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What's the best way to approach artists for artwork donation for a fundraiser?

From time to time, because of the amount of artists we meet at the Fresno Arts Council, I get asked by organizations what is the best or proper way to ask artists for artwork donation if a non-profit organization is raising funds through a silent auction.

I would like to get your opinion on this issue so that organization(s) will know how to proceed without coming off as a "solicitor", as they are working to uplift a worthy cause as well, and not getting individually enriched.

Other than an answer of "don't" or "artists are struggling enough", please share your thoughts and ideas so that we could learn from each other. The thought process for an organization when bringing this up are: (a) maybe one artists have numerous pieces of work sitting in a studio that could beautify an otherwise barren wall, (b) one has a lifetime collection of artwork waiting to be shared, (c) getting an artist's name out there through the silent auction could provide marketing and exposure to the artist ...

As always, thank you in advance for your time and for making this a wonderful resource and a great community.

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While at an Art show this last weekend at one of the local wineries, I was approached by another organization for a donation. While talking to the lady, I was able to get an art booth at her fund raiser, for half price- the difference being the price of the piece I will donate- so a win-win deal. Also got a commission for some of my hand painted silk scarves in the process.
Open minds and a willingness to find the win-win solutions are good points to consider.
By the way. At the same art show, I also donated to their cause. The winner of my piece came over to let me know that he had won it and we are now working on a potential project together for his organization.
Altogether, a very profitable evening!
Thanks for sharing. That's quite impressive and very interesting how everything worked out, especially when the conversation was started by donation solicitation. One take away for organizations from this thread is that there's got to be something of value that the artist could take away as well: whether promotions, discounted products/services, and/or future opportunities for commission.
I was just called yesterday to donate a sculpture.... the 3rd one this month. Of course I said yes because I value the organization. The frustrating thing is when I see my art sell for 1/10th of what a collector would pay.
As an artist, I have the opportunity to attend events that I may normally opt out of because of time. I have also been able to meet other artists and members of the community that are trying to make a difference in one way or another.
Personally, I enjoy making a special piece for these silent auctions. It means a lot more to me than just opening a checkbook... and it certainly makes the fundraising for an organization more interesting.
Fortunately, I now understand the process of silent auctions. I am no longer disappointed when my work sells for WAY below what it is worth. I look at this way... the collector is getting a bargain and realizes that we both have similar beliefs in supporting the same cause/organization. I also remember that any money raised is more than would have been raised without my contribution.
So... artists, remember by donating you are getting to make a difference by sharing your art, which you have put some of yourself into. Organizations, when you approach an artist, be realistic about what price range you think that work will be able to auction for... in other words, please remind tham not to donate their masterpiece, but a piece that they are proud of and represents their body of work.
Fresno is a great community and has many wonderful organizations. Please keep up the silent auctions... I have walls in my house too, and plan to buy art at auctions (and continue to donate to them)!
Hi all - I am the reason that Viktor started this discussion. I sent him a private message asking him how to approach members of our online community to donate a piece of art for our fundraiser in a way that was respectable. He informed me he put in the idea box, which I think was a great move.

I am the art instructor of the local youth arts organization called "The Muralistics". Its a program designed to foster artist expression and growth in local youth who may other wise never be acknowledged for thier talents. In the process they learn to become talented muralists and come back to the program as mentors to the next group. What these kids get out of this program is so much more than art, but it art is the vehicle that takes them there.

Our funding for this year has been completely cut and since we are a group of determined artists we decided to keep the program alive through fundraiser events. Our first one is on October 4th. The kids are going to have a fine arts gallery show at this event as well and have been working hard on thier pieces all summer.

I, like the rest of you, am also a local artist. I too get contacted about donating work to fundraisers all year long and my husband, who is a musician, is expected to play for free all of the time. So, believe me I do understand how frustrating it is to be expected to do our work for nothing. However, like Amy, I have my organizations that I donate peices to each year and as Amy said it means so much more to me than opening my check book.

The Muralistic motto is "Youth * Art * Community". We cannot promise commisions and have no reduction in prices to offer, but we have come up with a way to acknowledge those who are willing to help. We call it "The Wall of Support" we would like to have a photo of each artist who has supported us in our journey and take this wall of support with us to all of the events we attend. Our next event is the Crystal Show, in which the kids have been asked to create an inspirational mural for the event. We would like people to know that there is a strong support system for the arts here in Fresno, so maybe it will catch on.

I would like to see more people comment under this topic. I would also like to get some honest feedback about our idea. Please let me know if you have any other ideas as well. Thanks,

Samantha Canales
Another thing that I, as an artist, appreciate is a letter addressed to me asking for a donation with information about the organization, location, mission, and if they are a nonprofit. It also helps if they share why they are fundraising and what the money will be used for. I have a board at home now that I use to post all donation requests, shows, and events with their deadlines.... just another helpful hint. Is your event going to be run as a silent auction and who will be attending?
The simple answer is "just ask".

The artist will say "yes" if (a) it is a cause the artist cares about, (b) the exposure will help the artist, or (c) the artist is an old softy. Either way, the artist will consider it an honor that you asked, assuming that you know the artist's work and didn't pick he or she randomly or via some group request.

...just my two cents.
Hi Amy - Thanks for the feedback on this matter. The reason I approached Viktor is because I was trying to figure out if contacting artists here on our site would be appropriate , but from what I can tell it may not be. Unfortunately, I do not have contact information for many of the artists here. I do have donation letters that I have been giving to businesses and to the artists that I personally know. I guess I could ask, if I am unfamiliar with an artists work or do not have thier contact info how else could I approach them? We will be having a silent auction for the fine art, the kids are donating the sales of thier artwork and we will be having a raffle. We have lists of contacts that we mail invites too from all around Fresno. Thanks again for the post.

Sam- go to art shows where there are art vendors. It's a casual atmosphere and a chance to see artists and what they do. You can start the conversations there, exchange cards, then continue later as needed.
As an artist, I like the fact that the organizer took the time to look at my art and comment about it before the request was made. Then I knew that my pieces were something of value to them.
Just a (belated) follow up of experience of the donation request.
So I was approached for a donation for a silent auction at a fund raiser. Also was given the chance to have an art table at the event. The organizer also ordered 15 of my small hand painted silk scarves for her volunteers to wear, in rainbow colors. The event was for the Rainbow Ranch, hence the rainbow colors. :-)
Anyhoo- I made the scarves, and extras also. I quoted her $75 for the scarves. Of which, $50 went back in for the table space and 2 meals, for me and my husband. So I had $25 in hand.
Because of the scarves floating around the event, others came up to buy their own scarves for souvenirs of the event. Didn't sell any art, but did have a lot of interest in my pieces. I did come home with a pocket full of bills that more than paid for the supplies of the scarves and gas to the event besides the original $25. Good exposure for the art and a very nice evening. And the auction piece sold just below my listed price so not to bad for the fund raiser also. Win-win. I love it!

I am glad you were able to make enough sales to cover your expenses. You should be aware however, that your experience with the Rainbow Ranch is atypical.

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