Should You Donate Your Artwork?

What should you do if you’ve been asked to donate your art to a charitable cause?


How donating artwork ca be a problem for the artist


The art community can be one of the most generous and supportive ones anywhere. Individual artists are often very giving with their time, effort and work on behalf of causes. Many times an artist will focus their body of work on a cause they support in order to draw awareness. And at times, they may be asked to donate a work of art to be auctioned for the purpose of fundraising. Donating work can definitely give a warm feeling to an artist who knows their generosity has made a difference.

However, solicitations of artists’ work can be an example of organizations, groups and even charities taking advantage of an artist’s good nature. There may be incentives, such as the promise of “exposure” which may or may not be the case. It sounds good, though, and many artists have made donations that never produced any benefit for them other than the knowledge that they have performed a kindness.

Art collectors who make donations of work they own can take a tax deduction for the full value, up to 30% of their gross income. But the artist is the big loser tax-wise when it comes to making donations. Those who donate their artwork are limited by the IRS to basically writing off their materials, but not their time or the intrinsic value of the art, which may be substantial. Consequently, the deduction may end up being negligible, and the artist would need to consider the donation simply as a gift.

What can artists do when they are approached about donating work to a charity auction? There are options other than simply handing over more of your art for yet another event. One simple solution is to donate money directly instead of donating art. This becomes a tax deduction which can then be written off.

You can act to protect yourself (and the value of your art) by asking for a reserve price in the auction, and for a portion of the earnings when the item is sold. This creates a win/win situation. Your hard work is respected and rewarded, and you have the opportunity to support a worthy cause.

Donated artwork which is subsequently auctioned is a big win for the organization running the event. Problems can arise, however, when artists who have made donations of their work are frequently solicited for artwork simply because an organization is searching for fundraising options. Your art has value, and artists, like everyone else, deserve to be paid. Balancing a charitable act with the opportunity to receiving earnings for one’s work may be the best answer.

Have you been asked to donate artwork or work for free? Did you perceive that as a problem? What solution did you come up with?


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