After the newsletter about donating art, I received this shocking email, which I’ll share as anonymous because the author didn’t respond to my questions nor give me permission to use his name. I’ve slightly edited it to insure the anonymity. It’s shocking not because it’s rare (I fear it isn’t), but because of the egregious deception of the organization.
I’m a senior citizen, seasoned award winning painter who got bit in the but last year after I donated a large painting as a fund raiser for a charity. The person who manages this charity came to me last year and asked me to donate a large oil painting. . . . This painting was to be a feature piece that was to be auctioned off at a $250 a plate, black-tie fund raiser.
Two weeks after the banquet, I visited the person’s office to find out what my painting brought in dollars for the cause. The person said they had a confession to make. The painting was withheld from the auction and given to the chairman of the charity because he loved the work!
I valued the painting at around $1,000. The bottom line is, I and my wife did not get a ticket to the auction, but my name, other to the chairman who got the painting, was not mentioned in any press release nor did I even get a thank you letter. How would you handle this one ?
My response as to how I would handle it is based on the facts that I don’t know how long ago the auction took place or what the author of this email said when he discovered what had happened.
First, as the artist realizes, this is completely unacceptable. He didn’t donate it to the chairman! He donated it to raise funds for a charitable organization. If they had changed their mind and wanted to donate to the chairman, they should have gone back to the artist and received permission.
My immediate response to the person who "confessed" would be that I will think about what has taken place and form a response to her. I would then go home and draft a letter saying that since you placed faith in the organization and they violated that trust, you would like to be remunerated. You expect, within 30 days, either (1) the return of the painting or (2) a check for $1000.
You really don’t want to do this, but you would also have every right to contact the press or other board members if your request isn’t honored. It’s not nice to issue threats and they usually don’t help your case, but it’s something you could do in the future if they get nasty. A charitable organization is a public trust and they have a responsibility to their donors. Any breech of that responsibility puts the prospect of future donations in jeopardy.
In short: They really, really screwed up. They need to be held accountable and they need to make things right for the good of their organization.
This should also serve as a lesson to get everything in writing, regardless of how well you know them. Putting things in writing assures that all parties are on the same page. Don’t ever "give" your art to anyone without this. You’re in charge of your career. Don’t give away your power.