For years, musicians and performance artists have been a force for good in the world, using their talents and their influence to raise money for humanitarian causes. I know one or two other artists’ groups have tried to do the same. So why shouldn’t Coloring The Wind?
Now there’s work to be done. We need to sort out the charities we want to support for the work we’ve published so far, and update the store descriptions, so that customers know exactly what their purchase will support. Then I need to draw up a contract for contributors, detailing the arrangements for participation … if they want to. And before long, I’ll need someone in the team responsible for our contacts with charities …