Sunday, February 1, 2015

Beyond "Yes" or "No" to Charity Auction Requests?

Today, I got yet another well-intentioned request to donate my art.

Once the initial flash of irritation passed, I had to acknowledge that this charity auction trend, and the damage it does to artists, is in large part our own fault.

Wait, what?
This pretty little landscape in oil on a wood panel, 9 x 12" sold in a silent auction for $35. Heartbreaking for me as the artist. It was the Last Straw for me and silent auctions; I never have or will put art in another one.
No, I mean it. We artists have helped create this monster. We've been complicit in this scenario in which, if you want original art, you stand a good chance of snagging it at 50% off retail just by waiting for the annual charity auction -- so why get it from the gallery, or directly from the artist? We've allowed the perceived worth of all our work to be driven downward by every piece that goes for 20% of its value on a "silent auction" table.

Most artists understand all this. Most of us (myself included) still donate to a cause or two each year, simply because we believe in and support it. Most of us complain to each other about the endless stream of donation requests. Then we say yes or no to the next one, and the next, and the next, and complain some more. We talk to each other about this problem all the time.

What if we started talking to the people who ask us?

Today, I did. My reply is below. It's a drop in a vast ocean, it will likely go unheeded, but it sure did make me feel better. Anyone else who thinks it will make them feel better is welcome to adapt it for their own use.


Hello, [Donation Requester].

Thank you for contacting me. Like most artists, I do work with a few charitable causes each year, and have done so for a very long time. And, like a great many artists who have donated for years, I am having more and more trouble continuing to do this under the current operating model.

To be clear, I am not necessarily saying no. I am inviting the leadership at [Charitable Organization] to consider having an honest discussion with the arts community about the trend of charity art auctions, why they are almost always a bad business move for the artists involved, and what can be done so that artists can continue supporting causes we care about without undercutting our own livelihood. These auctions, especially because there are now so many of them, are actively harming artists. Very, very few of the organizations who ask us to donate understand this. I believe that if they did, the fundraising model would change in many ways.

If you'd care to learn more, I can put your organization in touch with resources such as [Local Arts Group], to help come up with better ideas for fundraising that, if it doesn't help the artists, at least doesn't hurt us.

Thank you so much for your consideration,

Tracie Thompson

No comments:

Post a Comment