Ask a Gallery Owner: Should I Donate My Art to Charity Events?

As an artist you could easily give away ten lifetime’s worth of work to all of the charitable causes that would love to have one of your works in their silent auction. The question is, should you do donate, and if so what should you keep in mind when making a donation? I recently received an email from an artist with some of these questions. Below is our conversation thread on the subject.

Original Email

Hi Jason,
What’s your opinion about donating pieces to charity auctions, and what should be the reserve or minimum value versus the commercial gallery price? Thanks.

My Response

Donations can be a great way to give back to the community and to get some exposure. Make sure the piece you donate is a good representation of your work and not an orphan piece. A reserve is a good idea, but the reserve can be lower than the gallery price.

Artist’s Response

Thanks, Jason. Good advice, but should the reserve value be 30%, 50%, 75%, from a gallery’s point of view.?

My Response

I’ve never really had too much of a concern with my artist’s donating work. I would be fine with the number being 30-50% of retail value. If you have a gallery in the local area it wouldn’t hurt to have a conversation with them about what they would be comfortable with. I have sold artwork to clients who missed out on bidding on an auction piece, so it was good exposure for us as well as the artist.

Some additional points to keep in mind:

  1. When making a donation, give only your best work. I know it’s tempting to go digging in the back corner of the attic to give away an orphaned piece of artwork, but remember that the attendees and a charitable event are likely your target customers. You want to show them your best work.
  2. Request that the charity give you the address information of anyone who bids on the work. While I would certainly understand that the charity might be reluctant to do this, I knew an artist who asked for this information once and was provided with addresses. Perhaps some junior charity worker didn’t know any better or perhaps it was the charity’s policy to provide this info. The artist sent out a low-key marketing piece saying something to the effect of “I understand you bid on my artwork at a recent auction and didn’t win it – I just wanted to let you know my studio is in the area and I would be happy to show you additional works that are currently available. Should you find one that you fall in love with, I will donate a portion of the proceeds to the charity.” He sold a painting as a result of this effort, and even though it was only a small one, he felt he built a great relationship with the buyer.
  3. Pick 2-3 charities or causes that you believe in and become a consistent supporter. This has two benefits: First, the more you participate the more likely you are to have the opportunity to serve on boards or committees where you can network with other volunteers, some of whom may be great community contacts for you. Second, once you’ve picked your causes you now have a great way to decline other invitations to donate – “I already support the American Diabetes association and Breast Cancer Awareness – while your cause is noble and important I’m afraid I can’t commit to any more causes.”
  4. Give out of the goodness of your heart. I realize all of the points made above talk about how you can optimize contributions to try and get a marketing advantage. I’m sure that most charities would be happy to see their contributors benefit from their participation, after all, you’re far likelier to donate again in the future, but this shouldn’t be your ultimate goal. While you should take advantage of any benefits available through your contribution, even if you don’t get any immediate advantage, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you have helped the community.

What do you think – do you donate to charities and community causes? How have you benefited from your participation? What advice would you give to an artist who has been asked to donate art to a cause? Leave your thoughts and advice in the comments below.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. I would say it depends on the organization. I recently donated three prints to an organization for their fundraiser. They were able to raise $3,800.00 on those prints. That is a testament to their supporters and I trust them implicitly. But their are organizations that will not have a regard to maintaining value. Be careful!

  2. “The attendees and a charitable event are likely your target customers”

    What f you’re pretty sure they wouldn’t be shopping for art normally? I live in a cheap area that’s just as happy to cover their walls with WalMart posters as real paintings (and are willing to pay the same), and every few months there seems to be a benefit for someone who ran out of insurance or a family that lost their breadwinner. They often include silent and/or live auctions, and occasionally raffles (but you’re not going to get promoted on a raffle unless you’ve got a significant local painting matching thee theme of the charity or licensed Packer art.)

    1. We had a similar benefit for my nephew recently. Not only did the art work not get minimum bids, neither did the signed Packer sh*t. They were only interested in things related to racing and putting raffle tickets in for items that had been arranged into gift baskets. I agree, the audience really makes a difference.

    1. Unless something has changed recently I don’t believe you are able to write off the cost of any donations beyond the cost of materials. I would love to know that this has been amended since I always thought it was a stunningly unfair policy.

