Charity Art Top Tips for Artists

Top Tips for Artists

Artists often feel the pain of other fellow human beings and animals. They develop compassion and passion for various charitable causes and try to alleviate suffering of others through generous art donations.

Some artists do a great job in communicating their work to raise additional publicity both for themselves and the cause. However, doing charity with and through art could often be improved and made more effective. It is a question of doing more good with the same resources.

Charities frequently need resources, sometimes urgently, and artists might feel obligated to help or guilty if they cannot assist. However, there is a limit to how much artists can give without neglecting their own careers, families and themselves. Some artists hardly make enough to sustain their own practice and have to engage in other part-time or full-time jobs to make ends meet. Therefore, it is crucial to find a sustainable long-term balance between compassion for charitable causes and passion for creating art for a living.

Here are the top tips for artists:

  1. Set clear targets
  2. Be proactive
  3. Communicate your support
  4. Communicate what you don’t do
  5. Make your support count
  6. Take responsibility
  7. Talk about your good deeds
  8. Create a charitable art ecosystem

1. Set Clear Targets

Even before being asked to donate time or art, artists should plan ahead and set themselves clear goals.

Important questions are: How would they like to donate their art? How often (e.g. once a year)? How many pieces and of what total value? To which causes?

Clear goals enable artists to better manage their limited resources in order to achieve the maximum possible good. In turn, this also helps charities to partner with artists who are clear about the scope of their commitment and who know how to give smarter and more efficiently.

Setting clear goals, communicating clearly and giving strategically will lead to much better outcome for the supported causes.

Example

Artist A wants to donate some of her scarce time and art to improve lives of disadvantaged children and women. She decides to spend two hours of her time every week to either create small art pieces which she will eventually donate or to help reach out through social media to promote the cause and raise awareness. Although it does not sound like a lot, it equals to 12 working days per year.

Instead of saying “I would like to do something related to children and will maybe donate one or two random art pieces per year when I have time,” it is better to clearly set a target such as “I will support charity A with one suitable art piece every quarter. In addition, I will become an ambassador for the charity and promote its cause on my website and Facebook page.”

The artist has made a clear commitment and can plan accordingly to see her commitment through. The charity also knows what to expect and what they can do for the artist in return (e.g. promote her work through their newsletter, organize a charitable evening auctioning off her art, etc.).

2. Be Proactive

Artists who are proactive instead of reactive are more likely to achieve desired positive and consistent impact.

Lack of time often makes it difficult to think about charity; however, less can be more. Artists should think about the impact they would like to have before deciding what to give how and to whom. Actively approaching suitable NGOs is helpful in the long run.

Example

Artist A occasionally donates to any charity that approaches her for a donation. These charities claim that they “touch people’s lives”, but she does not really know if there is any positive impact or what specifically it might be. This is further exacerbated by the random selection of the charities without any continuity or impact accumulated over time.

On the other hand, artist B carefully selects a few charities with clear, detailed annual performance reports and defined positive impact on their beneficiaries. As a result, she knows that 55 disadvantaged children were able finish school after two years thanks to her generous art donations.

3. Communicate Your Support

Charities might not know which artists are willing to make art donations, how many and how frequently. As a result, they usually experience rejection when asking artists for support which can be demoralizing, especially for smaller charitable organizations. It also significantly decreases their fund-raising efficiency and wastes precious time or human resources that could be put to better use elsewhere. To avoid disappointment and save time, artists should clearly communicate the scope of their charitableness on their website, social media and even their physical venue.

Example

Artist A updates his website with the following message: “Every year I am willing to donate at least five art pieces to give children a second chance in life. Charities which do not focus on helping children will not be supported.” Or “I do not donate art pieces this year, but I am happy to promote animal related causes through my artwork or newsletter and social media channels. Contact me for details.”

4. Communicate What You Don’t Do

Some artists may decide not to donate their artworks to charities. Perhaps they encounter a temporary financial hardship, maybe they prefer to donate money or time directly instead of art, or it is simply something they do not like to do.

