Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Pressure to Donate

I read an article this morning from Fine Art Views Newsletter that brought back memories that are slightly painful. It was called How To Give Without Being Taken. Many of us artists have been asked to donate art for some fund raiser of another during the course of our artistic careers. It's hard to donate a painting that could be sold for full value and pay the electric bill, yet at the same time, we feel guilty and selfish if we say no. So how do we come to some kind of balance?

The above article, written by Luann Udell, offers some good suggestions. Following the suggestions does not guarantee that it will work, but it is at least a start.

One suggestion is to give the organization an invoice stating the value of the painting you are donating, a little blurb about you, the artist, and suggesting a minimum bid. I have donated to a fundraiser and it did not turn out the way I had hoped. I provided a paper with all the particulars on it including the value, size, medium, and info about me. I hoped this information would be passed on to the auctioneer, because it is after all, the auctioneer that is responsible for selling the painting. However, even an invoice, or similar paper, does not mean they will understand the true value of the painting and therefore promote it appropriately.

Luann also suggests that you give to a fundraiser that means something to you. That way, you won't feel so conflicted in offering a painting for free to an organization and losing the value of it (donating a painting to charity cannot be claimed on your taxes as a write-off). I frequently get requests to donate paintings to organizations to raise money for animals, usually shelters. If I gave to all of the organizations that make requests, I probably wouldn't have any paintings left. If you are an animal artist, you know what I mean. I especially do not feel obligated to give a donation to a shelter in Arizona when I live in North Carolina and my local animal shelter needs as much, if not more, help than theirs does. I want to raise money for my local shelter, not one that is on the other side of the country. It is because I care for animals that I am doing my Faces of Love series rather than donating to an unknown organization over 2,000 miles away.

In addition, Luann makes a wonderful suggestion that you offer to sell your painting to the organization at a wholesale price. That way both you and the charity can get paid! It also gives more value to your painting and the organization will work harder to sell it for a higher price. The shame of it is that too many people, organizations, and charities think you ought to give away your art and be happy with the exposure you will, hopefully, receive.

Lastly, Luann suggested that the artist be present at the charity event. That is a good idea, if they let you in without charging you. I naively thought I would be invited to the event because I made a donation to the auction. Not so! If I wanted to attend I had to pay the full price of a ticket - $35.00 per person. Wow! I learned the hard way. Not only did they not get anywhere near the value of my donation at the auction, but I could not attend to help promote my own donation to help raise the bid on it. In addition, I got no future commissions from the exposure I received at the event and that was what I had really hoped for since I was new to the area at the time.

It was a hard learned lesson for me, but it was worth it. I am more careful to whom I donate my artwork. I make sure it's a charity that means something to me, and I no longer feel guilty saying "No" when asked to donate.

Next week, Luann is covering "Part 2: The perfect way to handle requests to donate your work!" I look forward to seeing what she has to say about that subject.


  1. very interesting comments. I look forward to the follow up.

  2. I no longer donate to charity auctions. Instead I offer to sell a piece at normal price and give a percentage to the charity. This can be advertised my the charity in a number of ways. I also have shown my work at a charity function with the same deal.