Monday, April 2, 2012

Business and Art

Or Art and Business. I had to come up with a "B" post on my A-Z challenge.

There's an old saying:

"Lack of planning on your part, does not constitute and emergency on my part".

Often, artists are approached to donate their creations or services on behalf of charities for fundraising purposes. Often the artist is told that "we don't have the money to pay you". However... the donation is intended to procure what the the requestor is lacking... money.

A prevailing mindset assumes the donation of free goods, which then can be actioned off, with opening bids starting at zero. I hold that this meme is a broken one.

The largest non-profits organizations know that it takes money to make money. There is a reason why CEO's of the charities make salaries in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. They know how to raise money. Their salaries are investments.

This same mindset should be applied to any not-for-proft. Being a not-for-profit is not an excuse to have a bad business plan. Like any business, money earned should be based on cost of goods, plus markup. So rather than thinking first and foremost of asking an artist to donate their time or creations, ask them what their non-profit rate it. Then when you are going to auction their work, put the starting bid at whatever you paid.

If you don't have the cash in pocket, pay it on the back end when the item sells. If it doesn't sell, it goes back to the artist.

As for the artist, evaluate every request for donations. I'm not telling you not to be a volunteer, or not to donate your time. But the more money you make, the more time you will have to donate that time to folks who REALLY need it... like the homeless shelter, or habitat for humanity, or a literacy program.
Folks who don't need your money as much as they need you.

I have a theory that the volunteer pool is a limited resource. Sort of like homes for pets. When you don't spay or neuter your pet and your pet has babies, even if you find a home for those babies, you have used a valuable limited resource. Homes for pets. There is a pet in a shelter somewhere that will be euthanized because you used up that resource.

Likewise, volunteers are a limited resource. If you use up a volunteer when a little creative financing would have found a way to pay them for their time, you have taken a resource out of the community volunteer pool. Odds are, there are other local organizations that need volunteers more than you do, and don't have the option to figure out how to pay them.

"B" is for Business.

And April is Parkinson's Awareness Month


  1. As a professional storyteller who is constantly asked to donate shows, married to an artist who is constantly asked to donate art for silent auctions...I so appreciate this post! Thank you

  2. Thanks TPC! Spread the word. And go A to Z Challenge! just joined your blog

  3. Good thoughts. Art ( and design) are commonly treated with an "anyone can do that" attitude while all artists and designers are acutely aware of the time, effort, and skill required to create anything of value. It is good to remind folks that giving is more sustainable when you are compensated at least something. It is hard to give when you are broke. I particularly liked the suggestion that non- profit should not be confused with bad business.

  4. Thanks Glen. Check out my post "Support the Artists" from March 31st. I'm sure you can appreciate the sentiment.