Consider this when donating art

Monday's Art Marketing Action newsletter is about donating your art.

As a preview, I want to encourage you not to forget your gallery affiliations when gifting any work to charity auctions, raffles, drawings, and the like. Some dealers are understandably anxious to see their artists' work going for less than market value. Keep the lines of communication open with your dealers. Run it by your local gallery (the gallery nearest the charity event) if there is any question. Or at least inform them of your decision.

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12 thoughts on “Consider this when donating art”

  1. Hi, Alyson, I took one of your excellent marketing classes a while back. I started a blog, and am still trying to paint every day. I thought I could jump right in to the daily painting craze. Anyway, why I comment, off topic, is that I find artists aren’t labelling their work when they put it online. I have begun always putting my name, and then the title when I prepare a photo of my work for posting. It isn’t legal, but if just about any image is right clicked, it can be downloaded into the computer that it’s displayed on: home, work, or internet cafe. The title the image has when posted onto the internet is the title that goes with the image. It is possible to watermark or otherwise mess up your image. No watermark for me, I want my images pretty. To prevent theft, some posters like professional photographers use tiny images to post, 150×200 pixels for instance. If enlarged to visible size, this will produce rather abstract blocks of colors rather than a reproduceable image. I make my images a little larger, because I want my name out there. You might want to tell your folks about this facet of the internet, and what happens when one puts their work out there on Earth. Cheers, Melissa

  2. Thanks Alyson, I hadn’t thought of that. I’ve donated several pieces this past year for raffle or auction, and I guess I was lucky that they all went for ‘gallery price’. I’ll be clear with them in the future.

  3. I have donated work that is a a few years old, that way I don’t get into trouble with the gallery that is representing me and showing my current work. I have been able to make some room in storage by donating large paintings to public collections (e.g., a University Medical Center or local museum) — this is a good deal for the collection receiving your work and it enhances your resume.

  4. i am on the planning committee for a fundraiser for a local women’s shelter. they have been doing an arts centered fundraiser for years. we both sell accepted work, with 20% going to the wca and have silent auction art, with 100% donated. i participated for years before joining the committee. this has been an amazing experience for me. i like the option of selling or donating, many artists choose to do both. it is a great opportunity to support and encourage artists and a celebration of women artists in our community. i have always had positive experiences with this show, and always donate an auction piece as well as for sale- my blog after last year’s show. one odd bit is the number of artists who don’t pick up unsold work after the show- it is very strange. we get a great response from the community for this show. i also helped coordinate a different sort of fundraiser recently- a mailbox paint off & silent auction to raise $$ for another local charity. again, the response was overwhelming. i opt not to participate in some events, and am not offended when people don’t respond to requests. you can only do so much. one caveat for artists just starting out is to remember that a donated piece may be someone’s first exposure to your work, so it should be of a quality that you would expect someone to buy.

  5. I have, and still do, donate works to charity for auctions, but I have learned to be very cautious about who and where. One of my first donations was to a small church event; the piece was sold for less that what it cost me to frame it. It would have been cheaper for me to write them a cheque than to donate a painting on which I had worked for several hours and which I had paid to frame. It was not good for me self-esteem nor my reputation. HOWEVER, donating a piece to be a prize in a raffle has no such drawbacks. People buy tickets and one person wins it. Regardless of how much money is raised by way of ticket sales, it does not impact on the value of the work or the artist’s reputation.

  6. Hi, Alyson, I read your Monday Art Marketing Newsletter with interest (as always!). It’s great that you are bringing up the subject of donations with your readership. Here’s something to add to the discussion. I’ve been juried into the 2nd Juried Art Exhibition for Sponsorship at Pagosa Mountain Hospital. They have an interesting solution for how to deal with getting art donations. Don’t know if it’s unusual or just something I haven’t heard of before. Anyway, the accepted artwork is available for sponsorship, to build the hospital’s permanent art collection. The artist gets paid, the donor gets the tax write-off and the hospital gets some nice art! What do you think of this as a strategy?

  7. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Diane: Yep, older art is probably a safer bet. Suzette: Ouch! It hurts to see work go for such a low price. It just shouldn’t happen and I encourage artists to insist that it doesn’t happen to them. Ask all of the right questions and make sure you get a minimum bid. Barbara: This is fascinating. I’m pulling this out for a new post and further discussion. Thanks.

  8. Aside from what the galleries might feel, shouldn’t we as artists want our work to be auctioned off for what it’s worth or more? People who get our art far underpriced tell their friends what a steal they got it for or, if ignorant of what it should go for, think that that’s what all your work should be priced at. I’ve seen other artists ask to have a minimum price for what their work can go for. I just personally am not at a point where I see donating my art as a feasible option. I’d rather just give money to the organization if I believe in it. At least I can right that off at tax time.

  9. I and the artists I represent are repeatedly asked to donate. I encourage artists to only donate to causes they truly believe in. As a gallerist, I purchase or commission a piece and then donate it to the cause, taking the write-off for the gallery. My artists often refer the asking party to me. I take the opportunity to educate the asker about the current pending legislation with regards to tax write-offs. I suggest that perhaps they already have a patron that could commission or purchase a piece from an artist then in turn donate it to the cause. I’ve found that when this method is used, the art actually “sells” for close to or more than retail value. Everyone wins this way – the artist receives full value, the patron gets the write-off and the cause/charity gets a larger donation.

  10. Good comments on this subject.

    I realized that I donated 6 works this year. I insisted on min bids. after learning the hard way.

    Most were prints that I had for over 3 years- so that was OK and price good. Had them in poster type high quality clear, sturdy wrapping that could stand up on it’s own & didn’t have to frame.

    Another 16×20″ original oil (Carl Sandburg was subject of painting & fund raiser) I insisted on a min price or I could not donate as (my) patrons could be at show. Show had a low turn out and I am getting painting back.
    If it could be hung in a good place where Carl Sandburg fans gather- I would just donate the work. Other than that- I’d rather not have it sold under value.

    A really good way to donate (I have found) for silent auctions is donate a hand enhanced giclee reproduction (with a min price). A work of a whimsical cat sold for nearly double at a high end fund raiser for childrens charities. Did frame it– certainly worth the exposure to that country club crowd.

    Still another way– and along those lines– is to do a a joint donation if it not going to be sold yet it will go for a great cause and be seen by many people. My photographer (and giclee maker) & I came together– she reproduced the (same cat by the way a big hit/original sold for a great price for me)— for free on canvas, gallery wrapped for our new local animal humane society educational wing. I then hand enhanced it- numbered it 1/100 on the right side to make no mistake of it not being an original although it sure looks like it). The tag notes both of us so we both get the exposure.

    You have to pick and choose to not only be fair to you but your galleries/patrons.

  11. When we are approached to donate a piece of our work,for a fund raising auction, we evaluate the requesting organization with the question “Is this an organization we would support anyhow?” If it is, then we donate one of our best pieces, along with a check for the wholesale price of the piece as an opening bid. Therefore, worst case scenario is that we buy our work back at wholesale with a tax deductible check and either resell it at wholesale or retail. Almost always, someone else tops our bid, and the piece goes on to sell at a fair price.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      That’s interesting, Jim. I never thought of that. Have you been advised that it’s completely legal to write off buying your own art?

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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