To Donate, or Not

I know it's not Sunday (that's usually when I post) but it is quiet here at the gallery now, and I had a great conversation with Jennifer Cavan which compells me to write. She wrote a great post on "how long does it take?" (to create a piece). And as she says, there is so much "not art" that goes into the business of being a professional artist that the casual viewer doesn't see. So, whether you spend an hour, a day, a week or a year, that process is not the whole piece. I'm starting there, because our "great conversation" was about donating work (or not) to the many organizations who ask. She might post about too, but I thought I'd get the conversation going here.

Over the years, I would hazard a guess that I've donated, somewhere in the range of $25,000 in my art. So, why do I severely limit what I donate and to what organization now? Let's see what those donations did for me, for the organization, for the art community, for the galleries.

If I donate a piece with a retail value of $500, what is that for me? lost revenue of $500. It is basically "advertising expense" and based on tracking, very poor at that. Worthwhile advertising nets revenue. Not so a donated piece.

How about the organization that gets it? Once in a while at the Music From Angel Fire Art Auction, a piece will go for at or near it's value. But way more often, most work gets "sold" for about 20 cents on the dollar. So, they have to sell ALOT of art to generate reasonable revenue...and if you've ever been to one, you know that they do.

Now, examine the impact of that. If, at the auction my $500 piece was lucky, and sold for $200, the lucky winner got a "bargain", and I'll hear about it for the next few years. Will they come buy a piece from me? Not likely. Will the person that was bidding against them? Not likely. Why? because they'll go to another auction and try again. I have actually had people tell me that they love my work, but will wait for the MFAF auction. Those same people say, "I love this gallery, I hope you are successful!" and walk out the door without spending a dime. So, I wonder, how does that work?

A few years ago I donated a $300 piece to a local group and they sold it in a "Live" auction, for $35. While one person jumps up and down about how they "stole"it, several hundred others watched it. What is the impact of that?

That said, yes, I will donate to the MFAF auction. Maybe a handful of others. But I sincerely hope those of us who buy at similar auctions will consider supporting the artists, as well as the organizations. And I would encourage the non-profits that auction art, consider more than their own bottom line, look for ways to support the artists that make their fundraisers possible.

I have lots of ideas on that......

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