Saturday, August 11, 2018

Days and Nights 2.0
16" x 16"

This year I was invited to donate a small quilt to the International Quilt Association's annual auction in Houston.  I could say that I feel honored by the request and happy that there is something I can do to help an organization that I highly value. However, I have mixed feelings about donating my work. And this seems to be a problem for all types of artists as discussed in these links.

From the Huffington Post, Mat Gleason, The Career Benefits of Boycotting Charity Art Auctions
From the NY Times, Donating Work for Charity has a Down Side for Artists
Or this one From Art Career Experts: The argument against donating art to charity auctions
which my favorite quote is ………….I would love to hear the story of the artist whose career rocketed to success because he or she donated a work to a charity auction and this act alone tipped the first domino toward an avalanche of success coming his or her way. This narrative is always implied. I’ve never seen it happen.

The issues that concern me the most are:
1.  My textile works are incredibly time consuming to make. And, by donating my work, I do not get to set a minimum price for the work.  It could sell for a lot less than I would sell it.  This helps the buyer, but it drives down the market value of my work.
2.  The organization keeps 100% of the profits.
3.  For all the different charities to whom I have donated work, I have yet to even have my name or website associated with any marketing or promotional materials. And, this is such a great but missed opportunity for cross-promotion.
4.  It is rare, so very rare to receive any sales as a result of having my work in an auction.  To date, I have only had one small one, and I feel lucky to have gotten that one.
5.  Also, the tax code is written so that I can only write off a tax deduction for the price of the materials, which are minimal compared with the time I invested in making it.
6.  Also, for the charity asking for the donation, because there are so few upsides for the artist, they end up getting pieces donated that are not the highest standards.  There is no incentive to donate your very best work to an auction.  And, though I love this little piece that I am donating, I don't think it's my best work.
seeing the texture emerge, machine quilting and before the hand quilting
after the hand quilting
I like the suggestions offered by Maria Brophy in her blog post here. I haven't used it yet, but I am considering it for the next request I get.

Thank you for the opportunity to donate art to your organization.  I would be honored to have my artwork and name associated with yours and the great work you are doing.
Due to the extremely high volume of requests from many great charities, I have developed guidelines that enable me to donate artwork at less than retail cost.  These requirements also help me to reduce losses since current U.S. tax laws are unfavorable to artist donations.
Please consider offering these terms for all of your future artist donations, as your organization will benefit from it greatly by attracting top quality, high value artwork; and over time, will become known as the go-to-organization for unique and valuable art.
My donation guidelines are:
  • The organization agrees to split the proceeds from the sale or auction 50/50 (50% to the Artist and 50% to the organization).  I ask for payment within 7 business days of the sale.  The name, address, phone and e-mail of the buyer will be provided to me for my records.
  • A minimum or a reserve price will be set and will be designated by me.  (This is required to honor the value of the artwork for my existing collectors and partner galleries.)
  • In the event the artwork does not sell, it will be returned by the organization to me, at the organization’s expense, within seven (7) business days following the auction or sale.
If these guidelines are agreeable to you, please let me know and I’ll draw up a Consignment Agreement and send you photos of my donation for your consideration.
Artist Name Here.
And, yet, this time, I am sending a quilt and getting almost nothing in return. I ask myself why, and the answer is quite predictable.  This little piece was lying around in my closet, unfinished, unused, and unseen.  It took little time to quilt it and finish it, so off it's going, into the world.  The issues I raised here are real ones for me, but not always so simple when actually responding to these requests.  I usually say no.  Sometimes I say yes.  I ask you to consider that if you are willing to buy a piece at an auction, consider also buying a piece directly from the artist, or inquiring about having a small piece made just for you!

Thanks so much for stopping by!


Sharon Richards said...

This is indeed a problem. I have one friend who has more than adequate money who just loves these money-raising auctions because she can get things so cheaply!! I've tried to educate her, but as long as artists continue donating she'll probably go on buying.

A group that I belong to also started using a letter similar to yours. Maybe that's why I no longer get asked for donations??? Best of luck getting the word out. It's kind of like the idea that the PTA has to sell giftwrap/cookie dough/ etc. to make ends meet rather than asking for more funding for schools from our government. I had a classroom aide from Germany who always found this completely baffling!
Sharon Richards

Deborah C. Stearns said...

I used to run a silent auction to raise funds for college scholarships, and I always adhered to your second and third points -- I asked donors to set the minimum bid, and they could get items back that didn't sell if they wanted (most didn't, but some did). I didn't only deal in original art, but I had those rules for all donations. I thought about how I would feel if I donated something of value that sold for a pittance -- I would rather have the item and just donate money, in that case. I never wanted donors to feel bad about their donations. The name of the donor was listed with the item in the auction, but not in broader promotional materials, though, and we never split profits -- I'm not sure how that would work in terms of tax filings and accounting (not my specialty).

Sharon Richards said...

The year that I stopped donating to one auction that I had supported for at least 10 years previously was the year when I bought fabric for $28, sewed 4 placemats, and they sold for $17. I informed them I would no longer be donating since they ignored my starting price and cut it in two.
Never again!!

Kathy York said...

Thanks so much for your comments. I have no problem with fundraisers for PTA, however, our elementary school had at least 10 different fundraisers EVERY YEAR. That is too much!! Plus, I hate the kind of fundraisers they had, I would rather pay my fair share in the form of a check and be done with it. Perhaps I am a bit of a curmudgeon? Regarding your placemats, our guild has a fundraiser every other year at their bi-annual quilt show. Members are asked to make a lot of items to sell at the "Boutique". Items like the placemats you mentioned. However, this part really irritates me because many of the guild members would not buy anything until the last day of the show, expecting the prices to drop by half so that they could get a "deal". The whole point is to raise money for the organization, and they are intentionally undercutting their own efforts. ??? And, it is disrespectful to the people who have spent more on the donated item (and time to make it), than the item sells for. I am right there with you on that point.

Kathy York said...

For Deborah,
Thank you for your efforts (past, present and future), to respect artists in your fundraising efforts. I hope you will realize that artists are given an undo burden to donate their time and talents to fundraising efforts. I cherish the day that surgeons are asked to donate free time, and lawyers, and plumbers, and electricians, and free groceries, and free electricity, etc., in the same way that artists donate for fundraisers. It's certainly not as sexy as art, but at least it spreads out the burden to all the professionals out there.