Letter for responding to donation requests

In response to my post about how to respond to people who ask you for your art for free, Alicia Leeke was reminded of a newsletter I wrote about soliciting donations.

After reading that article, Alicia listed the charities she supports and posted it to her website. Great idea! If people don’t see it first, she has a resource she can direct them to.

Alicia Leeke, Exotic Palm. ©The Artist
©Alicia Leeke, Exotic Palm. Print, 24 x 24 inches.

Alicia also created a standard letter to respond to requests for donation. She has given me permission to share it here. (I have added the phrase “to address my concerns” to the final sentence.)

Thank you for the opportunity to donate art to your organization. I have heard such good things about the work you do and I would be honored to have my name associated with yours. However, because the current U.S. tax laws are unfavorable to artist donations, I am only able to donate to those organizations in which the organization returns a percentage of the work back to the artists. I urge you to consider this as an option as you will receive better quality artwork. That way the artist is given a percentage of the art they create, the buyer gets the tax write off and you receive a donation.

If your policy changes to address my concerns, I would be glad to participate.

Alicia writes:

I got this idea from your newsletter and it worked surprisingly to my advantage in selling one of my prints at a price that was fair to the market and to me and not devalue the work. The finished piece was a framed print of a palm that was 24 x 24 [pictured here], double matted and framed with glass, so they got a very large quality piece they might not have otherwise gotten had it been a straight donation.

Share this post

New live learning opportunity ...

Create Opportunities Challenge

17 thoughts on “Letter for responding to donation requests”

  1. I was so excited to read this post this morning, Alyson. This has been a big problem for us because we have so many people that we are connected with that are involved in charities – it’s hard to say no to friends and family.

    I wrote a post on our principles on how to handle donation requests:

    There are many concerns here, but a biggie is this: IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOT ALLOW YOUR ARTWORK TO DECREASE IN VALUE – and with some charity auctions, your art can go for less than your collectors pay. And this is just bad business.

    I love this letter. I’m going to use this. And I think I’m even going to add it to our website. You just solved a big problem for many people!

    Thank you!

  2. Alyson,

    Great post. Great letter Alicia. While I may be based in Canada, the tax laws here for donations are similar. We can write off our supplies, but nothing more.

    I am always thankful for all of you that deal with business side of art, and give me as an artist a better perspective.


  3. Alyson Stanfield

    Maria: I’m so glad you found the letter helpful. Alicia was generous to share it with everyone. I’m going to head over and see your post right now.

    JD: I thought you Canadians were more progressive than us. Wonder why we can’t get this changed! It comes up in every single session of Congress.

  4. Hey Alyson! Firstly, congratulations on being such a positive role model in the field of arts and arts promotion. I love your book and look forward to your emails and posts on facebook/twitter etc. I have just read with interest your letter and the subsequent commentaries regarding artists donating their works to charities. I must admit, I am a wee bit disappointed…… I feel one thing has been greatly missed here, and that is the essence of charity…. it is not about the artist, it is not about whether or not the government gives a tax write off, it is about giving. I am so proud to say my humble paintings and prints raise over $50000 per year. I do agree, it is totally OK to say “no”… (I support a select number of charities only) I do not look for a taxation deduction, I simply give the paintings away – because I can, and, I gotta tell you, what goes around, definitely does come around. The promotion I get for this, over the years, has more than paid for my efforts and costs, but, for me, that is a bonus….. I hope my viewpoint stimulates discussion and thought… it is really, really important to simply “make people smile” and “pay it forward”…. just how I am sure someone has done for all of us early in our career. Kindest regards Tracey Keller 🙂

  5. Most requests I receive are face to face. And I use this strategy all the time now. I get 50% and they get 50% and I’m willing to donate small to my highest price pieces. We both benefit. Not everyone wants to do this, but it can be win-win and shows your support for the organization by your willingness to engage with them. I have started a campaign among artists I know to make this a rule of thumb.

