Right, so donating anything of your own to a charity should always feel good right? Well yes but what happens when the demand for art donations overwhelms the available artists in a community? Several things can happen. Artists begin to feel negative or overwhelmed. I don't want to knock the artists that donate 100% of their art all the time. I think that is admirable. There is nothing more satisfying than being able to create without the need to sell. Yet for many artists that is not a reality at the very least artists want to sell in order to continue their passion; paying for supplies and equipment for example. So in order to maintain a comfortable balance of donating art without feeling overwhelmed here is a quick list to help.
1: Choose your favorite charities: As an artist you cannot support the needs of all the charities in your community. You can however make a greater impact by selecting a few of your favorite charities to donate some dedicated pieces. Choosing is never easy. You can choose based on which have made a personal impact on your life or family. Perhaps they support a cause you can relate to. You can also choose based on a lottery system. This can diversify the non-profits you support on a yearly basis and bring about some excitement when it comes to announcing who you will create donations for that year.
2: Learn how to say no: Its not easy saying no. In fact it sucks but don't say yes when you know it will be overwhelming. It can be detrimental to your process especially if you come up short. Expectations can run high for non-profits. Trust me I have been part of many and its not easy putting on a fundraiser. Yet you can help by giving a clear explanation on how you select or who you select to donate to every year. This may calm the donations you are being asked for the next year.
3: Taxes: Lets be clear here. You cannot claim art you've created and donated on your taxes. At the most you can claim the expenses for the items you purchased to create it but the full market value of art cannot be claimed. If you have purchased art by another artist and wish to donate it you can then claim it on your taxes.
4. Donate prints: This is a great way to still be able to help without breaking the bank. Set aside a few prints every year that you can donate to your chosen charities. This CAN be claimed on your taxes since the cost of printing is an expense and qualifies as a donation. I think this is a great option since it doesn't take much time out of work schedule especially if you have a dedicated printer.
5. Exposure bucks: This is such a controversial issue. I know some artists that require a non-profit to buy their art and hardly ever donate 100%. Some even require a percentage to be given to the artist if it sells. This isn't sacrilegious we are after all running a business so its up to you how you want to handle donations. Exposure is kind of a grey area. Yes its good to get your name out there. People become aware of your name when you donate your work. But it is not the main strategy for marketing your art, and it shouldn't be. Please do not abuse it in that way. It should be a way of giving back to the community that in turn gives back to you. At the very least ask if you can include a short bio and some business cards with your donation. Most charities will welcome that since it adds value to the piece(s).
I hope this has helped clear up some confusion or shed light on an issue that can be touchy. If all else fails follow you instincts. Don't donate for the purpose of getting exposure, it comes across as being fake and self-serving. Do it because you care and you can't go wrong.