Wednesday, August 12, 2015

5 Things to Consider Before You Donate

Victorian Style Stained Glass Mosaic Window
By Paula MacLeod

Saturday, August 22 is the 13th Annual Painted Chair and More Auction, the Independent Animal Rescue's biggest yearly fundraiser. The Independent Animal Rescue (IAR) is a no-kill, 100% volunteer, non-profit organization in Durham, NC. I have donated art for this effort every year since the very first auction. I have adopted a cat from IAR and have been looking for our perfect dog with them for the past year. This is an organization that I know well and fervently believe in their mission and the value of their efforts.

But, as an artist, I am solicited by LOTS of organizations. At one point, I felt that I could donate items to nearly all requests. That's not a good business decision, though. Why? First, look at how a charity auction of donated items works:

  • the organization gets free, desirable items to auction (live and silent)
  • people who come to the auction get bargains on those items
  • the artist gets exposure that presumably turns into more sales or commissions
  • the artist gets to write off the donation (but only the price of the winning bid NOT the full retail price)
The real winners in that line up are the organization and the people who come to bid. I did an informal survey of some of my artist friends to find out if anyone had gotten work or sales relating to an auction. Although it was a small sample (8), none of them had gotten any work related to any auction they had participated in. They represent potters, painters, jewelers, and glass artists. 

So even though the return, from a business perspective, is just the tax write-off, why and how do you decide to donate art to a charity?

1- Know your charity and fully support their efforts. Just as I have direct knowledge and experience of  IAR, you should choose based on your passions.

2- Make sure you know how the auction will work. Some auctions will split the proceeds with the artist, based on the final bid. The charity should ask you for the fair retail price and then create a reserve price. The bids have to reach the reserve bid or the piece won't sell. Be sure to keep the in-kind letter that the charity will send to you after the auction. This is for your tax write-off. 

3- Take your business cards and have them available with your work. If you can, go to the auction. As a contributor, you should have a comp ticket for the event. This will allow you to interact with people who are interested in your work.

4- Ask for a list of names and contact information of people who bid on your work. You can make a friendly follow up by post card or email.

5- Advertise to your clients, friends and family that you are participating in the event. Encourage people to attend. The more people who come to the event, the greater the likelihood of driving up bids and, in turn, making more profits for your charity.

After you select the charity or charities that you want to work with, when you are approached by a new charity, it is perfectly acceptable to say "no," and state that you already have charitable organizations that you support. Keep in mind that if you buy a ticket to an event and attend, that is support also, and may cost you less than a donation.

Our IAR adopted kitty, Juno.

I hope to see you at this year's Painted Chair and More Auction!

May all of your scores run true!

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