THE 3D CONUNDRUM: Decisions about Discounts and Donations, Part 2

This says it all.

This is a continuation from last week’s article, click here if you missed Part 1.

Donating to art auctions is a tricky business. These are not the ones we see in movies, where people get into a bidding war about how many millions they are going to drop on a Van Gogh. People going to art auctions are looking for a deal. Charity auctions can be the best for them, because a non-profit may not offer a minimum bid. I’m only gonna say, I’ve never seen a doctor, lawyer, or dentist offer their services valued at thousands of dollars for free (to the charity.) (Maybe they would, if it’s tax deductible. But we already know that artists’ work is NOT tax deductible at full market value, only the cost of materials.) (I think that’s changing, but not soon enough.)

So my new rules of the game:

1.     I rarely donate my work to any auctions anymore, even if I love the cause. If I do, it’s because a) they will set a minimum bid, equal to what I would have gained from a consigned piece in a gallery; and b) a lower-priced piece, such as a print, a piece of jewelry, etc.

2.     I limit such donations to x number a year, and I decide months ahead which groups I’d be willing to donate to.

3.     If an organization is pressuring me to donate, I tell them #2 above, and tell them I’ve already chosen the ones I’ll donate to this year. If they still want my work, they can ask before next year’s auction. It’s surprising how many don’t follow up with that. (As in, none.)

4.     I have, and will, give my work to someone I sense really really needs it. (I go by intuition, which isn’t solid, but it’s all I got.) Again, usually something small or not too expensive.

5.     But I never give work to people who ask for, or even demand free work. (And yes, that has happened.)

These boundaries were created because this is what happened to me, and how I felt afterwards, and how it feels even in the moment. Your choices, and your results may vary.

But before you donate a major piece, a quality piece, to a fundraiser, and you are not offered at least your wholesale/consignment price, I would urge you to do this:

6.    Do your research! Go to that event first. See who’s there, see who bids, and see how much they bid. If they truly want to support that organization, and they are truly your audience, then, in a perfect world, they should be willing to pay full price. Because then half the money goes to the organization, right? And they have a wonderful piece of artwork at no additional cost to them.

7.     But if they are looking for a bargain, if you see people complaining because they had to bid so high, they only got half-off the price, they are not your audience.

8.     And go ahead, ask a few attendees what they’ve purchased in the past at these events. Ask them if they went on to collect more work by those artists…or not.

9.     Even high-end galleries offer discounts. Sometimes the galleries cover the discount, sometimes the artist shares half the discount, too. But I would argue that discounts should go to loyal customers, ideally people who return regularly to buy either more of your work, but minimally, to regularly buy work from that gallery. Otherwise, it’s like those hugely-annoying discounts to new magazine subscribers, rather than offer a discount to longtime subscribers. Why not reward the people who have committed to us, who support us every year, instead of those who will cancel as soon as the rates return to normal? And if a return customer keeps coming back for more, it’s probably time to raise our prices!

10.    On the other hand, when people ask US for discounts, think about what our representing galleries would think of us if we agree. I’m guessing they would not be happy about us underselling our work when they are asking full price. And we can share that with the discount-seeking customer: “I would jeopardize not only my integrity, but ruin the relationship I have with a gallery that has done right by me for years.”

11.   Finally, there are other ways to reward a loyal customer, or sweeten the pot with a new one. You can offer a giclee print of your work, a package of greeting cards with your art images, or a similar, small item in your inventory. One artist hosts a special “brunch/soft opening” of new work in their home to a small, select group of collectors. You can give them first dibs on new work at an open studio. You can offer to deliver and perhaps even hang the work (if they live nearby). Or you can offer to visit their home and give an artist presentation on your work to friends and family. Have you created other ways to thank your collectors? Please share!

As I said earlier, this is my personal experience, and my personal take. And please feel free to share what worked for you, and even what didn’t work for you. If you’ve found discounts and donations to work for you, please share your story! I am an eternal student of life, and I’m always happy to change my mind if the “other side” is truly compelling to me.

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