Donating Your Artwork — Makes Sense or No Cents?

This article explores the topic of donating work for fundraisers or charity groups. At first glance, you may wonder how giving away your work for free can make you money! Well, it may make more sense “and cents” than you might think!

And it doesn’t apply just to artists…. any artist, artisan or crafter, any one with a product, could benefit from this.

We polled some artists, artisans and crafters who do donate to fundraisers to get some “real world” experience on this subject.

There are 3 major reasons why to donate your artwork:

1 — Advertising — to generally get your name known in an area… who you are and what you do

2 — After event sales — people are so thrilled with what they saw at the fundraiser that they contact the artist/crafter and buy some of their other work or commission a specific piece

3 — Financial — the artist/crafter gets a tax deduction

That’s the theory… and then there’s the real experience. Does it actually work that way? Are there any cautionary tales to share? Things to do or not do?

Our polled “experts” all donated work. Some made after event sales…some not. Most felt it did help get their name known. Most were happy to make the donation, just in case. And usually it’s for a good cause.

Words of Wisdom:

Your name —

* When you are donating, you have to be careful who you donate to and what they are going to do with it. Ideally, you’ll want your name and information:

– Prominently displayed on the table with the art or craft work

– Announced as the artwork is given away

– Given to the recipient or winner with the piece.

Example #1 — This person once donated an item for a draw prize at a golf tournament. When the winner’s name was drawn, no mention of who the item was donated by was even given… they just said “we are drawing for this tray!” (there’s not much benefit in this…)

The value of your product —

* People that you donate to need to know the value of the item you are donating. If it is a silent auction, people may not bid a lot if they don’t know the value is high.

* Some people stop donating their art or craft work because it is auctioned off for a very small portion of what it is worth… They feel their work should fetch a more reasonable price, whether the money goes to them or the charitable organization. One remedy is to use a reserve bid (this sets a floor price below which the piece stays with the creator). Another idea is to state the value prominently with the information on the piece.

* Another concern is that the work ends up being sold again or given away as part of an estate if someone dies or if a business closes. The artist would rather have the work returned to them than having it get stored away or worse yet, thrown away. One remedy is to attach instructions where in that case, the work is to be returned to the creator. Attach the instructions as permanently as possible. Here’s a fairly “legalese” example of what to write….

“This painting was a gift to ???. This gift does not include an assignment of the copyright, or the moral rights, or the right of anyone, including the donee, to sell or dispose of this painting without the written consent of the artist or his estate.”

Example #2 — One person had someone come to pick up the 2 donated pieces arranged for and tried to take another couple of pieces. You need to be firm on what you choose to give and ensure that someone doesn’t think it’s a “free for the asking” situation.

For tax deduction purposes —

* Do you have enough income for the tax deduction to be useful? Although many participants in the art & craft industry don’t make “big bucks”, they can use the deduction to offset income earned from their art or craft, or perhaps even against their “day job” income.

* The tax deduction is given out by the charitable organization for the market value of the work, not the price the work fetches at the event, eg.), a silent auction. You can use a “gallery price” if you sell work in galleries. You don’t want to value the work extremely high though; you don’t want to trigger a tax audit. Best option is to price it consistent with your other work.

* Often the people attending charitable fundraising events are people with some disposable income… good people to know who you are and what you offer! So put your best work out there and make a great first impression.

* One of our polled artists found that you have to do things a few times before people remember that they were going to call you. With this in mind, they also donate items for door prizes at events they attend regularly. Because of the repeated interaction, people start thinking about their work… eventually contacting them. Sometimes people just need to be able to put a face to the name before they’re ready to buy. Case in point… the artisan attends a monthly meeting at which the group always has a door prize draw. The artisan has donated an item for the draw for the last 3 monthly meetings. This last time, a person came up to them after the meeting wanting to arrange for the artisan to make 20 or so “hostess gifts” for the person’s business EACH MONTH, resulting in a substantial guaranteed monthly sale to the artisan for several months!

So next time you are approached to donate your work, consider it. Using the advice above, and see if you can set the terms so that the process works for you AND the charitable group. You might even want to seek out the chance to “give” and hopefully “receive” something back in return!

About the Author/Contributors

By: Daryl Stratichuk. We thank Canadian artists, Maggie Cole, Loraine Laustsen, William Band, Robert Genn and Bill Lishinski & friends for their input in this article. Source: The A&CNet Newsletter at:

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