Thursday, March 17, 2011

Request for Donation

It is that time of year again. My mail box is full of requests from a variety of great non-profits (and some not so great) to give them art so they can sell them at auction to raise money. I expect the phone calls will start soon. Rarely do these auctions end up selling the art at full retail value. So, it ends up that benefactors of these non-profits get the art at a great deal. While I receive nothing but a thank you for my donation. Okay. Sometimes I get to attend the event. But a lot of times I'm asked to pay for the opportunity to sit and watch my piece be auctioned. But our tax laws are written so I do not get to deduct the price of my donation from my taxes--only the cost of goods in that piece, which, if I have done my accounting properly, has already been written off as a business expense. On the other hand, if a patron decides he/she no longer wishes to keep a piece of art, he/she can donate it to a non-profit and deduct the full retail amount. Not exactly fair.

I never minded art shows asking for donations. In fact, I've garnered clients from some of these auctions. Almost another marketing expense for exposure in a market. And I haven't totally decided what to do about these requests. I've had several customers acquire the auction piece and in those years have chosen not to purchase directly from me. So, I'm realizing that this "donation" is actually cutting into my sales. If it keeps me in good stead with the show, then maybe it is worth the price. Although maybe I should just offer them some money. "I don't make donations of my work to shows but I'd be happy to make a small monetary contribution"?

As for other causes, I've decided on a new approach. Should someone inquire about a donation I will politely tell them that I'd be happy to donate a piece if they will agree to purchase a piece of at least equal value. We'll see how that goes. I'll keep you posted. And, of course, I still reserve the right to say no outright to causes I don't care about or don't feel like supporting.

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's day!!!!


  1. Boy, have you opened a sore subject. One of the art magazines I read had an article a couple years back about the harm done by the silent auction. Bidders and non-bidders get to see that your $500 piece went for $50 and ergo it lowers the value of your work. In small communities such as Angel Fire some collectors, knowing you will donate to various non-profits, do not buy your work from you or your galleries. I suggested to a couple organizations that I would donate if they went to a mystery auction format where nobody knows what was paid for a piece. They said it was too much trouble. Then donating is too much trouble.

    I totally x'd off one non-profit when I had quietly said no because of financial considerations that year and the askee said, "Come on, it is not as if we are talking real money here!" It is real money to me especially if I am heading into a fair with only a limited amount of work because of the cost of supplies and health concerns.

    And just how much support do we get from those that demand (they don't even politely ask anymore) our support? MFAF as only put one AF artist on a poster of theirs in all the years of their existence. The library has moved their big fund raiser event to the same weekend as Artsfest which means none of their members can attend our event, and we are both fighting over volunteers. They haven't gotten that no artists can attend their event either.

    One visitor to Artsfest last year actually asked if I didn't sell a certain piece he loved was I donating it to MFAF so he could bid on it. I am afraid I was totally tharned. How on earth do you respond to that.

    Tip for all non-profits reading this: The more money we make as artists the more we are willing to donate. And we tend to donate to the groups that reciprocate by supporting us as artists or our art organizations.

  2. Oh, Jennifer, you have hit the nail on the head!

    It makes me NUTS to get all those solicitations for donations so that potential collectors can obtain my work at great discount, the organization can get a monetary benefit and I can get the dissatisfaction of seeing one of my artworks disappear into space.

    I've become pretty hard-line on donations and, in fact, have put a "donation requests" tab on my website with an explanation of what I offer.
    Basically, I will allow a non-profit to BUY a print from me at the wholesale price for use in their event. Of course, most balk and don't do it (but a couple have!).

    Not sure why non-profits see artists as the easy mark for donations. All too often they seem to think that having an "art auction" is a great way to make money. Unfortunately, it only devalues our work and I just will not do it any more. I think the only real solution to this issue is for all artists to follow a unified policy of not just giving away our work. Yes, there are organizations that I support and yes, it is by cash donation rather than an art donation as you suggested.

    By the way (and off this subject), I have admired your work for a long time. We're often at shows together and we're both in the 'drawing' category but I usually do shows alone and can never get out of the booth so we've not officially met. Need to change that! Maybe at Bend if not before.


If you've got a comment or a question, let me know, I'd love to hear from you.