Yesterday, Roberta Henry of La Paz, Mexico wrote about an unusual charitable event. She was requested to donate a painting to be included in a raffle. Ten “high-end” items were to be raffled, and then a further draw from the ten winning tickets. Winners wouldn’t necessarily get the prize they really wanted.
“My non-artist friends see no problem with this,” she wrote. “One pointed out that you lose control of anything when you sell or give away, so what’s the difference? I don’t feel this way. I like to think people who get my art get it because they like it, charity or not. Can you help me here?”
Thanks, Roberta. Your friend is right. You do lose a lot of control when you give your work to a raffle or an auction. Further, charities these days are feverishly looking for interesting ways to raise money. The element of chance plays into this one, and it might very well create some excitement. I’d say, just let the cookies crumble where they may.
It’s an honour to serve your community, particularly with your art. I try to work with the charities I most believe in and avoid the ones I don’t. Some you can participate in — say 50/50, but most these days are full gifts with no noticeable tax benefits. So my dealers don’t get hot under the collar, I try to put a reserve on things. For charities with lower expectations, I find my hand-pulled serigraphs are useful and achieve relatively good prices at fundraisers. I keep some on hand for the purpose. I avoid charities that approach me with the idea they are doing me a favour.
For many years we had a charitable event here called “The World’s Worst Oil Paintings.” Friends of mine, Bill and Norm, believed in the concept and went around to junk shops buying really bad paintings and putting goofy titles on them. They salted their auction with “The World’s Best Oil Paintings” (mine were slipped in among this exalted group). I never attended, but I heard it was a lot of laughs.
Every once in a while a guy phones me to ask the current price of one of mine that got mixed up with the baddies “by mistake, ha, ha, for fifty bucks.” My only regret is that Bill and Norm didn’t score more dough from this discriminating connoisseur, who never lets me forget.
PS: “We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers.” (Seneca)
Esoterica: It seems to me the most effective fundraisers these days are high-end events where a limited number of better works are included with other prizes including foreign trips, fishing trips, rare wines, dinners with celebrities, etc. The best events don’t have tediously long live auctions or interminable silent ones. Apart from the few bottom feeders who show up, people basically want to give, they don’t want to be bombarded, and more than anything, being human, many of them appreciate being seen doing a good turn.
Roberta Henry’s painting
Charity art on eBay
by Theresa Bayer, Austin, TX, USA
Recently I tried donating art to charity through eBay auctions, and found it very satisfactory. You can decide the percentage you want to donate, and you can select a charity from a wide array of choices. I’ve done it twice so far, once with it going 100% to the charity, and once with a percentage going to the charity. I like the control it gives the artist. If the piece doesn’t sell, I keep the artwork (but owe eBay a fee) and if it sells, I know who bought it.
Everybody wins at the ‘Fur Ball’
by Gwen Fox, Colorado Springs, CO, USA
I am an abstract painter but after losing my fabulous German Shepherd I decided to paint her. This opened a whole new world as I discovered I loved painting animals. There is something magical about painting their personalities. With this new found love under my belt I went to the local Humane Society and offered to paint portraits of some of their dogs. They took these oil paintings and used them to spur interest in their fundraiser…. the Fur Ball. A very fancy occasion I might add. My donation was a portrait of the winning bidders pet. The bidding war was fierce and the Humane Society got all the proceeds. That evening everyone left a winner. The people who won the bid were to get a portrait of their best friend, the Humane Society got much needed funds to continue their service and I left smiling as I was able to give back in a way that served my community.
Select who and what you want to support. Give your best work as it represents YOU.
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The Eight levels of giving
by Pesach Ben Levi, Fayetteville, NY, USA
Maimonides created the Ladder of Charity 800 years ago. It describes 8 levels of giving, highest to lowest:
1) The highest is to give of yourself, your time or your money; a job, a partnership a loan etc., to your fellow man so that they can become independent, self standing and free of the need of charity. To help a man help himself. Christians have a similar thought, in Teach a Man to fish.
2) The next is where the giver doesn’t know the recipient and the recipient does not know the giver.
3) Down another step is when the giver knows who receives the charity, but the receiver does not know the giver.
4) Then, he that gives not knowing the recipient, but the recipient knows who the giver is.
5) The giver gives before being asked, but puts it into the poor man’s hands and embarrasses him.
6) The man who gives cheerfully, and all that he can, but only after being asked.
7) The man who gives cheerfully, but less than he should.
8) Lowest of all is the man who gives only because he feels pressured to, the gift of the hand, but not of the heart.
It seems to me that it is giving at the lowest level… begrudgingly, Art – a gift of the hand in the truest sense – but not of the heart… when one concerns themselves so much about the ‘value’ of the art after it is given. Or giving less valuable prints kept for just that purpose (#7 perhaps?)
Instead, why not give at the highest level – many artists teach – and give a certificate for a series of classes, (if you don’t feel qualified to teach adults, let them ‘auction’ off three hours of teaching basic art skills to children), or a copy of Painter’s Keys or the new Letters Book?
Charity, like politics and religion, is one of the most delicate and personal of mindsets. There is no right or wrong, but matters of degree. I hope that you will have found Maimonides ladder of interest.
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Idea for a fundraiser
by Bonny Current, Wolcott, CT, USA
I too donate several pieces per year for charity functions. I have become very dissatisfied with the practice of the silent auction. This is where bidders come by and leave a bid on a sheet of paper below the item they want. Then others can come by and up the bid and so on until the bidding is closed. I feel the main problem with this is that one person ends up paying the top amount and everyone else who bids has contributed nothing. Some items may not receive any bids that meet the reserve.