      1. Yes, but how else do you stop people from assigning a ridiculously inflated value to their work? Especially if they don’t have a large body of “comparables” to point to?

  3. I am a fine artist following a long career as the owner of a graphic design studio. I always made a point of doing pro bono work then for Non profits, as a natural way to give back to my community. As a fine artist, I also occasionally donate artwork for the same reasons. Usually small pieces. Your suggestions oh pricing were helpful, and I hadn’t thought to try and keep track of buyers, let alone bidders.

  4. Glad to hear I have been doing this right….. I really question donations from artists I know … who do wonderful stuff and then and then and then…. they donate an old piece of garbage that does not reflect their current status at all. … I want to use donations as a way to showcase my work.

  5. I had a scheduled phone conversation earlier today with an event planner and the director of a charity who approached me about me creating artwork for a vip event / auction they are holding later this year. I told them what I would be comfortable with and they are countering tomorrow… I have been pondering about it all day and your post gave me the answer I was looking for! talk about synchronicity…. Thank you!

  6. Lindsay, it is my understanding you can only claim the amount of the materials used in the making of the work. This is a sad situation. Now, if you could get a patron to buy your work and then donate it to the organization, everyone would benefit. The patron could take a full deduction for donating the work. You the artist could even donate part of the proceeds of the sale, which would then be tax deductible.

    1. I wonder how it would work if you claimed it on your personal taxes as a charitable donation for the full value of the piece versus your business taxes… I’m my case, I file both together so I have no idea…

  7. For artist’s that do not have name recognition or a good clientele this is a really bad idea. Rarely do the artists get anything out of it.

    For established artists with good cash flow it is not bad because they can receive a receipt for their donation. I have donated a lot of work over the years and never have gotten anything in the way of exposure. And in at least two cases the organizers not only devalued the work but they also held the work back so they could purchase it at a greatly reduced price. This did not benefit either me or the non profit. I have never understood why everyone except artist’s are expected to be paid for their time and effort. Even fundraisers ( the people) are paid a percentage of the work. Regarding a gallery as opposed to the artist themselves, if the people who are running the non-profit and their patrons are not supporting your business previous to the event, rarely will they support your business after. If you want to donate because you love the cause then do it. But the promises of business and exposure are practically non existent and if you think that donating will help you get your foot in the door for ” their friends” well that probably will not happen either.

    What I have had to do is limit what I donate to two causes I really think are awesome each year. I try to keep it local or to people who are connected via established clients. Most of the established clients want me to be able to cover my expenses and will work with me to do so then donate the work to give the non-profit a chance to make money while covering my expenses too.

    1. 100 percent agree with you on this. If you look around on the net too, there are plenty of articles talking about why it’s a bad idea to donate to charity auctions for a multiple of reasons. I DO participate in benefit art shows where they split the sale of the art with the artist and the cause. I think these should be the standard.

    2. Agree 100% with you on this. I hate the word exposure. One of my worst experiences was buying my own work back during a silent auction because the bid was insultingly low. In some cases, attendees paid admission to a show and a chance to bid on donated items. They feel they’ve already contributed to the cause with the price of admission regardless of how much they ate or drank. The driving force after that is to get original work at way, way below market value. I am now limiting donations to twice a year and simply counting it as a cost of doing business with no expectations on my part.

  8. I’ve donated artwork in the past to a number of worthy causes and the reward of knowing that I was able to help certainly was all the satisfaction I needed. Any developments that may have come from that I can’t remember, but I’ll never forget the joy I felt by helping. Recently, I’ve partnered with a local non-profit (Lee who support needy children with educational programs and living assistance. I donate a percentage of the tuition I collect from my after school art enrichment program called Yes, You Can Draw. Besides pursuing my career as a fine art painter, I teach drawing to elementary school children. The feeling of deep pleasure I felt when I found out what a difference my donations to the non-profit organization would make in the lives of those beautiful children made me literally feel warm inside. There’s nothing better than spreading GOoDness in the world!

