Once I was talking to the avant-garde theatre director Richard Foreman and I was asking him about raising money for different projects. He started to tell me about Jonas Mekas, who is the director and founder of Anthology Film Archives. AFA is a building in New York that is dedicated to showing avant-garde films. It is a nonprofit institution that was founded by an artist with the help of many other people. Mr. Foreman told me that Jonas Mekas was great at talking to wealthy people at parties. He said they used to call him “Saint Jonas” because he was so sweet to everyone, and they loved him. Foreman said Mekas was able to ask many people for large sums of money to support other artists, and they gave it to him. I never learned many more details of this story, but it is clear that part of the way he raised millions to build his institution was to befriend people in a charming manner.
You can start writing a letter today. Think of what you need money for: to complete a painting series, or make a new sculpture, or for the development of some other project or dream you have in mind. Then write it down and get into it, get excited about what you are writing, and express that with enthusiasm so the person you are writing to feels it and comes along for the ride. Then when you send updates, continue the excitement of your accomplishments.
Don’t Be Negative!
A special note here is to remember not to be negative or say that you need the money because you are broke. The reason for that is simple; people want to fund your dreams, not pick up the pieces. They want to attach themselves to someone who is flying, not get on a sinking ship. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Put yourself in the position of donor again. If you are about to give a small or even a large donation, you want it to really make a difference, you want people to be happy and grateful, and you do not want it to just be a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. The last note about writing a beautiful letter is to come up with other ways for the letter to stand out. I often use sealing wax on the back of the envelope and I use a coin to stamp it. It looks beautiful and is one more way your letter is standing out from all the rest that come in. Or consider scenting the letter lightly with perfume!
I also do not usually mail a letter like that with the address on the front as I would with a normal letter. Sometimes I do, but generally I put the letter in a FedEx envelope or in a priority mail envelope. That way it is protected and will usually be opened first as well.
To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here. To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.