Podcast: Donate your art prudently

You can’t give to every good cause. Set your parameters.


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17 comments to Podcast: Donate your art prudently

  • Dear Alyson, I have given away paintings to worthy causes for many years. I considered it as a way to give back to my community. About two years ago, I came up with the perfect soluton to the overwhlming requests. I now donate gift certificates from my studio toward the purchase of paintings or art lessons. The charity gets their bid money for the certificates, and the winner must visit my studio or go to my website to redeem them. They either don’t use it, for whatever reason, or they usually spend more than the certificate is worth, so I get new clients and sales. Either way, I can’t lose. It has worked extremely well for me and I will never go back to giving away paintings. Love, Linda Blondheim http://lindablondheimartnotes.blogspot.com

  • Dear Allyson, I have found, through experience, that it’s unwise to donate a piece of artwork, no matter how worthwhile the cause, for auction. People who attend auctions do so to get a bargain. At only one auction did a piece of my sculpture get more than my asking price; all of the other times my pieces were auctioned off for far less than their value. In my opinion, this only serves to cheapen an artist’s work. I now will occasionally donate or pledge a percentage of a specific work’s selling price to a worthwhile cause or organization, but will never again donate a piece of my sculpture to any organization’s fundraising auction, as I feel auctions only serve to de-value one’s artwork.

    • Michael M Moore

      wow, it almost seems senseless to comment on this since it was posted in 2008. But nevertheless I will anyway in the case someone such as myself just now discovering the blog decides to take a look at this. They may have the same issue with donating and this might help them. so here goes,

      What I do when donating my works, I put together a document that says that I set the price for bidding; which is usually what the piece is worth. Should no one reach that asking price, then the piece comes back to me at the end of the night. and i have them sign the document, this way they don’t get to take the document home themselves (the charitable organization)

      And those that are used to starting their bids at $50 dollars won’t have you standing there with your mouth open embarrassed and pissed off because they gave away your $2000 piece of art for $150.00. Innocently, most people don’t know the value of art, they are just having fun with the fund raiser. However on the other hand now your work has instantly been devalued, so we want to avoid this. Well I hope that little tid bit might assist someone.

  • Over the years I have been asked to donate work for auctions for various causes. Once in a while I did it, but after repeatedly getting no information as to sale amount or buyer, I decided that was the end of it. Two mistakes: no clear statement of terms (like minimum bids), and failure to pursue the information aggressively. The idea that artists should freely give away their work does irk me; wonder how many physicians are asked to donate a free surgery or physical? Right now I am involved in a benefit sale, with 60% of the full market price going to the organization and 40% to me. I’d like a bigger cut, but at least the work is out there with my promotional materials (thanks, Alyson!) and the results could be beneficial. Absolutely nothing came from any of those auctions, except a lot of self-flagellation!

  • Mary Richmond

    One year I decided to keep track–I was asked for over 40 pieces of art to donate to various auctions in the area where I live! If all those pieces were only worth $50 that was $2000 they were asking me to donate–money I would never be able to take off my tax forms because as artists we can only claim the suppy costs….One artist group (of potters) I belong to actually addressed this issue in our annual meeting and as a group we agreed to donate no more than 10 pieces each that year. The auction people that year were shocked and not happy but we each picked the groups that really meant something to us and donated bigger pieces. In the past we had donated more out of guilt than commitment. People collecting for auctions are very good at their jobs, usually…. It’s really overwhelming if you live in an area where so many groups hit up artists as the mainstay of their auctions. We live in a very art oriented community and the asking is pretty constant. Timely and good information once again, Alyson!

  • Alyson: I loved todays ezine. I am not an artist but I am often asked to donate my services to charity fund raisers, in addition to money and time. I once read something that Oprah said and it changed the way I donate. She said that if you donate to everyone you spread yourself too thin and can’t really make a big difference. She suggested donating to only a few charities that support a cause you are passionate about. After reading that I decided to start my own foundation and I donate to one other charity that supports the cause I am most passionate about. It makes it easier to say “No” when asked by other charities. I simply explain my giving process and that is that. A great resource for giving as a business strategy is http://www.givingadvice.com. Maggie Keenan, Ed.D provides advice to business owners on ways to use giving as a way to build their business. Thanks Alyson for another great addition of your ezine. Rachelle Disbennett Lee, PhD http://www.365daysofcoaching.com

  • Alyson B. Stanfield

    Linda: Hmmm. Gift certificates. Interesting. I wonder if anyone is ever disappointed that they don’t have art to hang at the fundraiser. ??? Hap: Good for you for setting your parameters. Beth: Yea! Glad they’re giving you something at least. And getting the purchaser’s name should be a requirement. Mary: Yikes! 40 requests? Can you imagine? People (who ask for donations) need to know this. Of course, if you have a reputation for saying Yes all of the time (not that you do), of course they’ll keep coming back. That’s why the parameters are so important. Rachelle: Thanks for the resource. We’ll definitely be checking that out.

