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How to Give Without Being Taken Part 2

by Luann Udell on 7/2/2010 9:29:54 AM

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

Last time I gave you some suggestions on how to handle requests to donate your art work.  Today, here’s a simple yet elegant way to say YES, NO or MAYBE to those requests. 

The most important tip of all: 


Have a set piece to say when you get the request. 

Being prepared to be asked will help you answer in a professional manner.  It will keep you from getting caught off-guard and responding poorly or too quickly.  It will give you time to time to make up your mind.  It will get you the information you need to make a good decision.  It will give you a gracious “out” if the answer is no.  And it will leave a door open for you to change your mind some day.

This set piece can be adapted for almost any situation.

Good Cause person:  “Luann, we’re having a big fundraising event for the XYZ society next month, and we’re asking a number of local artists to donate something for the silent auction.  We’d love to have your work!”

Luann:  “Oh, I’m so honored to be asked!  Can you tell me more?” 

Now is the time to ask:  What exactly is this cause? (If you’re not already familiar with it.)  Is it one that aligns with your values? 

Who are their patrons?  Who will be at the event? Are they your customers, or your prospective customers? 

What other artists were asked, who else accepted, and what is the value of the pieces they’re donating? This will give you some idea whether you want to participate or not, and what company you’ll be in if you accept.  And if you accept, what you’re being asked for—a $25 gift certificate or a $2,000 painting.

Once you’ve heard all the details, figure out if you want to participate or not, or if you simply need more time to think about it.  The following covers all three options.  (Actually, it covers four…)

Luann:  “That sounds lovely, and I wish I could help you out.  However, I’m swamped with requests from many deserving organizations.  I can’t possibly oblige them all.  What I do is collect all the requests ahead of time in writing.  Then (once a year, twice a year, whatever time you want) I choose (one or two causes) to donate to.”

Now, here’s the creative part:

If you don’t want to contribute, you add, “I’m so sorry, I’ve already made my selections for charity donations for this year.  But I’d be delighted to consider your request for next year’s list.  Can you give me information about this year’s event, and *contact me by such-and-such a date next year?”  (*Note: If you might donate next year, let them know they need to ask again.  If you don’t want to donate, don’t ask them to contact you again and just forget to offer.)

If you aren’t sure you want to contribute, you say, “I’m making my decision for this period in a few weeks, and I’d be happy to consider your request.  Can I get all the information from you, and let you know my decision then?” 

If you want to help but don’t want to donate your work, you say, “I’m so sorry, I’ve already made my selections for charity donations this year.  But I support your cause and would like to help in some other way.  May I purchase an ad in the auction program?”  (Or make a cash donation, or offer a private lesson, or a private studio visit, etc.)

If you decide to donate, you still give the set piece.  But you’ve also laid out the conditions and raised the bar.

Let’s say the audience is your targeted audience and the terms of donation are reasonable and fair to artists.  For example, the artists will get their “gallery price” or wholesale price, and/or you can set a minimum bid. You can still use the set piece to explain how your process works, and then accept their invitation. 

This shows you are a professional and you understand what is being asked.  It asks for them to treat you in a professional matter, too, and helps them understand what they are asking for. 

The beauty of this little set piece is, you can use it to say, “yes”, “no” or “maybe”.  You can use it to say no, and still leave a door open.  (I’ve had people thank me for refusing them so graciously, and for giving them a chance to ask again another time.)

You can use it to say yes, and not lock yourself into saying “yes” next year, and the year after—unless you want to.

Everybody wins, and nobody has to feel bad.  That’s the kind of solution I like best!


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Related Posts:

How to Give Without Being Taken Part 1

Fund Raisers That Do It Right

Topics: art marketing | sell art 

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Nancy Riedell
Luann, Thank you so much for this advice. I've been asked twice to donate my art - one for a raffle and one for a fund raiser. I was never sure how to respond if I wasn't interested. Your advice gives an "easy out" if you do not want to donate. Thanks again.