  6. A few years ago I received a letter asking for an art donation for our brand new, state of the art hospital. The chairman of the acquisition committee was a friend. I responded with a letter and 40 signatures of other artists receiving the same letter (they had chucked theirs in the garbage). I decided to use the opportunity to inform the committee how their request for donations was received. My letter addressed the facts that the beautiful new hospital had raised millions of dollars from the community, paid for design, building, landscaping, etc. but neglected to build in a budget for art. Artists need to be paid for their work. They do not donate their best work. What does that say about the art profession? “Oh, we don’t need to pay for art, artists will give us their art for free because it is for such a great cause” The result was a very apologetic response and I was asked to be on a committee to formulate a “loan of art” program. Artists & galleries loan their work for 6 months receiving exposure and chance to sell. It is a program that is still working well today. Of course, instead of budgeting for art and owning the art, they now have to pay a person to manage the loan program!

  7. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Tracey: I’m thrilled that you are able to be so generous with your art, but many artists are not in that position. They can’t possibly accommodate all of the requests that come their way. It’s not that they don’t want to give. It’s that they simply can’t. They don’t have the resources (money, time, etc.).

    I love your attitude and I’m grateful that there are people like you in the world! I do hope you read the rest of my articles about giving. For instance, this is an important one:

    Tammy: Artists are a cause unto themselves, huh? And good for you for educating others about this.

    Jennifer: Woo hoo! Yes, art is always the last thing considered–even by interior designers. It’s nuts. Good for you for educating them and helping other artists in the community. I’m so glad they’re paying you for your efforts.

  8. While I do not donate my artwork (I work too hard to see it go for too little), for a couple of organizations I have donated private one-day art workshops for up to however many people (usually four or five). I list several possibilities as to the subject of the workshop, and the winner or workshop attendees provide their own supplies. It’s a fun occasion for them, I don’t mind donating my time and expertise and meeting new people, and the organization generally makes more than they would for a painting (sad commentary).

  9. I tend not to donate paintings outright unless it’s already a cause very close to my heart. I find it strange that a charity will approach an artist to ask for a sizeable donation in the form of a painting whereas they wouldn’t ask for the same donation in money. Perhaps they’re simply thinking of how much they can raise rather than how much the artist is donating.

    Instead I choose to work with a charity over a longer timescale in a way that benefits both of us. I’m working with a charity at the moment – I create a painting for their Christmas card design and they are given free reproduction rights. I am free to sell the painting and can donate a percentage of the selling price – as much or as little as I choose. I write a regular column for their newsletter, and demonstrate a painting on their stand at trade shows to add content to their display. In return I gain a new audience for my work and am able to attend shows that would otherwise be unavailable to me. We each promote the other through social media and our own networks. It’s a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship and neither party feels they are being exploited.

    Partnership working isn’t ideal for everyone but this method works for me.

  10. I put a limit on how much I am willing to donate each year – usually about $5000, retail value.

    Most charities that I work with will do 50/50. I get a tax receipt for the 50% that I do not receive. Here in Ontario, Canada, we can get a tax receipt for the sale price of the piece less whatever we are paid. Sometimes I can get the full retail value especially if the piece is to be used as a door prize or gift to a patron.

    However, it is necessary to understand the value of the tax receipt. Its value is based on the taxable income you make. In my case, my taxable income is quite low so, essentially, the tax receipt is worthless.

    Consequently, I try to get other advantages. Sometimes I will team with the charity by donating my work outright but having them promote my piece specifically. I then can expense it by writing the full value of the piece off to marketing.

    1. I am glad that you receive a tax receipt Jim. Our artists have been told that they are not available. What Ontario tax law can I quote to convince the organization works were donated to to send a tax receipt to the artists who created works specifically for the auction.

    2. Mary, send me an email at bpstudio@artscolony.on.ca and I will send you specific information on what the charities that I deal with do.

      If the charity is a not-for-profit, they will not be able to issue a tax receipt. I would ask them for other marketing intangibles and would write off the value of the piece as a marketing expense. This should be done where ever possible as one can then get the full value of the piece as an expense.

      As I noted above, a tax receipt has little value if your income is low.

  11. So far I am apparently not well enough known to be so approached. I get only the standard form letters that most everyone else gets. Only once early on did I donate a necklace to be auctioned off online with other jewelry artists’ works for a cause. There was no benefit to me other than I saw what someone was willing to pay for the piece. On the other hand, this kind of request could come up in the future and now I have the background to be able to respond appropriately.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

I'd love to stay in touch!

(Almost) every week I share updates about interesting news in the art world as well as  new episodes of The Art Biz, a weekly links playlist, and program offers. May I send it to you?