  • Alyson, this was a great topic! thanks for bringing this up as I just received a phone call at the end of last week to donate a painting to a private school in our community (my friend is on the board). Like Mary and other posters I receive many requests to donate to various causes. I used to donate to everything but I have learned over time it is okay to ‘just say no’. The ones I have close relationships I will continue to gladly donate to, but I really liked Linda’s tip on donating gift certificates.. I had never thought about that before – thanks for that info!

  • Hi Alyson, My husband is the mayor of our town, so you can imagine how many people know us and know about my work. I too receive requests for artwork donations…in my case, almost weekly. I have used gift certificates very successfully in the past, when I taught classes. I also have several different prints in various price ranges and sizes that I normally will donate to organizations I am familiar with. Last spring, one large charity auction here in town asked if I would consider donating an original painting. I explained about the IRS rules that you talked about, which they were totally unaware of. I then told them the amount I would receive if I sold the painting through one of my galleries, after the gallery commission, and said that if they would pay me that amount, the rest they made from the auction would be theirs to keep. They agreed and the piece sold for my usual retail price (the minimum bid was the amount I would be paid). They made a nice sum and I didn’t have to give away my painting (or watch my painting go for substantially under value)…it was a win/win all the way around! They have already asked if we could do it again next year and I will absolutely be willing to do it this way. Through this, I learned that by educating people and asking for what you want, sticking to your terms, it works, you will be respected for your professionalism, and everyone wins. I’m going to try this with other organizations as well. Thanks Alyson for all your great advice! Debra Groesser

  • Dear Alyson and readers of Art Biz blog, the Professional Guidelines has a number of documents about Fundraising Auctions including one written specifically for the artist. Though I can’t attach the documents here, a link is on my blog at: http://www.askharriete.typepad.com. Readers can also find the Fundraising Auction documents at http://www.snagmetalsmith.org/Publications/Professional_Guidelines/ These documents include a recommendation for artists and a letter that artists can use to reply to requests for donating their artwork. Sincerely, Harriete Estel Berman http://www.harriete-estel-berman.info

  • After years of giving away work I decided to only donate prints (except my favorite charities). Despite some frowns (from other artists in charge of events), I am not undercutting the galleries who show my work. My decision was made when I overheard someone (in a gallery) say to another.. I’ll wait until the auction. Recently I decided that if I don’t receive the name of the person who received the highest bid, I’ll also reconsider donating to that cause again. Most are very good. Since reading some of the other comments, I am using some of these ideas! Glad you brought this up, it has been a thorn in my side for many years. I wanted to give yet didn’t want to compete with my galleries. Thanks for other options. I especially like Debra’s idea. Thanks again. Oh, for two years in a row I painted in the Door County Plein Air Festival and other than their Quick Paint, they start the auction at gallery prices! It has been a huge success for all!

  • Alyson B. Stanfield

    Linda: OUCH! “I’ll wait until the auction” is painful to hear. But I’m afraid it’s not uncommon in many communities. I know there are places with far too many art auctions. Really ruins the market for any gallery that wants to go into business.

  • Great timing for me to see this article, Alyson. With one of my painted myrtlewood pieces being included in this weekend’s Breast Cancer Awareness Barrel Race, I also was unaware of the tax guidelines for donated art. Although it would be financially beneficial at tax time to list the total value of the piece once auctioned, I am still thrilled to have any dollar amount donated to the fight against cancer, regardless of the reciprocal payoff. In the future I may also opt for the gift certificate idea that others have mentioned, as I see more opportunities for one-on-one contact with potential clientele (ex. gift certificate for commissioned art as opposed to just for the purchase of a finished piece). Best Regards, Stephanie Donaldson

  • Stephanie: Glad to be of help! And, I agree. Sometimes you just want to give whatever you can because the cause is so close to your heart. Give away!

  • Thanks Alyson. Your article is very timely as the season for requests and donations is rapidly approaching – not that it really ever ends. Last month I was asked to create a small work for an organization that supports the local arts. In my discussion with them about the content, size, deadlines I inquired about payment. To my surprise they wanted it donated for their fund raiser banquet. Of all the costs they will incur to put on the fund raiser, my art would be a very small part. This thought process from any other charitable group I could understand but the organization promotes art & artists! Even a token payment would have been appreciated.
    I’m working on a letter to them to (nicely) bring to their attention the disconnect between their mission statement and this action.

  • Paula: I think this is very common, but you’re right. They are the ones who need to take the lead. Kudos for bringing it to their attention. And feel free to share that letter with me if you think others might benefit.

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