Linda Moran
There is a reverse side to this, and that's the responsibility of the group getting the donation. Too often we have donated and never received a thank-you, a letter for tax purposes, nothing. Quilt guilds seem to be the biggest offenders in my experience. If not even a thank you, then don't even think about asking me again!

Karen Winters
Thanks for this good advice, Luann. I get frequent requests and you have suggested some gracious ways to handle the various options that I hadn't thought of.

Carol Schmauder
Wonderful advice, Luann. The points you bring up can get you out of sticky situations. I have decided to donate prints when asked for a donation and so far it has worked out well.

Catherine Foster
I am so big on serving the public and giving of my artwork to valuable organizations for fundraising BUT feel that organizations also need to help promote the artists that they want to have their work. It has to be a win win situation for both. I get promises of people in organizations but few follow through. What do we do to improve this?

Catherine Foster
Write another comment . . .

Helen Horn Musser
Luann, All of this post is great advice. I should print and remember for next time Thank you

Kathy Chin

Thanks so very much for the good advice...I don't have much experience with this yet, the few times I've been asked I wasn't sure what to do. Because of your articles, now I've got much more information with which to make a final determination.
Thanks again!

Marilyn Gilis
Very professional way to handle such requests. Some good business sense thrown in there for the artist. Thanks Luann!

Judy Crowe
Hi Luann,
(Re: If you don”™t want to contribute, you add, “I”™m so sorry, I”™ve already made my selections for charity donations for this year. But I”™d be delighted to consider your request for next year”™s list. Can you give me information about this year”™s event, and *contact me by such-and-such a date next year?”¯ (*Note: If you might donate next year, let them know they need to ask again. If you don”™t want to donate, don”™t ask them to contact you again and just forget to offer.)

Thank you for your comments and your thoughtfulness in not wanting to cause hurt feelings however I feel that if an artist doesn't plan to give to an organization for whatever reason, this should be said kindly and tactfully. If an artist doesn't want to give for whatever reason, being honest about it is the best approach. Anything else is misleading and should be avoided. In other words, if the artist would prefer to give his or her maximum donations they can handle for the year to other organizations that he or she feels better suits the artist's belief system, he or she should say so. Or if the artist feels they cannot give to another organization that year in order to set limits, this should be truthfully acknowledged. This avoids any misrepresentation and the person who is asking will respect the artist for telling the truth. This has happened to me on several occasions. I feel concerned because I think this is a problem in our society, to tell half truths to just not hurt someone's feelings even when it is well meant. By being honest, you can also avoid being asked for that particular fundraiser again.

Thanks for listening!

Phyllis OShields Fine Art
Thanks for the additional specific replies. I have actually typed these in order of discussion and placed them in a convenient place on my desk. It covers all situations and helps me identify where I am going with an answer without speaking to quickly.
Phyllis O'Shields

Luann Udell
I'm so glad everyone enjoyed these tips! I love sharing stuff that makes our lives as artists easier. :^)

Judy, by all means, feel free to tweak my "set piece" to say "never" in any way that makes you more comfortable. The point is not to use it word for word, but to be able to say "no" comfortably. Or "yes", or "maybe". I personally don't like closing doors. I never know when a group's mission will change, or when my own will align with theirs better.

Erin Prais-Hintz
Luann, you are just so dang awesome! I get asked for this all the time. I agree...prepare to be asked! That is very flattering that they think enough of you to come and seek your wares out. These are great tips that will come in handy. I would even go one step further. I am thinking of making up a donation request form that would have that information on it so that I could email it to them to fill out. That way I could keep it on file for when I might want to donate (I do so every single month) and they would know that I am serious. And if I do decide to make something custom then I have all the information that I need. Great stuff. Enjoy the day!

Judy Crowe
Hi Luann, I don't feel that being honest is closing doors but in contrast, opening them. Thank you for your comments.


