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The Donating Artist by Gini Holmes

painting by Raette Meredith "Gallardia"

The Donating Artist
by Gini Holmes

Times are tough for a lot of organizations whose impact on their communities would be sorely missed should their services be cut. From health care to education and culture, agencies are continually scrambling to find innovative and profitable means by which to raise funds.

One such form of fund raising is the ever-popular Art Auction.  "Ever popular" in that, for many well meaning organizations, it does provide a wonderful avenue for raising funds while supposedly benefiting the community culturally. But, does it really provide a cultural benefit, or is it just a cheap mans by which to purchase art from area artists?  And who, exactly does it benefit?  Certainly it helps the organization.  But how does it benefit the donating artist?

Keep in mind that artists are often called upon to donate their time and their work, as if these two items were of no fiduciary importance.  Then consider the average income of an artist with that of other members of the professional community.  Too often, artists realise that their means of financial survival are being undermined  by the fact that their donations are depleting the "purchasing pool", creating a community of potential buyers who now wait for the "auction deal."

In order for art auctions to provide mutual benefits for both the organization and the artist, solicitations for donations must be approached with planning by both the solicitor and contributor.  By taking this approach the artist donates for the right reasons, is aware of why the donation is being given and how  it is supporting the organization, and dissatisfaction is avoided.  In return, the organization reaps the rewards of a donation given with the full support of the artist - whether the donation be time, money, or artwork.

When planning, keep in mind:

Exposure:  Be sure of the type and scope, and that your work actually benefits. Photos and media coverage can go a long way.

Tax Deductions:  Many organizations and artists do not realize that only the cost of materials used to create the work may be deducted.

Minimum Bid:  Neither the organization nor the artist benefit from a piece going for a pittance.  Be sure, also, that the organization  establishes a minimum bid (%) policy so that the bids are not disproportionate.

Percentage of purchase price:  Artists need to receive fair pay for thier work. Organizations that give a percentage back to the artist will attract more artists, and generate more net income.

I recently donated to a well-known auction after several years of "abstaining." When asked why I had decided to participate (after so many years of protest), I was able to give this answer: "I have never felt that artists should not donate. I have just felt that artists and their community must educate each other when it comes to donations. In other words, the donation should be established as an equitable business transaction. Unlike other professions, artists, be they visual, literary, or performing do not have abuilt in clientele coming to them on a daily basis. When they are constantly asked to give with little compensation in return, the devalue their services. When they are able to donate to a cause that truly believes in them and makes every effort to listen to and address their needs, they are better able to feel fully satisfied with their donation. Though the organization I donated to still needs to iron out a few minor details, overall, it has gone out of its way to listen to and respect the artists it solicits. By doing so it has created a successful, quality fund raiser that keeps the arts alive."

Gini Holmes served Shasta County as the Executive Director for the Shasta County Arts Council for fifteen years.  She is a professional artist showing and selling work all over California.

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