Yesterday I received a query from the American Cancer Society for a “pro bono cartoonist.”
Please note, the American Cancer Society is a spectacularly wealthy institution with net assets of $1.3 billion. They pay their retired officers over a million dollars a year.
If we don’t shame these shameless people—people like Arianna Huffington who can EASILY afford to pay cartoonists and other freelancers but simply don’t feel like it—the “information is free” phenomenon is only going to get worse, and more creative types will be driven out of business.
Here’s the original query that I received:
My name is Ivy Wang. I work with the American Cancer Society in Manhattan.I am contacting you because the American Cancer Society is looking for a pro bono cartoonist to help us create QuitBuddy personas.
Here is a brief introduction of the QuitBuddy idea:
As a part of the Great American Smokeout campaign, the American Cancer Society is looking for a pro bono cartoonist to create approximately three or more different QuitBuddy personas that individuals can choose from to act as their inspiration to quit smoking. Examples of potential QuitBuddy personas include Drill Sergeant, Cheerleader, Superhero, Guilty Mom, etc. The personas will be presented as cartoons or through a short comedian video. Caricatures of each persona will also be displayed on a Facebook home page as a postcard that can be tagged or shared or as a funny video from comedians.
We need the work done by November 1 if possible. However, we would still take cartoons later but it might not get promoted this year.
Please let me know if you are interested.
We really appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you
Thank you for thinking of me and my work. I do appreciate it.
Please don’t take this the wrong way—I assume you were simply asked to find a cartoonist or cartoonists—but you should be aware that asking for pro bono work from a cartoonist during the current economic environment for cartoonists is pushing a very big red button and might result in negative publicity for the American Cancer Society.
Since I greatly respect the Society’s work, especially its long-standing campaign to fight smoking, which has saved millions of lives, as a former President of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists I think I should let you know that there is a widespread feeling within the profession that organizations like yours can and should pay for cartoons by professional cartoonists.
These days, more and more non-profits and for-profit organizations alike are asking for “free” work by cartoonists. In an environment when scores of cartoonists are being forced to quit and being laid off due to lack of work, groups that pay for everything else ought to be willing to pay the relatively low fees charged by cartoonists.
Does the Society pay any of its staff? Does it rent office space? Does it buy office supplies? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” please consider paying cartoonists and other creators. Cartooning is hard work, and it deserves recompense.
According to information I found online, your budget is $350 million per annum. Surely an appropriate fee ($10,000, or 0.003% of your budget) is affordable for a company that spends $914,906 per year on its CEO.
A wildly successful cartoonist earns less than $25,000 per year.
I hope you take this in the friendly spirit in which is meant! And if you’re willing to reconsider your budget, please let me know.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Very truly yours,
Needless to say, I have not heard back.