Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Donating Art...Singing the Blues

It seems there is no "off-season" when it comes to getting asked to donate art for non-profit fundraisers. And while most artists I know, including myself, are active in their communities and generous with their time, it does become difficult when asked so frequently to donate pieces of art.  Here are my two main beefs:

1. Most of the time, the auctions include all kinds of stuff—from trips to heating oil. The art is beautiful and provides a lovely visual backdrop for the event, but the attendees are not primarily art buyers. If they bid on a piece they are hoping to get it for a song...partly because they aren't appreciative of the value.

2. It is expensive to frame a work and often the piece sells for less than the cost of the frame. I feel that I would be better off keeping the work to sell at full price and send a check to the nonprofit for something close to what the piece would bring.

There have been a few events in which the group splits the take with the artist  50/50 or 60/40.  That is helpful in a couple ways. It recognizes the value to the artist, and it encourages artists to donate better work. But this seems to be rare.

I am honoring my donation commitments made so far this year, but would like to outline some criteria for future commitments. Maybe it considers the level of marketing exposure offered; maybe it's purely philanthropic, driven by the cause itself; maybe it considers the quality of the event; or maybe I simply limit donations to "all art" auctions, and write a check to the others. 

I would love to hear how others handle this dilemma. Meanwhile, this is the piece I just donated to our community's Symphony Orchestra fundraiser.  "A Monet Moment,"  8 x 8" oil on panel, framed.


  1. Hi, Linda. Good topic.

    I stay with one art donation a year, but I try to make sure it is an all art auction, and I think they get better prices. That's a good idea to watch that, and I think you're right to decide to sell a painting yourself and donate the check if it's better money.

  2. Thanks, Casey, for the feedback. One a year makes good sense. We have a very small community and it's easy to caught up letting personal feelings get in the way of saying no, even when you know it isn't a win-win situation. All art auctions are rare here. Sigh. I assume you support a different charity from year to year?