"Exposure" isn't enough

Requests for donations is part of being an artist. It happens regularly, I will receive a letter or email from an organization who is out there doing good work on behalf of the arts, animals, the homeless, or the numerous health related charities, requesting that I donate a piece of my art to their auction. Usually, with some form of the phrase "it will be great exposure for you" and maybe an offer for free or discounted tickets to their event.

However, "exposure", while a nice thought, isn't enough and very rarely leads to future sales.

There is a real cost to creating art. It's not just the materials in the artwork itself. It's the time, years of study (whether formal or self-taught), the rent/utilities (for some of us this means both home and a separate studio), marketing costs, insurance, and the list goes on.  Because of this, giving away artwork is not a viable business model... and art is business.

By now, I probably sound heartless and business-y and concerned with the bottomline. I promise I'm a generous person. I do donate whenever possible. This means determining if it's an organization with which I have a meaningful relationship (or the potential for one) and analyzing my finances at the time of the request to see if it is feasible to do so.

It's time to change the dynamic between artists and those requesting art for free. There are reasonable ways in which both the artist and organization can benefit. To that end, I've created a personal donation policy that is now posted on my website. It's below as well.

I can't speak for all artists, each of us will approach this situation differently. All I ask is that you respect my donation policy and understand that if I choose not to participate in your organization's event, it is not a reflection on the worthiness of the cause.

Donation Policy (also found in the 'About' section of my website)

I often receive requests to donate artwork to charity auctions and the like. As much as I would love to give work to each and every worthy cause (and so many are!), I must be selective and contribute to causes and organizations that are near and dear to me.

Please understand that current US tax laws are unfavorable to independent artists, we cannot deduct the full market value of our work only the cost of materials used to create the piece, which is usually pretty minimal when compared to the amount received when the piece is sold at full value.

As much as I wish it were so, “exposure” is not a reasonable offer in exchange for art.

That said, I do donate, but is with certain criteria in mind:

-       The organization agrees to split the proceeds 50/50 with payment within 10 days and the buyer’s name and contact information provided.

-       I am allowed to set the reserve price at auction. This is to honor the value of artwork in my client’s collections and in galleries through which I am represented.

-       If the artwork does not sell, it is to be returned to me within 10 days.

-       Prints, postcards, and other reproductions may be purchased at wholesale pricing by the organization and auctioned at any price (suggested retail pricing will be provided) or used as giveaways.