Getting Requests for Artwork Donations? Here’s How to Set Some Ground Rules

By Alyice Edrich in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

One of the biggest challenges that artists face is dealing with requests to donate either their artwork, their time, or (in the case of art bloggers) their writing.

Yes, we get additional publicity for doing those things, but if we’re not careful, we end up spending most of our time fielding and filling these requests instead of actually writing on our own art blogs, building our fanbase, and/or selling our art.

That’s why I believe setting ground rules for your art business, and sharing those ground rules on your art blog, is a good idea for every artist.

Here are the four main topics you’ll want to cover when creating a “What I’ll Do For Publicity” page on your own art blog:

Physical artwork donations.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with donating original pieces of artwork to charities or museum auctions, but not all events will be right for you. Streamline the process by answering the following questions on your “Publicity” page:

1. What type of events will you donate to?

There is no need to donate your art to an event where the attendees would not normally buy your “type” of art. While you may believe in the cause, the reason you donate physical art is for the exposure. If the event doesn’t cater to your audience, consider a cash donation. . . that way, you get the write off.

2. What kind of additional exposure do you require?

If there is at least a brochure, or catalog of some kind at the event, with a colored image of your work and your contact information, then people will be able to get in touch with you even if they don’t purchase your artwork right then.

But without that, what’s the point? Patrons will have no idea who you are and won’t be able to get in contact with you. You want and need exposure that results in visitors and/or sales after the event is over.

3. What price will you allow your artwork to be sold at?

You don’t want your work to be sold for less than it’s selling for in a gallery or in your own online shop. Make sure minimum bids start at retail value.

4. Do you expect a commission from the piece being sold?

This is important because current laws dictate that you can only donate the cost of materials from donated works (which you do anyway!) You cannot deduct retail value of the piece, or your time.

5. What type of art are you willing to donate?

This is important because the cost of materials should never cause you to go into debt, and the time it takes to create a donation piece should never cause you to get behind on creating works for your shop or finish commissions and it should never prevent you from working your art business.

In other words, the type of art you donate should align with the type of exposure you will obtain. (You may even want to consider offering reprints instead of original works of art.)

6. What are your policies on returns, or adjustments?

There will undoubtedly be times when someone will win a piece of your art, and expect you, the artist, to take the piece back for the retail value, to change the framing, or to make other adjustments and/or alterations at your expense.

While you are under no obligation to do any such thing, it’s a good idea to make sure the charity or auction house you work with has a clearly defined return policy in place to prevent patrons from harassing you, the artist, with these ridiculous requests.

7. How many pieces will you donate per year?

Creating original works of art takes more than just materals, it also takes time. . . time that you could be using to create new works to sell, or write new blog posts, or market your art business. Therefore you need to determine how many original works of art you’re willing to donate per year, then stick to that number.

When you reach your allotted number of donations, simply add a note at the top of your publicity page stating, “At this time, I am no longer offering original works of art for donation. Please check back next year.”

Or you can do some serious research, then pick one or two charities you’re willing to contribute to on a yearly basis, then simply state on your publicity page, “Please do not contact me for donations. I currently work with two charities and cannot work with any others at this time.”

Giving of your time and services.

Donating your services pretty much falls along the same line as donating your artwork, with one major difference. There are absolutely no tax deductions for donating your time and expertise.

Under current laws, you only report income that is received, therefore if you never received any income, you cannot deduct it. So you need to really make sure that when you donate your services, you’re doing it for all the “right” reasons. . . like really believing in the cause.

You know best what types of service opportunities you’d be interested in, so list those out on your “Publicity” page.

Sharing your experience or methods.

Contributing how-to articles, arts and crafts tutorials, or personal stories about your craft (whether it’s on websites and blogs, or in print publications) is a great way to cost-effectively gain exposure for your art and/or your art blog.

In fact, I’ve talked a little bit about guest posting on blogs before. But did you know that you don’t have to write original material every single time you become a guest on another site or in a print publication?

Being a guest contributor can be great exposure, but if you’re not careful, it can eat up a lot of your time. That’s why it’s a good idea to spell out exactly which material on your blog is free to reprint, and which material is not.

You should also consider under what circumstances you’re willing to write original material and address those conditions on your “Publicity” page. For example:

1. Are you willing to accept interviews?

Interviews are a great way to create a bond between potential buyers and you, the artist. The key to a good interview, however, is in being real.

While you can easily create a standard set of pre-answered questions, and offer that to anyone interested in interviewing you, you’re better off doing each interview with a fresh set of eyes. That way, you offer more variety and interest to your readers

2. Are you willing to write original tutorials or feature stories?

Before agreeing to donate original material, you need to understand what rights you’re giving up with the piece and what type of exposure you’ll be receiving. For instance, you should know who the intended audience is, how many readers the publication receives, will it be in print or online, and if online, how long?

Then you need to ask yourself, “Is the time involved and rights I’m giving up really worth the exposure I may, or may not, receive?”

Because. . .

Creating original tutorials is not only time consuming, but costly. First, you must buy the materials, then you must spend hours creating the project and photographing each step, then there’s the time spent editing the photographs and writing the tutorial itself.

A feature article might even require you to interview outside sources so that your piece sounds less one-sided. These can take hours to research, write, and edit, so you really want to know what you’re getting into.

Take a look at my own guidelines for guest blogging to get a better idea of what this section of your “Publicity” page might look like.

Lastly, what will you NOT donate to?

Although I’ve touched on this above, it bears repeating. . . clearly state what you will and will not do for free.

If you are one hundred percent certain that you will not donate to a specific cause, will not donate a certain sized piece of art, or will not donate certain types of content, state so on your publicity page.

If you take the time to seriously consider and address these issues, you will most definitely save yourself tons of guilt trips, weeks of feeling frustrated and overloaded, and quite possibly, bitterness from broken promises.


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