Luann Udell
Judy, I apologize for not being more clear in my article and in my response to you. Perfect honesty is a valuable trait, but sometimes tact will work just as well. I don't think being tactful is being dishonest, but I can understand that others might feel that well.

This technique is for those of us who sometimes need a little more time to think before responding. Obviously you are handling these requests perfectly already; this article is for those of us who struggle with them. :^)

Erin, you are spot on, as always! :^D

John R. Math
Excellent article. At the beginning of the year I try with my CPA and we try to determine how much I can donate for that year. If it amounts to 2 or 3 pieces, then you will be limited in what you can donate. If it is an event or a charity that you are not aligned with, you can say that you have a limited amount of art that you can donate and that it is just not possible for you donate at this time.

Also as an aside, the first time that I donated my art to a charity, I thought that this is great, as I was thinking that I would get the deduction for the retail price! I was disappointed when I was told that deduction would be for the cost! Oh well, live and learn.

Anyway, it was a great article. Best to you.

Donna Robillard
I've actually only donated two or three times, and I really appreciate the examples you gave of how to respond professionally when you cannot donate. Thank you.

Sue Martin
Thanks for the ideas for responding. I can see how helpful it is to have a response in mind...much more graceful and businesslike!

Michael Cardosa

thanks for sharing some good advice. I can't see any reason not to "share" with anyone asking for a donation your terms for doing so. Large corporations give away millions each year to charity causes. However, to get any of their money you must fit the profile established in their corporate giving guidelines and make your request within certain time frames. Just because artists fall into a much smaller economic level doesn't mean we can't have our own guidelines and have people abide by them.


Max Hulse
Luann Very good thoughts on how to handle
requests. It is important to say no without
being offensive, and sometimes one has to say
no. Personally, I like to help out if I like
the cause, and usually do, but that does incur
some 8-10 paintings annually. I think that it
is good advertising, and chalk it up to that.
However, if you don't get a thank you that is
such an affront I won't contribute to that
cause again
Max Hulse

Joanne Bensons
Hi Luann,

Thanks for your excellent advice. I am adding this post to my keepers pile.

Joanne Benson
And I type so fast I can't even spell my own name! LOL

Stephen Filarsky
Great advice Luann, not only write these responses down, practice them so when you are asked, you can respond without hesitation.
But you can take this beyond just responding to requests and become active rather than reactive in using your art to help a charity. An exclusive showing and sale of your art, with the sales commission going to the charity. Utilize their resources: their organization and volunteers, venues, mailing lists of people who want to support them, their skills in putting on events etc etc. So the next time someone asks for a donation, you can tell them, "I would love to help, here's an idea how we can create an event to raise money for you...."
Stephen Filarsky

i just typed in 3 paragraphs, hit one key and it all disappeared.

I value your comments as good advice. Bravo.
I am approached almost 10 times a year to donate to a good cause.
Why do these folks believe we are affluent enough to do this.?
Doesn't the phrase "starving artist" get through to them?
I am often willing to donate several of my dog and cat prints that sell very well because they are inexpensive. BUT, I do require that they get them framed from a local framer (maybe for free?).
When they do this, my prints fly out the door and they are thrilled. Not a huge chunk of money but money is money.
When they say they can't do this, I decline to donate because I know that my framed prints will sell much better than unframed ones and if they won't make the effort, why should I?
And the final item, "Oh by the way", they coo, "Your donation is tax deductible with our tax Id # 35840293488593092B."
This is hoooey. We are only allowed to deduct the cost of our materials, NOT THE MARKET PRICE WE SET FOR THE ART! When I tell them this, they are shocked, and say, "Geee, I didn't know that!" So much for it's in our interest to donate.
I do donate and recognize fund raisers do a great job for good causes, in my cases animal shelters and like causes. I'm sympathetic and will do my part. But please, agree to have my business cards close to my art pieces, OK? Then, I'm aboard.
Jeff Leedy Art That Makes You Laugh.


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