5 Things to Consider Before You Ask an Artist for a Charitable Donation ~ by Maria Benner

i-am-an-artist People frequently ask us to donate art to fundraising events, and we happily donate to some, while passive-aggressively ignoring others.  We receive over a dozen requests each year, as do many other artists.  Sometimes when people find out that Scott is an artist, the next thing out of their mouths is, “My kid’s school is having an event to support X program, would you donate your art?”  For some reason people assume that artists are more willing to part with their work for free, maybe because they think artists just make art for fun, not for work.  In reality, an artist needs to be compensated for time, just like a dentist, or a lawyer.  We don’t donate just to get exposure, we want more in return for a piece of art that took many hours to create.  So, here are five factors to consider, before you make the request.

1. Does the charitable organization/fundraiser/silent auction support anything that is relevant to the artist?  Do you know the artist personally?  If the answer is no, then we’re not likely to donate, unless one of our friends is asking us.  In that case, we’re just doing our friend a favor.  Also, if the event is not even taking place in Alaska, don’t expect to hear back from us.  If we don’t respond, move on to the next person on the list, there’s no need to follow up.

2. Should you give the artist a percentage of the final amount?  We gladly donate a piece of art if we get at least 25% of the final value in return.  One of the most common misconceptions is that the donation is tax deductible for the artist.  This is not the case!  An artist can only write off the cost of materials, not the final value of the item.  Since the cost of said materials is already included in the total amount for the tax year, there is no tax benefit for the artist for donating.  However, we would be glad to sell you a print, or a painting for you to personally donate, and then you can take the deduction.  Speaking of benefits to the artist, if the organization makes a special effort to promote the artist’s donation on social media, in printed materials at the event, on the event website, etc., we really appreciate that, and are likely to donate again in the future.  Unfortunately, while most organizations just promise exposure in front of a high number of affluent event attendees, in reality, the event organizers rarely do more than just place the item in a silent auction among hundreds of other items vying for the same exposure.  Just keep in mind that making an original piece of art takes many hours of work, and wouldn’t you want to be compensated for your time in some way?

3. Are you making it hard for the artist to donate?  After we say yes, we have to fill out a form, and are asked to deliver the item by a certain deadline.  Preferably, someone should stop by the studio to pick up the donation.  Think of it as an excuse to get out of the office.  Make the donation forms as simple as possible, and provide an option to fill them out online.  Remind the artist several times about the deadline, but not too often.

4. Should you send a “thank you” letter?  Absolutely send the artist a letter after the event thanking us for our time and generosity.  Also, let the artist know how much the item generated for the cause.  This is helpful for knowing the impact of our donation.

5. How many times has this artist donated in the past?  We realize that it’s easier to ask someone who has said yes in the past, but if we’ve donated for several years in a row, consider giving us a break for a year or two. Hopefully these tips will be helpful for those of you who have to ask for donations.  I’ve been in that position, and now I know each side’s perspective.  Let’s make it a better experience for everyone involved.


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