  9. I donate to charitable auctions often. Sometimes newer work, sometimes older. If you donate, like Jason says, do it out of the goodness of your heart because you want to help or give back to a cause. Once that art has been handed over, I think of it as a gift to a friend. They now own the piece and can do what they want with it. (Just like I have the option to sell, auction, or raffle away any item in my home that I own). I don’t try to dictate the value of the piece or set a minimum bid. Auctions need to start low in order to get interest going. Get a receipt letter from the charity for taxes, and just value the piece at full retail. The tax write off for charitable donations is only a portion of the value anyway. You don’t get a full value deduction. But, beyond any of that – donate because you want to help. Donate because you support the charity, or are supporting a friend or family member. Donate because you know that any love you put out into the world returns to you multiplied. If you’re looking for business connections, leads, or new customers, then you can find other venues that will be more effective than most charity auctions. If you can’t afford to part with the work, then don’t part with it, and walk away with a clear conscience, knowing that you can support your community or charities in other, non-monetary ways.

  10. I always jump at the opportunity to donate a painting or two. And yes, it must be the good stuff. I am pretty picky, but there are a few local charities and organizations that I frequently donate to. I will ask to get the information of bidders as well as the winning bidder and I often will receive this information. However, I almost always attend the event and will hang around the location of my paintings. This seems to work best for me because I can answer any questions about my work and get into good conversations with the bidders. I usually exchange information before the event is even over with. Ultimately, all of these efforts lead to additional sales. Recently, I donated two of my mixed media paintings for a Grow Riverside event. I made several connections and the winning bidder later purchased another piece from my studio. A month after that, he commissioned me for a large 5′ X 4′ painting that is now in his office at City Hall. This has in turn, generated more interest from new, potential clients. Everything I do publicly, I consider marketing and potential for sales.

      1. Hi Rose, It started out as simply a curiosity to know the people that were interested in my work. Things just developed from there. So, if you are able, I highly recommend attending the event you donate to and then stay close to your donations. Oh, and I always wear my hand painted name tag with my name and title as Artist. Plus, don’t forget your business cards.

  11. I do donate artwork consistently to a few causes I believe in. However, I’m a bit disturbed by how often visual artists are asked to fund causes, when visual artists have so many financial needs of their own! Also artists can’t write off the market value of their donation they way their own collectors can. I’ve also observed that the number of charity events has increased so dramatically in my city that they now compete with traditional galleries for clients. Seems that there are many folks who ONLY buy at fundraisers. In fact, I’ve had visitors come into my studio/gallery, fall in love with an artist’s work, and ask if that artist will be putting work into a fundraiser – hoping they could wait to buy there. Possibly these folks would rather buy at a fundraiser, since they don’t pay sales tax, may get it at a low reserved price, and may be able to write the cost off their taxes. I have been diligent to collect the names of collectors from fundraisers, but so far, I don’t think any have come back to buy other artworks directly. So I have to say, even though there are many worthy causes, I think the artist isn’t always the one who benefits from donating.

  12. A well known artist I know says that she found that such charity requests for art are often opportunities for collectors to buy her works at below market prices. As an alternative, she offers the organization the same gallery commission of 50% on her work, but no silent auction. She affirms that it also keeps the prices at a standard level, which is more fair to her existing collectors – and to her galleries. I think this approach makes sense.

  13. When donating art, I like to donate it online, ie., the proceeds from its sale go to the charity. That way, I have control over the opening bid price, and what percentage of the sale proceeds will go to the charity. I can also keep the art if it doesn’t sell. If it sells, I donate the proceeds of the sale to the charity, and send a copy of their thank you note to the buyer. I’ve done this a couple times.

  14. I tell my fellow artist friends to never donate a piece of art to a good cause. My belief is that one of the junior leaguers on the committee should purchase the piece of work and they could put the piece up for auction to benefit the good cause. What usually happens is the organization sells the work, the buyer gets the art and a tax write off , the organization gets some money and the artist might get a pat on the back if they’re lucky. A free ticket to the event for the artist is usually out of the question. The perk for the artist is that they are branded a soft touch so the organization hits the artist up for another piece of art the next year. Artists can always work on the committee if they feel for the cause. If you make art for a living, don’t give it away.

