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Emotional Blackmail and Charity Work

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

I keep getting asked to do charity events for FREE, what should I do?

Have you heard any of these before?

  • You can hand out your business cards;

  • It will give you some great exposure;

  • It’s for a good cause, tell me that you want to help?

As human beings, it is difficult to say NO to someone, especially if they need our help. However, when does a simple request turn into EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL? What if you don't have enough money to pay the rent, utilities or eat?

Should you still perform for free?

Well, the question is a little more COMPLEX than simply YES or NO. Let’s consider the options and how to deal with people who request your services for nothing.

I was once asked to travel almost 300 miles to attend a very posh event for charity. Each table cost £1,000, with some 20 tables at the event. They also had a comedian and various top end raffle prizes to raise money for this particular cause.

I was told that it would be great EXPOSURE, and that I could hand out my business cards. In addition, and as a way of saying thanks, they would make sure that I received something to eat and a few drinks from the bar.

The problem was that the caterers were getting PAID, the venue was getting PAID, the DJ was getting PAID and the comedian was also getting PAID (very highly)! I was to complement the night with my magic for several hours, travel some 600 MILES and go home after a meal. I politely declined and felt rather astonished that they devalued my services to such an extent.

Another Magician, who I have known for many years, was also asked to do a charity event. He requested a reduced fee to cover his time and fuel, which was AGREED by the event organiser. After he had finished performing, the organiser made an announcement thanking everyone for giving up their time for free, apart from one Magician, naming my friend. This was completely UNACCEPTABLE and he felt so low that he ultimately left the venue and didn’t collect his fee.

So, if you don’t do any charity work, does that make you a bad person?

Definitely not, there are a MILLION and one ways to help a cause that you feel is close to your heart. I have a direct debit with a charity called Wateraid, who provide basic and fundamental equipment to undeveloped counties access safe drinking water. Without water, we don't have life!

My Father also passed away from a heart attack when I was only 16 years old, so I donate regularly to the British Heart Foundation. In addition, I recently completed Tough Mudder for Kidney Research, as my Father in law suffered from kidney issues. I often donate my lunch to the homeless and use the time to reflect and fast.

There are many other ways that I help individuals and charities throughout the year, so when I turn down something that is detrimental to my time, I don't feel bad. Effectively, by saying NO to one thing, I am saying YES to another, like spending time with my friends and family. I treat it like the 'Ying' and 'Yang' of the magic world!

No one has the right to make you feel guilty for not doing enough, especially if you are going to suffer as a result. There is nothing wrong with someone asking you do a gig for free, however, you should be able to make the decision without remorse and not be bombarded with emotional blackmail.

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Stay humble,


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