If an artist does not want to donate to charities, they could clearly state so on their website. This would tremendously help charities save their limited time and use it to approach other artists.

Example

Artist B might add the following text under contact: “At this point in time, I am unable to extend support to any charities. If my circumstances change in the future, I will post an update here.”

5. Make Your Support Count

Arguably, most charitable art donations are random and ad-hoc without any consideration for long-term strategic impact.

Artists should plan and make the best use of their time and resources for long term impact, for example, by:

  • Donating an art piece to be sold by the charity.
  • Supporting a charity with donations on a regular basis or donating a certain percentage of their sales.
  • Allowing charities to sell reprints or merchandise based on their artwork, e.g. limited framed photos, postcards or T-shirts.
  • Creating installations/artworks for public awareness, with the help of volunteers.
  • Allowing charities to use their name or brand in their marketing efforts.
  • Inviting representatives of the charity as featured guests to their art events to give more exposure to their cause.
  • Promoting the charity or the cause on their website or social media.
  • Becoming an ambassador for the charity or the cause.
  • Pledging a specific number of hours each year to raise awareness and knowledge of issues they support through their artwork (which is a donation of time and skill).
  • Working with charities to run art therapy workshops or other events.
  • Organizing volunteer art events.
  • Encouraging their students to support worthwhile causes short- or long-term (e.g. CCS Veterans).
  • Art societies and associations of artists could organise their giving more systematically and announce on their websites or social media how much good they are willing to do and in what way.
  • Holding charities accountable to manage art pieces well and to effectively raise more awareness and funds.
  • Encouraging charities for increased transparency and detailed impact reports.

6. Take Responsibility

Artists should insist on deliverables, maybe even contracts, even if they do things for charity. After all, an artist is a professional who should expect charities to deal with the donation process in an equally professional manner. Artists work hard for their reputation and while doing charity, both parties should respect each other’s wishes when it comes to branding and public image. Similarly, by agreeing on what should happen, both parties help set and achieve their mutual goals better.

Before donating any art pieces, it is highly recommended that all stakeholders clearly agree on all deliverables and responsibilities.

An agreement could specify the parties involved (the artist and the charity), quantity of art pieces, date of delivery, who covers the cost of logistics and insurance fees (if any), commitment by the charity to market the artist and the art piece, split of sale proceeds, return procedure of the art piece in case it does not sell, payment transfer, report on impact achieved thanks to the art donation, etc.

Example

Artist A agrees with charity B to:

“Donate one suitable art piece every quarter. The artwork will be delivered to the charity by the last week of the quarter and the cost of logistic will be covered by the artist.

The charity agrees to promote the art piece and the artist in their weekly newsletter, on their website, and they will also include a section about the artist in their publicly available annual report.

If the artwork does not sell within 3 months, it will be returned to the artist with the transportation cost paid by the charity.

If it does sell, the artist will be entitled to 15% of the final selling price to cover the production cost, while the charity will keep the remaining 85% of the funds raised.

Within 3 months from the sale of the artwork, the charity will send a report to the artist detailing the impact achieved thanks to the art donation.”

Intellectual property rights are a great way for the artist to keep giving and reduce the demand on their time and other resources.

Example

Instead of saying: “Charity A, I am donating one painting to you; do as you wish with it.”, it might be more impactful to agree upon: “I will donate this art piece to you to be auctioned off during a fundraising event. In case it does not sell, it shall be returned to me. In addition, you are allowed to raise further funds through the sale of up to 1,000 prints of this art piece over the next 3 years.”

An artist’s reputation and brand value affects their livelihood and price of their art pieces. Any agreements between artists and charities should therefore reflect the importance of good brand management. While intangible, reputation is a result of sustained hard work and it can be destroyed in an instance.