  15. I have had bad experiences donating art… I’d rather just donate money. My experience is that when I donated a piece that was good enough to represent me, I found that the other artists that had donated hadn’t prescribed to that rule. For silent auctions, the bidding was generally, always under the asking price. As for exposure, I’ve had a couple of people contact me and let me know how happy they were to have won my piece, but never any additional sales. I’m sure there are charity events that treat the artists respectfully (particularly regarding pricing) and advertise and possibly create some revenue for you; I just haven’t come across them. If I’m just donating because I like the organization and want to help out and don’t expect anything in return, it’s fine.
    The following article has an interesting perspective on donating art to charities and has really influenced how I feel about it.

    1. Evelyn, thank you for the link to the article! It confirms the suspicions I’ve had about the charity auction circuit. Worth reading!

    2. You are spot on, as is the linked article. I also feel that donating your work shows no respect for those patrons who made gallery purchases of work. We had an artist in our gallery who had a frequent visitor to the gallery comment on the collection he had acquired of the artist’s work. All of the collected works were purchased at charity auctions, and to my knowledge the visitor never purchased any art from our gallery.

  16. I’ve been creating original pieces of art for the California Wildlife Center for the past 9 years. Each piece has been one of their animal patients that they cared for and released back into the wild, so it’s a cause near and dear to my heart. It has not lead to other sales, but I am fine with that as it goes towards helping animals. I also donate a few prints here and there to other animal causes. I think it’s a wonderful way to give back to something you totally believe in and want to help out with and I know it is always greatly appreciated. God gave me a wonderful talent so I feel very honored to give back any way I can to help animals!!!

  17. I, too, was really bugged that I could only deduct the cost of my supplies used for making my art. (FYI, other professionals cannot deduct the value of their volunteer time, either). After a conversation with my tax accountant, we came up with this procedure. I have a handful of organizations that I have donated my art to in recent years and I have developed a strong relationship with them. This year, when they asked me for a donation, I said yes, BUT…
    I now ask the organizations to “buy” the art from me — at a reduced price of 1/3 -1/2 of the retail value. I agree to write a donation check to the organization for that same amount.
    This is a win-win for me AND the organization:
    — The organization can show their support for local artists with documented purchases of art, it can auction, sell, or give away the art as it chooses, — and — it receives an additional donation check it may not have gotten otherwise.
    –I have another line written on my sales column and use it as income — and — I have a documented cash donation that I can deduct. And, another work of mine is in the hands of another collector (along with all my contact info, etc). I
    It took the organizations a bit of time to figure out how to make this work with their bookkeeping systems, but it does work.
    I feel good about supporting the organizations, selling a prime current piece (albeit at a reduced price), and get a tax deductible donation to show for it. As time goes on, I plan to sell the art at prices closer to the retail value, but for now, this works for me.

    I LOVE the idea of asking for names and contact info of all the bidders of my work and I will begin to ask for that as a contingency of donating my work

    1. Very interesting approach Linda – I would encourage everyone to talk to their own accountant before implementing a similar strategy, but this definitely seems like a great idea.

      1. This approach is right on target! I have arranged for my two groups and to have an exclusive Art for HIV 2016 art show this November at the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS in downtown Phoenix. It will be a big shindig for their donors and there will be donated local prizes for a silent auction. The prospect of my artists only being able to take off their materials for ‘donating’ their work was not acceptable!
        SWC and I came up with this idea: Art Explorers gets the tax license and sells the art. The artist receives 100% of the sale (- tax) and then DONATES back to SWC a minimum of 25%, for which they them receive a 501(c)3 tax receipt, which comes off the top of their income taxes! If the artist wants to donate 30%, 50% or more, it’s their choice and their tax receipt reflects the %. If they pay taxes, they actually receive 100% of the sale of their art, and SWC receives the % the artists donate! Art Explorers AZ does not receive a commission. We charge a $35 submission fee for up to 5 entries of all mediums. This is a JURIED art show with some interesting benefits. It’s a win-win situation! I encourage artists to amend this strategy as needed, like Linda above, with charities wanting them to donate their work.
        I have mixed feelings about outright “donating” artwork – yes, giving from the heart feels good, and it generally does come back in the long-run. But, it has to be the right situation as you talked about in this article – some situations are just plain abusive!
        GREAT articles, Jason. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise!

