charitable contributions for artists

Charitable Contributions

Since artists are always being asked to donate something, before making a commitment to donate, consider the following:

A charitable gift is a voluntary transfer of money, property, or in-kind goods that is made to a 501(c)(3) organization with no expectation of a commensurate return. If the donor receives a financial or economic benefit in return for the gift, it is not a deductible contribution, unless the donation’s value surpasses the value of benefit to the donor.

Only donors who itemize deductions on their Federal or State income tax returns may deduct gifts to qualifying non profits.

Therefore, a donor must keep records of contributions. For contributions less than $50, a canceled check, or cash or credit card receipt will suffice. For contributions of $250 or more, the donor must obtain a written acknowledgment from the charity with the date and the amount of the contribution, as well as a list of any benefits received in exchange, and an estimation of the value of those benefits. 

There are special rules as to what can be donated. For example, in-kind services do not always carry a deductible value. It is a good idea to check if your donation merits a tax deduction.

Donating Work (self-commissioning)

As an artist, never assume that an institution or organization wants your donated artwork in its collection. Always query organizations about their acquisitions policies, and acquisitions budget, because some organizations do not buy any art at all. With this knowledge in mind, consider if your artwork fits within their parameters. This will save you time and effort.

Set realistic goals. Do not solicit organizations or museums that will not consider donations from artists who do not have a prior history with museums and public institutions. Never cold call any major organization to sell them an expensive work of art. These sorts of accomplishments accrue gradually during the course of an artist’s career as the artist builds recognition within the art community. You have got to work your way up to major commissions and large sales while setting realistic short-term goals.

Leave the judgment of your work to museum curators and art business professionals, such as dealers and art consultants. Be open to selling and exhibiting your work at organizations that you might have overlooked at first. In other words, do not limit the circumstances under which your work can be sold and bought.

Compare your prices to those of artists with similar experience and accomplishments when determining the value of your artwork.


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You can also get our popular book for artists, Getting Your Sh*t Together: The Ultimate Business Manual for Every Practicing Artist, which includes all of this information and more here.