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7 Reasons - Painting For Charity

Edvard Munch's painting The Scream

Charity is a good thing and it’s hard to imagine if you are making your way through the art world as an artist, you are bound to be asked to donate your art.

Many do this before they have even sold their first piece of art.  Other artists do it willingly thinking the exposure will be good. Still, others question what is the right thing to do. HopefullyI can help.

Okay, to make a point of experience only, I will share that I have well surpassed $100,000. in charitable art donations, so I’ve had my share of navigating the waters. Here are 7 important things you should know.

1). Donating your art is both a personal and business decision. Believe in the cause!  There are no shortages of non-profits that will come calling so chose the one or ones with a cause you can really get behind.  Also, make sure it makes good business sense to do so. 

2) This is your livelihood. If you sell your art, think long and hard about the promotional up and downsides to giving your artwork away.  If you are personally wealthy and can afford to give your livelihood away, great. But for most artists this is not the case, even to help a charity. Also remember, the person who buys your painting, is almost always doing so to help the charity, not you and in fact, they may be buying the painting at well below your retail price which certainly doesn’t help your market.

3) It has been my observation that donating your art is not a good form of getting you exposure. Meaning, it doesn’t usually equate to a great sales spurt for you and your art.  

4) You get no tax write off. If you are in business you are able to write off your materials anyway, but the government looks at donating your own artwork as “gift in kind”. You cannot write off any of your effort or time, only the materials which you should be writing off anyway. This shocks some people, but if you were to be an attorney and you donated your legal time to a non-profit, you can not write that time off either as it is gift in kind.

So, at this point, I may have given you ample reason to not donate your artwork. I can share that most non-profits ask artists to give away their work like it’s nothing and that to me is sad. Especially when I see wealthy dermatologists give things like a $100 gift certificate towards hundreds of dollars in procedures. That said, here a few reasons to donate.

5)  Again it’s that you believe in the cause. That’s always a good reason to help in any way that you can.

6) You are tied to the cause or have a business relationship with it where it makes complete sense from a business point of view to support the cause.  For example, one of your collectors is the owner or president.  Or you may get a photo in the newspaper with the founder etc.

7) In the process of donating, the non-profit's going to be using your artwork as a promotional device and in the process you will be getting guaranteed exposure.  

The last important thing is making sure in your agreement that your artwork will be properly displayed and that you can offer to have promotional materials available like a stack of your business cards or brochures.

Live an artful life,


More articles about the business of art:

Delivering, Hanging or Placing Your Artwork

Learn To Listen To Your Clients

Plant Your Seeds