  18. I am in complete agreement with my dear friend and “Doer Of GOoD” Yvonne Gaudet, I am now completing my 6th donated mural at the Advantage Center in La Mesa Ca. It is a daycare for the severely disabled. Being around these special people since July 11th has made me realize this is the most rewarding place for me. They respond to my Whimsickles murals asking for special animals and colors. They love the fun music I play and I always have a smiling audience in wheelchairs. My daughter Randall is a nurse she came to visit , her comment..” Mother you belong here, these people love you! The staff of twenty five are wonderful Angels, who all by the way have ended up as characters in my murals. I’m a happy 73 year old artist who is not a volunteer but an organ doner . I am giving them my heart. And there are so many walls!

  19. I donate prints and make cards on a regular basis for fund raising on a local trail that I paint on. It is usually a percentage of the sale price and I make sure that the gallery gets its commission first before I calculate my donation amount which is 50% of what is left. On cards, I really just break even as the printing costs take up a bit more, but on prints I manage to make a good amount of the selling price, as I sell them myself. I have a show coming up highlighting my recent work on this trail and I will be donating a percentage of original painting sales for this. The commission at this particular gallery is quite low so I still manage to make 35% of the selling price. What I make in publicity and good will is far greater. I think that as artists, we like to give back to the community we love but we should never give less than our best so the giclee prints work well. I also that as artists we have worth, and we should not give away without taking some amount for ourselves, whether monetary or in good will.

  20. We donate quite often to auctions that split the proceeds with the artist 50/50
    This is no worse than the fees gallery owners charge and we get seen by a different audience

    1. Hi David, interesting point. I’ve donated my work to causes with a 50/50 split ( as well as 70/30 and no commission). However, it would be good for us artists to think about the long term implication of channeling so many sales through charities. A charity has made no long-term investment in the art community – usually doesn’t maintain physical space or a website for showing art or have year-round events, or promote artists over years. Its uses art just as a short-term convenience for fundraising. A gallery has made a long-term investment in promoting artists and does it as a primary focus. As more and more collectors gravitate towards all the art offered through charities, there are fewer and fewer customers to support local galleries and their overhead. Also, much of the artwork sold through charities is sold at a discount, devaluing our product, and depressing the market. Do we as artists want our prices to be supported and our commercial galleries to survive? Its helpful to think about the implications of our choices.

      1. David, you are right that a 50/50 split is a big improvement over requests for an outright 100% donation. Just wanted to point out that there are other considerations too.

      2. This has been my experience, too. The buyers get good art at a bargain price and I have not seen that those purchasers return to buy at full retail. But from their point of view … should they? They will simply wait until next year’s auction hoping that another artist will give them a bargain, if the first one doesn’t want to participate twice. I have been asked to donate to a nonprofit for an event coming up in a few months and I will offer them a reproduction, which is worth a fraction of the original. Otherwise, the cheapo sale of an original will cannibalize my own sales.

  21. I have never seen any obvious financial benefit to donating to charities. In fact, I have had people tell me they bought something at a charity auction and were thrilled that it went below what I normally charge for the same sized piece. Most times I got no acknowledgement or note of thanks either. That should be a courtesy.
    Yes, donate if it makes you feel good, but know often it only puts the sticker-‘ sucker’ on your forehead, as the organizations will try again and again to get more free art donations from you. Been there- done that. Know when to stop!

  22. Four years ago I donated 35 bird paintings (32 of those were contained male and female) to one individual who runs a non profit for exotic avian that desperately need homes. These birds originate from South and Central America as well as Australia. This man takes in countless birds that have been left to languish in cages, when owners grow tired of them. Most of his birds fly free in flocks and return home at his call. And When you see these massive macaws and brightly colored birds return home in late afternoon to roost it’s hard to describe.
    I gave the paintings for him to use in whatever way could benefit all his numerous birds. He chose to donate each painting for a certain generous contribution for those who visit his website.
    I told him the paintings represented a full six months of work. I gave no value other than that reference to time. It’s my hope that he was able to solicit generous donations. My reward is knowing the countless numbers of birds who now live the good life thanks to his efforts. What else is there.

  23. As an artist of twenty plus years, I have varying experiences in this area. The best were for charities that included complimentary tickets to a formal event. I agree on donating a piece that is representative of a person’s best work.

