Artists are often asked to donate work to worthy causes. Many times, these are arts-related organizations but other groups have begun to realize the attraction of art in their fund-raising efforts.
In the past year, I have donated artwork to Visual Art Exchange, Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Ballet Shoe Project, Children’s TheraPlay, Fuquay-Varina Arts Council, Cary Visual Arts, and the Underdog Ranch.
There’s the obvious desire to help a deserving cause. Art donations are used in silent and live auctions to raise funds. But besides altruism, there can be some practical and self-serving motivations as well. Donations can be viewed as a form of marketing for an artist. They can help reach a new audience or remind the public that you are still creating great pieces.
Attending the event you have donated to can the artist an opportunity to meet directly with bidders and potential clients. Attending can be nerve-wracking when no one has bid on your piece yet. It can also be exhilarating to walk in and find that your donation has already sold at full price, or that there is a bidding war taking place. And it’s terrifying when your work is in the live auction and the bidding begins!
Donations can also spur an artist into new avenues of art-making.
One of the events I have donated to in the past was Alliance of AIDS Services – Carolinas’ “Works of Heart” event. Before I donated, I looked at the previous year’s donations on-line and realized that the majority of work was abstract and contemporary. At that point, my work was very much founded in representational art. So on a hot July afternoon, I took a chance and began planning and executing an abstract piece. It was great fun and turned out well. It also sold at a good price, benefitting a great organization. (If “Works of Heart” is ever revived, I’ll be happy to donate again!)
Receiving feedback from the buyer of your work is also a great benefit.
I received the nicest gift just before Christmas when I received an email with a photo of two of my donations hanging in the winning bidder’s kitchen. I’ve also received thank you’s from purchasers at the Children’s TheraPlay auction who are enjoying my art and are grateful for my support of the organization.
And now a word about the tax implications for art donations.
Some organizations are under the impression that the artist can take a deduction for the full selling price of the work. Sadly, this is not true. The creator of the piece can merely deduct the cost of the materials (in my case: canvas, oils, medium, and frame.) There is no deduction for the true worth of the piece, its final selling price, or the going market rate. Because of this, less well-established events sometimes offer to share the a portion of the receipts with the artist. Another great benefit to the artist and an aid to getting the new event donations. A true win-win.
Regardless of the motivation, I encourage my fellow artists to consider donating work to worthy causes. And I especially encourage potential buyers to support the arts.