Example

Artist A agrees with the charity that a specific write-up describing her professional career and a selection of photos shall be used in all materials published by the charity. The charity also agrees that artist A may cancel their agreement immediately should the charity misrepresent her work or image.

7. Talk About Your Good Deeds

People often underestimate the power of sharing their story or good deeds. There is always a limit to how much money and time can be donated. One of the best ways to leverage a donation and make it go significantly further is to keep telling the story and inspire others to give as well.

Out of humbleness, lack of time or other reasons, artists too often do good without talking about it themselves. Sometimes they do not even know how much good they did or what impact their charitableness generated.

By openly discussing the art donation process and working with the charity, artists can not only inspire others to do the same and thus multiply the total impact, but they also make the receiving organization accountable and ensure that they properly document and report what happened with the donation and what positive impact was achieved. Looking at the results helps the artists learn to give better and do more good too.

To help charities and the public understand their charitable work, artists should clearly communicate what they did for charity and the impact of their generosity. Sharing one’s good deeds helps raise additional awareness for the cause and it might also assist the charities to find support from other artists.

Example talking points for the artists:

  • Who did they donate to? (e.g. “I donated to charity A which helps integrate ex-convicts back into society.”)
  • Why did they donate? (e.g. “It is important to reintegrate people into society as it substantially decreases the chance of their recidivism.”)
  • How long did it take until the art piece was sold? (e.g. “The artwork took two months to sell.”)
  • For how much was the art piece sold? (e.g. “The painting sold for USD10,000.”)
  • What amount or proportion of money from the sale of the art piece was donated, either in percentage or in total sum? This split may vary wildly, depending on the medium (e.g. a huge steel sculpture vs a simple pencil drawing) and the goodwill of artist. (e.g. “The artist received 20% of the sale proceeds and the charity kept 80%. This amounted to USD2,000 and USD8,000 respectively.”)
  • Who received the tax benefits? (e.g. “Although the artist had expenses and donated the art piece, only the philanthropic buyer received the tax benefits.” Unfortunately, this is a well-known regulatory issue which should be openly talked about and hopefully changed in the future.)
  • How was the collaboration with the charity? (e.g. “Charity A handled the entire process professionally from the start to the end, promptly responded to all emails and concerns, and did a great job promoting both my artwork and brand. I will no doubt be working with them again.”)
  • Impact over time? (e.g. “100 ex-offenders reintegrated after 2 years”)

Example

Instead of just saying “This art piece was donated,” the artist could summarize his deeds and their impact: “Over the past five years, I donated 18 art pieces to charity A and charity B which helped  raise $150,000. As a result, 75 women were able to find shelter from abuse between 2015 and 2017.”

8. Create a Charitable Ecosystem

Artists might want to do good, but they may lack experience or resources on how to do better for the cause and for themselves.

To create and grow an ecosystem of charitable artists:

  • Artists could encourage and partner up with other artists to donate art (e.g. Lions).
  • Promote a national exchange for charitable artists. Here artists could help each other become more effective, efficient and benefit themselves by helping their peers.
  • Set up or leverage existing online marketplaces that connect artists and charities.
  • Set up a central directory tracking all charity art, showcasing artists and total amounts or art pieces donated.
  • For a more transparent marketplace of artists and charities, they could register online on relevant platforms, communicate how and how often they are willing to support charities and what causes.
  • Set up a Charity Art Society to communicate clearly with artists, charities and the public regarding how art can support charities to raise awareness and funds, with suggested best practices, and an overview about all charitable art and leverage.
  • Set up support systems for artists to overcome temporary financial and other hardships (e.g. WomenArts).
  • Add #ArtPledge to their website and list every charitable act to raise awareness for effective charity through art.

Example

Instead of just saying “This art piece was donated,” the artist could summarize his deeds and their impact: “Over the past five years, I donated 18 art pieces to charity A and charity B which helped  raise $150,000. As a result, 75 women were able to find shelter from abuse between 2015 and 2017.”

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