  24. Only donate your art if you truly like the charity and want to make them a gift. Some charities will try to tell you that you can take your donation as a tax deduction, but as other people here have said, YOU CAN ONLY DEDUCT THE VALUE OF THE MATERIALS USED TO CREATE YOUR ART. The ideal way to go is to have someone purchase your art and then donate it – you make the money and they get the deduction, or when the charity pays you for the wholesale price and only keeps what is raised beyond that amount. I donate only when I love the organization and don’t mind making the gift even though I won’t get the deduction.

  25. I’ve made donations with no expectation of return, only because I wanted to. You might alter your expectations as to what exposure can do for you.
    It is baffling why artists’ expertise and labor is perceived so cheaply when few businesses make an equivalent donation. Major corporations, sure; small businesses rarely. Right now my charity of choice is family that needs a critical boost during a difficult time. I’m a firm believer in “charity begins at home.”
    I recently donated a large piece to a worthy organization, not because I hoped to garner new patrons but purposely to infiltrate a vibrant, growing community outside my own. There were no inquiries and no resulting sales. The real benefit was developing new relationships with professionals within the community. I was after the “movers and shakers” whether they bought anything or not. It is a matter of broadening your circle of influence beyond your usual circumstance. If you socialize with the same people, interact with the same art group, neighbors, club, church, etc., consider widening those circles. The easiest inroad is donating through local charities.
    In that particular instance a dear-to-all-our-hearts charity was well supported by a very active Chamber of Commerce. People associated through the Chamber thanked me and in turn, extended invitations into their expanded circle; that was my goal.
    My point is, it wasn’t a one-time donation. It beg a continued relationship that I hope will bear fruit down the road. Don’t make the mistake of not capitalizing on your contribution. As Jason so often quotes, “Followup.”

  26. There are some significant tax implications as well. There is a distinction between the person making the piece versus the person buying the piece. The buyer can deduct what they paid for the piece in the amount of its retail value or fair market value. BUT the artist is only allowed to deduct the cost of materials to make the piece. From what I can tell, paying yourself for the amount of time you put into creating the artwork does not factor into the cost of goods. If you have your art set up as a business, you are likely already deducting that as supplies. That would make the net tax deduction for the artist zero. Hopefully, I won’t get audited on last year’s taxes because I didn’t know this….

  27. Each year I make sure I set aside the time to create and donate work. It’s just part of my inventory automatically. It is a great way to meet collectors. In fact I now also volunteer with some of the organisations and it’s been a to meet people with similar interests and passions. Each group is different but for the most part my preferred method is to sell/auction the work and give the charity what would have been the galleries cut. Although I still sometimes just give the piece outright. At the end of the day I think is still in the artists best interest allowing them another way to promote their work.

  28. Very timely. This summer I’ve been asked to donate to a record number of charitable auctions. I usually want to, simply for the satisfaction of “giving back” as you say. But with commissioned pet portraits, there is a fair amount of time and energy that I’m committing, rather than just an existing piece.

    For the most recent request, I said that I’d maxed out on such donations, but would be happy to donate an existing watercolor. The requestor seemed happy with this compromise. Eariler, I’d actually declined a request because I wasn’t familiar with the organization and I’d not seen any new commissions from previous donations. The person requesting then offered to “pay it forward” by paying me my full commission price to have a piece in their live auction. Sweet! How could I refuse? And it turned out to be a delightful evening of food, music and meeting new people.

  29. i only donate a gift certificate or two from a gallery i am in, listing my website and gallery so they can decide what art they want. works for gallery and artist. people will go to the gallery if you tell them which art is at which gallery.i have been doing this for 10 plus years and have sold over 14,000 pieces. thanks.

  30. I have three organizations that are dear to my heart, which I donate to. I am not painting to give my work away, but for these three organizations, I gladly donate. They are able to raise considerable money from the paintings I give them. I am not in a position to give money to these causes, so it is a great way to help. I like it when I get feedback as to how much they were able to raise.

    As far as getting sales from the donations, it has only happened one time. I do not do it to generate sales, as I have read that it does not really work.

