On Wednesday’s episode of Outside the Frame we discussed the business aspects of donating art to charities. Throughout my career, I have supported numerous organizations with my art, my services or my time. For me, such contributions are a way of giving back to those who are less fortunate than myself or to support a cause that will make the world a better place for my children and their children to inhabit. The key for me is that I never donate art to a cause that I would not support monetarily and I only donate to causes that I care deeply about.
Giving of your time. There are so many ways in which you can donate your time to support your favorite charity or cause. For instance, you can donate your time working behind the scenes such as stuffing envelopes, printing and distributing flyers, or volunteer to staff the office. These sorts of jobs are tremendously important and sadly the most overlooked. Another way that you can give of your time is to serve on committees or the board of directors for your favorite charity or cause … help to organize a fund-raiser or volunteer for community outreach efforts to benefit your charity or cause. Do you support Arts in Education? If so, volunteer to teach art at your local school, library, or youth organization.
Donating services. Aside from the obvious services I listed above such as staffing and stuffing, take a look at your unique skill-set. Perhaps you are a gifted promoter or publicist, you can use your skills to publicize and promote your cause or charity’s fund-raiser. Perhaps you are an HTML code wizard, you can use your skill to build or maintain your cause or charity’s website. Perhaps you are great with graphic design, you can use your skills to create flyers, logos, banners, and other graphics for use by your cause or charity.
Donating your art. Aside from using your art to beautify and support your cause or charity’s business stationery and promotional materials, you can also donate your art to be used on products for the charity such a t-shirts, mousepads and buttons. Another way you can donate your art is to actually create the art as part of the fund-raising event. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a few of these types of events and found them to be quite fun. Here’s what happens … I set up my painting station and begin painting at the start of the event. As the event progresses, guests can watch me work and ask questions, make comments, etc. As the close of the event draws near, I finish the painting and it is put up for auction right on the spot. This particular type of donating art has proven to be most successful in terms of exposure as such events always draw the media and the interaction with guests is extremely beneficial. If you happen to be participating in an event such as this, make sure to have your promotional materials available to guests so they can take them home as you may get calls from bidders who lost out on the painting that was auctioned at the event.
Another way to donate your art is to contribute a piece to an auction … this can be either in the form of a live auction or a silent auction. What is the difference between a live auction and a silent auction? A live auction is held with an auctioneer (or some other personality) describing the work and prompting bidders on to spend more money. A silent auction is held without an auctioneer and bids are submitted via write-in or some other process such as an electronic input form. Original art tends to sell for much higher amounts during a live auction as compared to a silent auction; prints do well at either. You don’t have to limit yourself to donating a particular piece in support of your favorite cause or charity. You can submit a gift certificate to put toward a piece of work in your studio or gallery. You can also donate a gift certificate to create custom work for the highest bidder if you prefer.
Over the years, I have developed several rules regarding donating my art to auctions. My first rule I stated at the beginning of the show is I never donate art to a cause that I would not support monetarily and I only donate to causes that I care deeply about.
My second rule is to only donate fine art to auctions where the auction coordinator is art savvy. As an artist, for me it’s most important that the cause or charity to which I make my donation understands the value of the gift I am giving. By that, I mean that the auctioneer or on-air reader can appropriately describe the piece in its best light in order to appeal to the fine art bidder. This gives both the charity and myself the best mileage – the charity will get a higher return on my donation and I will reap the benefits of appropriate exposure from the event. An unfamiliar person selling your work to an equally unfamiliar audience is a recipe for disaster.
My third rule is to only contribute work I can afford to let go. By this, I mean that I’m pragmatic and keep my most important pieces for other, paying venues. That is not to say that I contribute less-than-perfect works. A professional should always try to make a good impression and giving work that does not represent your basic standards for quality will work against you. You maximize the impact of your auction participation by donating high quality works.
My fourth rule is that I will not contribute work to any auction where they do not post a minimum opening bid of 10% of the retail price of the work (at the very least) and honor that minimum bid. It’s an added bonus if the auction establishes a reserve bid option on high-ticket items … typically 40% - 80% of retail … whereby if the bids received do not equal 40% - 80% of the retail value of the art, then this work is returned to the artist as unsold.
My fifth rule is that I will not contribute work to any auction where a record of the final bid and contact information of the highest bidder is not provided to the artist after the auction. And for the contact information, I want full information; name, address, email, etc. not just a name and town. These records of the donation are important for tax purposes, as well as, artist documentation.
My sixth rule is that I only donate to auctions where they have clearly stated what portion of the proceeds from direct sale of auction items goes to the charity. Is it 20%, 40%, 50% or as in the case with 48 for Larry 100%. The higher the percentage of funds going directly to support the charity or cause that I am donating to, the greater my confidence in contributing to that organization.
My seventh rule is that my preference is for organizations that provide a pre-auction preview as this helps to build excitement for certain auction items and whets the public’s appetite for bidding.
My eighth rule is that the organization should have adequate insurance to cover the loss, damage or theft of my work throughout the time that the artwork is in their possession. If the artwork is to be sent to a different location for sorting and tagging before being sent to the final auction location, this process of the receiving and transporting of the work should also be covered by their insurance – so should the shipping to the final bidder.
Following these rules and developing your own policies toward donations will enable you to joyfully and with peace of mind give freely of your art to help those causes and charities you support. Once you’ve decided to donate art to a fund-raising auction, there are certain things that you can do to maximize the impact of your donation, which benefits both you and the organization.
1. Donate a good example of your current work. Never donate work that is old, shop worn, dated, seconds or that does not represent you current artistic style. Remember these people will only see this one piece so make sure it says the right thing about you. Keep in mind the audience that will be bidding and have your donated piece be appropriate to the audience.
2. State a realistic value for your work. Do not overinflate the price.
3. Think about how to make your donation a hit so that everyone covets your work. You can give work that might be thematic to the particular time of year. For instance, if the auction is in February, usually anything that includes a heart, is red, or has a theme of love will sell better than other items.
4. Prepare appropriate materials to submit with your donation.
An accurate description of your work is important, as this is the basis for the read-sheets used to introduce your items at the auction. Be sure to fill out all sections on your donation form and avoid acronyms or abbreviations that may be obscure to readers.
Make sure that you provide high-quality photographs showing your work at its best. These photographs will be used for the auction catalog and/or promotional materials.
A short artist statement included with the work enhances your donation.
A resume detailing your career highlights also enhances your donation as it provides bidders with background information about the artist.
Note: if the organizers do not ask for these items, provide your URL with your donation. Make sure that your website is up-to-date and contains all the important information about you, your work, and your career highlights.
Publicize the event … let your friends know, include it on your flyers and website. Spread the word and reap the benefits for both you (in exposure) and the organization (in bidders).
Finally, when organizations sponsoring or benefiting from fund-raising auctions act responsibly during planning, both artist and organization win. Artwork needs to be handled and displayed with care and respect. Every effort should be made to obtain the highest price for donated work, which is done by establishing (and honoring) minimum opening bids and all information regarding the purchaser should be forwarded to the donating artist after the auction.
Don’t forget about 48forLarry. Please read, retweet, tell your friends, donate if you can. Just $5 from 4000 people can save Larry’s life – won’t you give just $5? To send in your auction items, contact me at email@example.com the deadline for submissions is July 22.