I have always felt that the best way to run these events would be to sell bidding tickets at a fixed price. Bidders would then go around putting their bids into containers that correspond to the item they wish to “win.” A ticket is then drawn from each container and the item awarded to the lucky “bidder.”
The win here is for everyone. Most people would spend a few bucks to take a chance on a painting — rather than pay the whole amount of a winning bid. No piece would go untaken (theoretically) and I think the potential for raising more money is greater. What do you think?
Ill will at charity auctions
by Annette Wolfstein-Joseph
This is a subject about which I get very upset. I used to be generous in donating my etchings to various fundraising events and have had my efforts bite me in the rear more often than not. I have many stories of people who waited for auctions knowing the value of my work to jump right in and grab a bargain, which is bad enough, but one person would show up at my exhibitions and rub my nose in it IN FRONT OF MY CLIENTS!, bragging about his tactics and suggesting they do the same. Other such stories have led me to refuse any out-and-out donations and keep a high reserve. At one auction for a disability my piece was not sold but the organizer told me her disabled son had fallen in love with it and she wanted to buy it. When I gave her my reserve price, she was surprised, saying I was donating it anyway and I explained that was for the CHARITY. She apparently was trying to cheat her own charity! Reluctantly, she agreed to pay me but many years later I haven’t seen a dime. Plus she doesn’t return my calls or attend my shows any more.
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The abuse of generosity
by Ellie Harold, Norcross, GA, USA
I donated to the silent auction of a certain organization two years in a row. The same person bid on and won my painting. The second year she made a point of telling me how much she enjoyed collecting my art – she was eager to see what she’d get next year! No surprise I decided not to donate a painting again. Instead, I donated a coupon worth 50% off the winner’s choice of a piece of my work. The time-limited coupon sold for as much as the paintings had done in the past two years — and to a different person, one who is apparently willing to invest in the artist as well as the charity. If the winner is interested enough to use the coupon, we will establish a proper artist-collector relationship. If she doesn’t, the charity still wins and I don’t lose. Years ago I read this (unattributed) adage, “Give, but do not give the gift you cannot afford to give.” I sense that many artists get in the bind that I did. We want to contribute and yet feel ripped off when our generosity is abused. My new policy of giving on terms I can afford, both emotionally and financially, feels much better.
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Loaning out your PayPal earnings
by Mary Duffy, Newcastle, Ireland
I was able to make a loan to someone in Paraguay using a revolutionary new website called Kiva (www.kiva.org). What is really nice is that I used my PayPal funds to give the loan. Over the last few months I have been selling calendars from my website. I did a limited edition short run for my Collectors, but as this group grew, it became uneconomical to produce 50 and I needed to make the jump to a run of 500. I hoped the project would be self-financing and in fact I got quite a big surplus, about €600. Much of the money came in from across the world via PayPal and it was my first real experience of electronic payments. And it was magical. And so, there is something really nice for me to be able to lend out this surplus to other entrepreneurs in places where $600 is a fortune. And I can do it electronically, with PayPal (which offers its service free).
You too can go to Kiva’s website and lend to someone across the globe who needs a loan for their business – like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks. Each loan has a picture of the entrepreneur, a description of their business and how they plan to use the loan so you know exactly how your money is being spent – and you get updates letting you know how the entrepreneur is going.
The best part is, when the entrepreneur pays back their loan you get your money back — you can lend again, donate to Kiva’s running expenses or take it back yourself. Kiva’s loans are managed by microfinance institutions on the ground who have a lot of experience doing this, so you can trust that your money is being handled responsibly.
I made two loans one to an entrepreneur named Perpetuo Socorro Group in Paraguay and the second to Buntheng Sem Village Bank Group in Cambodia. On Sunday, both groups still need another more funds to complete their loan request, but it has since been fully supported. And there are many others that need a few dollars too you can loan as little as $25.00!
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Donated art shows up in antique shop
by Dana Garner, Franklin, NC, USA
Last year the local Middle school requested donations from our co-op gallery for an auction to raise money for the school. I was fairly new at the gallery and made a real effort to help get the donations for the school. It caused somewhat of a dispute among artists. I was told by one that the people will take advantage and most likely get it real cheap and then turn around and never buy from the artist they received via auction or turn around and sell it for more. It really upset me that he didn’t feel like I did and that one should just be willing to give up a piece of work and be done with it. Well about 4 months or so later, my 11 year old son and I were in an antique shop and I noticed a familiar original painting hanging on the wall and I realized it was mine. I asked the lady who the vendor was and she told me. I said well that’s interesting, I gave that piece to an auction for the middle school. She said the vendor’s sister is a teacher there. I’m not sure how to feel about this situation but it does show the person who warned me was right.
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After The Storm
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Jan Werdin who wrote, “An artist acquaintance of ours said she found her ‘donated to a charity auction’ painting in a thrift shop minus the frame. It implies the frame was more valuable to the buyer than the painting. Puts a damper on one’s charitable heart.”
And also Billie Mathis who wrote, “Instead of worrying about losing control, just think how many lives you have touched with your gift.”
And also Joe Dolice of New York, NY, USA, who wrote, “A selfless donation on the part on an artist can come back to help the artist as well.”
Enjoy the past comments below for Art and the charitable soul…