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.