When should you donate your art? Answer this question, and be honest with yourself. Do you want to make art as a hobby or do you want to make a living as an artist? If making art is just your hobby, and you believe in the cause, donate your art. But if you want to make a living from your art, then you must build a small business, and you can’t do that by giving away business inventory. Let’s keep it real. Affluent people are not going discover you at a charitable auction and become your loyal life-long patrons. If you’re donating your art in the hope of somehow selling it, then you’ve got your marketing strategy twisted, and you’re setting yourself up for conflict and disappointment. 1. Do you have a written plan to sell your art? Are you confident in your plan? A plan to sell art without a plan is a plan to sell no art. If you don’t have a plan, then all you have is hope and a dream that will not be fulfilled. When artists are “hoping” and not “planning” they often do three things to undermine their success:
- they donate their art
- work for free
- sell their art at a discount
2. What is your underlying motivation for “donating?” Are you hoping for “exposure” so that you can sell your art? If you don’t place a clear and precise value on your art and your time, then you will feel conflicted about selling your art. Then vague promises of exposure can be used to manipulate you. 3. Do you know that you can only deduct the cost of donated materials from your taxes? Unlike other small business owners, artists cannot deduct the value of the art that they donate. However, if someone else buys your art and donates it, they may deduct the full amount that they paid. p.s. I’m not a tax attorney, and I’m only speaking about US tax rules. If you have donated your art in the past, the auction coordinator will be back with their hand out every year. So what can you say to them when they try to guilt you into donating your art again? Don’t fall for it, just say,
I’m turning my art hobby into a business, so I no longer donate my inventory.
They’ll press you as if they’re doing you a big favor by exposing your art to affluent people. Trust me. They’re only doing themselves a favor. What if they persist, as often do? Then they’re disrespectful, self-entitled, and obnoxious and it’s best just to ignore them. If you still feel a sense of obligation, then write the charity a check or volunteer your time but do not give your art away. Unless of course, your art is just a hobby. There’s no shame in that.