  31. I totally agree with most of your responders. I’ve given away art for over 40 years. What goes around comes around . I never refuse an opportunity to donate art (except for Cancer research)
    I’m known for supporting my community . I do however give causciously depending on who will attend. I do not like to give a $3000 painting to a live auction and find out it only sold for $300.
    I need to know the social status of the average people attending. But there are always exceptions to the rule. The style of the live auctioneer can make a world of difference.
    Silent auctions I usually stay within a few hundreds $ . My main issue with silent auctions is that they are lined up on long tables usually lit by whatever ceiling lights they have. Most are poorly lit. I have suggested that since they do that once a year that they should invest in very inexpensive table lights (WallMart) that can be stored til the following year. A well lit work of art makes a big difference in the bidding.

  32. When I have donated my paintings to charities it is under two conditions.
    1. I get 50% of the selling price and the charity gets the other 50%.
    2. I insist on a minimum bid and if the painting is not sold for the minimum bid I get it back.
    The charities I have donated to have been fine with this. I also make it a point to explained the tax laws and why I insist on these two conditions.

  33. My work is on exhibition and sale at our local very busy pub/restaurant in the UK. As it is “mobile wallpaper” I’m not charged any hanging fee so I donate what should be charged by a proper gallery to a local charity. This works really well as when I send the charity the money raised, they send a thank you letter which I laminate and have on show to customers. I sometimes contact our local paper who put a photo and write-up in about the charity, me, the artist and the restaurant. We all win!
    I have donated to actions, but sparingly.

  34. When I organize a charity event, the charity and the artist split the sale amount up to an agreed upon cap. If it goes over that amount all the proceeds go to the charity. This way the artist feels appreciated as well as contributing to a good cause.

  35. After giving a major work to a well-known charity and having it sold for less than the value of the frame, I am not keen on donating art to a charity. I realize from reading these posts that I should have been smarter about giving it with terms attached, but that seems the antithesis of the spirit of donating to charity. I do make monetary donations to my charities of choice instead. These are immediately useful to the charity, and fully tax deductible for me. I am able to give more as my business grows and I make more money, since charity giving is part of my usual budget.

  36. I want my art peers to be clear about the IRS ruling so that the artist may avoid penalties.

    The IRS permits ZERO deductions of either time nor materials to any professional artist donating their own artwork. As a matter of fact, the IRS will penalize you if you do try.

    Their reasoning? You already deduct your materials as a business expense and the IRS is, at this time, unwilling to manage the deductions separately.

    When it comes to what the IRS will and will not allow, I advise that you read the IRS laws yourself and do not risk the misinformation of others no matter how well-meaning they are.

    Fortunately, the IRS tax laws are conveniently published at and have the info easy to search/find.

    I hope this helps you stay out of the soup and to make donation decisions with greater clarity.

  37. By participating in charitable events for almost three years now, I have a good feeling for what organizations value artists and which only care about the bottom dollar donation. Now that I have gotten more recognition in my area, I am invited to donate to high dollar, well respected live art auction events with the organization willing to pay the donating artist 50% of the sale price. This is win, win! The movers and shakers in the community like trying to outbid each other. Exciting and fun and I feel happy that I helped raise a good sum for their cause and that I also get a good pay check. Sadly one of the chintziest organizations to artists is one of the largest arts organizations in our state.

  38. I applaud all those artists that make enough with their work to afford to donate the expensive supplies without compensation. I’m contacted often for charity auctions and I explain that I’m happy to donate time but I need compensation for my supplies. I never hear back!

    I am also of the opinion that unless the auction is handled well and the artist receives bidders contact info, is introduced along with their art work and the bidders receive business cards or something to remember the artist by, then it’s a lost cause as far as promotion goes. It also seems disrespectful. Unless you’re well known and bids are very active, the charity doesn’t benefit much and you are usually left feeling unappreciated. I’ve donated valuable work and was made to feel as if I should not even be there. A lose lose proposition.

    Certainly a decent reserve of at least 30% is advisable and for goodness sake make sure all your contact information is on the back.

  39. Could you (all) offer a couple of polite but directly-to-the -issue questions to ask the person standing in front of you (whom you might know ) when they are asking you for a donation? This is the point where it is almost embarrassing to say No …but there are so many good reasons to not donate. It’s hard enough as is to sell artwork, so I’m not looking to give it away. Most often at these silent auctions, it sells for a fraction of the selling price , and you will not be likely to see any benefit.

