Monday, August 11, 2014

Donations to Charity

Raku Torso

The question of donations comes up often.

Charitable organizations ask artists to give them a piece of their work to be sold or auctioned off.  There's nothing wrong with that,  but---

I have contributed pieces of my work, but I'm always a bit irked by the assumption that artists are expected to do this.

Maybe it's the assumption that artists are easygoing, kindly creatures because they are 'sensitive and creative and full of soul'.  Well, we may be, but we also have to spend money to make money and be business people or we wouldn't be making art for long. We're not flower children and we don't live on air. But start THAT conversation and you will soon see their dust.

A lot of us either work at another job or our spouses work to support us or we have some sort of resources that allows us to make our art. Even Leonardo had to have someone to pay his bills, for pete's sake.

Sure, sure, there were and are some rock stars in art, but for the most part, we aren't rock stars, we're working (emphasis on the working) artists. And for most of us, we'd go crazy if we didn't make things.

I wonder how many of them give their work away?

So, what to do?

What I would really like to say is, "What do you think I am, a charity?"

But you don't; you just---

1. Grit your teeth behind your smile and donate a piece that's not your very best, but one that's okay to give away.

             And we all get short-changed.

2. Say, "No, I never donate work." Or "I only give to certain organizations." Or "I've reached my cost limit on contributions. "  (The last isn't such a bad a response.)

But you can't win.

The other myth that comes right on the heels of the donation request is, "It's okay, you can write it off on your income tax."

Not true.

You can only write the cost of your materials.  Not the value of the piece, not your time. An artist can't evaluate their own work for tax purposes. And only when you sell a piece can you take the cost of materials.

Here's a Better Way:

Request the organizer budget in the cost of the piece and buy it from you. The cost gets included in their budget and probably can be written off as show expense. They become an example of "Supporting the Arts", a much talked-about idea, but a not-enough-done-about action.

You get paid upfront.

The organizer sells raffle tickets or runs a silent auction for the prize. They gain funds against the cost of the event. (To say nothing of gaining additions to their contact and mailing list) Your work is on display and becomes the center of attraction.

The winner/buyer can take the cost off THEIR income tax as a contribution.

Everybody wins.

Garden Sculpture; Water Fountain


Clay and Fiber Artist said...

Explanation: One comment was removed not because of the content of the comment but because of it being linked to a questionable marketing website.

Lori Watts said...

Since this idea caught on - the benefit-art-auction thing - I get very frequent requests along this line. I, too, am somewhat irked by the idea that artists should just give their work away. In many cases, it's asking the equivalent of a great deal of money, from someone who makes very little money. The underlying assumption is, it's just art, we made it so it doesn't cost us anything. Wrong!
There are a couple of organizations to whom I donate work - they are the ones I would give money to, if I had any money. I'm learning to say no to the others.