Charity Art: Top Tips for NGOs and Charities

Top Tips for NGOs and Charities

NGOs and charities are serving communities in need under most severe circumstances. Often strapped for resources–whether cash, time or manpower—many charities are doing their very best to improve lives of their beneficiaries. Art donations and endorsements by compassionate artists can help charities tremendously in raising additional awareness and funds.

Artists are passionate and gifted individuals who strive to make a living with their art. They often live on an income below the national average or hold a second job to be able to pursue their passion. Still, some artists are willing to give as much as they can, sometimes even more.

With that being said, it is important to recognize that artists are professionals who cannot be expected to work for free. Free exposure is a myth–it costs time, energy, and opportunity lost somewhere else. Even if artists agree to work for free, there is a limit to how often and how much they can do in this way. Like all other working professionals, artists hope to lead fulfilling personal lives, provide for their families, and ensure that they have a home, financial security and enjoyable retirement.

Despite all this, many artists are more than happy to support a cause and willing to go the extra mile to help charity’s beneficiaries.

Here are a few suggestions for mutually beneficial partnerships with artists:

  • Set clear goals
  • Be proactive
  • Communicate artist opportunities
  • Make the donation count
  • Talk about your deeds
  • Create a charitable art ecosystem

1. Set Clear Goals

Why and how should an artist work with your organization? What are your expectations and what can you offer to the artist?

Even before you approach an artist, you might want to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy to understand if and how artists could fit in. How can art donations best be utilized to further your goals, raise awareness and funds, e.g. through online sales, auctions, print sales, etc.? How will these donations and artists be promoted?


Instead of approaching a random artist with “Would you donate some art to us?”, say:

“We saw your art and would love to work with you since your art pieces depicting love between the mother and her child closely relate to our cause of helping orphans in war ravaged countries.

We are organizing a fundraising dinner with a famous war journalist in 3 months and we are looking for a donation of 1 – 3 art pieces with a total value of USD2,000 for our auction.

In exchange, we would like to cordially invite you to attend the dinner where you will be given a chance to do a 15 minute presentation of your work to our high profile supporters (if you wish).

We will also promote you on our website and our social media as one of the sponsors of the event, including a link to your online store,

Furthermore, we are hoping to print a calendar series with your artworks that our donors will be able to purchase throughout the year and we would be happy to share 15% of the revenue with you. The USD2,000 in donation would help us fully support 15 orphans for 3 months with food and accommodations, while we search for suitable foster families.”

2. Be Proactive

Find an artist whose life and art is connected to your charity’s cause. Check with artists on how often, how many art pieces and for what kind of causes they are willing to donate. Respect their wishes and limitations (they are based on real life needs).

Agree on how the partnership will be structured, sign a contract, guarantee exposure for the artist, and provide them with marketing and detailed impact reports. It should be a two-way relationship, both the artist and the charity should benefit from the partnership.

3. Communicate Artist Opportunities

Communicate through website, newsletter and social media channels if you are looking to collaborate with artists, how and for which causes exactly.


Instead of saying: “Art donations are welcome.”, clearly communicate: “We are looking for art donations of wildlife paintings, preferably of orangutans in their natural environment. We plan to run a raffle during Giving Tuesday in November this year and would like to use the art donation for additional fundraising. Participating artists will benefit from an ongoing marketing campaign throughout October and November.”

Maybe it could be attractive to offer an art residency with your NGO in exchange for a specified period of philanthropy (e.g. one month). For example, this could be very exciting for an environmental NGO whose work is based in a beautiful rainforest. They could extend an invitation to a few selected artists to come and stay in pristine nature to create art pieces which would be later sold off to raise funds for conservation.

4. Make the Donation Count

Do not do one-off exchanges with artists, but try to establish strategic partnerships, with specific targets. Instead of aiming for an individual sale, arrange–for example–for reprints to keep selling and increase the donation’s impact.

Ask the artist to promote your charity’s cause on their website and to keep offering art donations with proceeds going to your charity.

Market the donated artworks professionally and generate as much exposure as possible through email, social media, annual reports, websites, PR releases, etc. Fully utilize email databases, social media and offline advertising spaces for best results.

Find creative ways to raise funds with art pieces, for example instead of just thinking about selling it, use the art piece as a winning prize in a lottery to raise more funds (e.g. Million-dollar Picasso sold at charity raffle for 100 euros).

If dignity allows and only if appropriate, could the end beneficiaries be shown with the art pieces or the artist? This would be both touching for the artist and the art buyers (donors), provide them with great PR and highlight the cause of the charity.

Engage professional marketers or more experienced sales people to help sell the donated artworks at a maximum price.

Consider that if art pieces are not sold, it might reflect poorly both on your charity and the artist and they might not be willing to work with you again. Do everything you can to fulfil your end for the agreement. If you are not able to sell the donated artworks, check if the artists want them back or if you could perhaps offer them to other charities.

5. Talk About Your Deeds

Acknowledge artists to compensate them for their time and good intentions. Report to them and to the public what happened to the donated art piece.

Promote total amount raised through art. This will highlight to the public that buying art can support charities. It also shows the artists that the charity is transparent and able to use the donated art to raise funds.

6. Create a Charitable Ecosystem

  • Contribute to an online portal showcasing overall public fundraising through art.
  • For a more transparent marketplace of artists and charities, register at relevant online platforms. Communicate how and how often the charity is willing to do art fundraisers and for what causes.
  • If possible, help the artists get tax deductions for their donations.
  • Pay the artists as soon as possible after the artwork is sold, if there was an agreed-upon split.
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