  40. By trial and error (lots of error!) I realized how to optimize charity donations of artwork. I never donate originals, only small (12×16) prints, and I specify that the reserve is to be in the range of $100. Once I explained to the person seeking the donation that a lower price would devalue my other work, she was more than happy to comply. I really think most charities simply don’t think of this and are glad for you to tell them. I reach an agreement ahead of time that the organization supply me with names and contact info for purchasers, and I ask if I can attend the event where the auction will be and perhaps do live painting. This works well and is often welcomed by the organizers because it adds interest to the event and creates a little more buzz for the auctioned artwork. It’s also a goldmine for getting to know possible clients.

  41. To all those who are speaking of tax decuctions:

    When my sister donated an old van to Rawhide, they were given the choice of a $500 receipt immediately, or a receipt for the price Rawhide got when (if) they sold it. While many smaller charities may not have the tax lawyers that Rawhide does, it’s at least possible that you can get credit for the sale value, and larger organizations may be able to do it. Worth inquiring. Enough people inquire enough charities, maybe something will even get done legislatively.

  42. We are part of the PADA, Portland Art Dealers Association, with our small gallery.
    This is a big art town and there are many art auctions every year…several years ago the PADA group went to the largest 4 art auctions and asked that all donated work be started for bid at 80% or retail…this generated more money for the auction and made everyone feel that their clients were not waiting for an auction to buy their work….so a win win for everyone. The auctions got current and great work, the artists got the write off and the galleries were happy. For tax purposes you probably have to give work that you bought from artist friends, as your own seems suspect to the IRS…but all in all it seems that most are happy with this result.

  43. as an emerging artist I wanted to support a very good local horse rescue organization. So far have donated a print for a raffle, which viewed at several venues, draw will be end of October this year, the second is an original colored pencil sketch on black, which will sell at silent auction. Both were matted and bagged. It has been a very good experience for me and I intend to continue with my donations to this wonderful and deserving organization. It gets my work to a much broader audience, the funds raised go directly to supporting the horses and I feel personal satisfaction being involved. Thank you for all your wonderful information. Am working very diligently to implement several of your suggestions.

  44. I have been painting for over 20 years. I have donated well over 30 works of art with not much in return. Many organizations get sponsorship from companies for their “cause”, but in the end it seems that it’s the artists themselves that need the money. Materials are not cheap, neither is education in the arts. It is great to help a cause,but it sure would be nice if the artist got a percentage of that auction, if it sold. For example, I sold a piece at a silent auction fir about $3500.oo, if the artist got 30% of that it would at least cover future costs of materials. It is only fair that artists start getting treated like artists who put out music and receive royalties, no?

  45. Dear Sir’s.
    I have been a artist for many years I was a fashion illustrator for magazines and art shows. I have accumulated 100s 0f pieces of art I have been written up in many magazines and television radio and many shows i am in Whos Woe magazine worked for The T. Eaton as a illustrator I would like to donate a few pieces of my art to a charity
    of some kind.
    Yours frederick watson .

  46. Here are some very valid points, from Mat Gleason, for not donating to auctions and instead, give money directly to them.

    “Instead of tossing away another great artwork to a good cause, join the good cause of boycotting charity art auctions. When you join this cause …

    •You stop taking revenue out of the art world
    •You stop shifting art collector dollars to the bottomless pits of recurring annual Beg-A-Thons
    •You don’t contextualize your art as being a synonym of pretentious panhandling
    •You don’t announce that your art is worth low bids
    •You don’t risk that your work will be publicly seen getting no bids
    •You don’t empower strangers to devalue your artwork
    •Most importantly, you stop publicly proclaiming that you give your art away”

    See the full article here:

  47. Has anyone heard of a charity charging a registration fee to artists to participate in a “wet paint” auction? The artists generally donate 50% or so of the price paid back to the charity.

  48. I think so. Even if you don’t donate it to an event directly you can donate to a place like With Causes. They accept art donations of all types, it’s limited to like fine art only. All kinds of stuff, like comic book art, sculptures, etc. Def something to think about. Their art sometimes goes to hospitals, raffles for other charities, etc. I’ll leave a link in case anyone is interested.

  49. If someone buys a piece of artwork..then in turn donates the purchased artwork for a charitable auction..does the original artist have any legal options if they don’t support the charity and want their work removed

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