Working with a Charity

A Continuing-Education Series from Chalk & Vemilion Fine Arts, Inc.

VOLUME III , ISSUEV

In these difficult times, both businesses and charitable organizations are looking for new ways to expand their income. Having an event that links you with a charitable organization is one way to draw new people and hopefully new business to your gallery, and help out someone in need at the same time.

The concept of linking businesses with charities is not new, but charitable events often focus on either a physical hands-on experience (like Habitat for Humanity), or a straightforward fundraiser, which often ends up to be a gala event. There’s plenty of room in between for a small business to make an impact.

Obviously, one way would be with a show held at your gallery, from which a portion of the proceeds would go to a charitable organization. If you link up with a charity whose supporters fit the demographics of your clientele, you introduce your business to a people who may not be aware of your gallery and services. This works very well on your turf in an auction scenario or artist in attendance event, or on their turf when you participate in a large event that the organization itself may host. Add media coverage and participation by other groups and you’ve got a win/win situation for all. For example, say you invite an artist for a show, and link up with the Make a Wish Foundation. The artist might just pay his own way there, as opposed to having you pay for a hotel room (or might create a work of art especially for your event, which could command a higher fee). The caterer might give you a break on the food and beverages. Your staff might accept a smaller commission on sales that evening, your other suppliers might take a little off the fee for their services. Make a Wish might support the advertising, with some discounts from the local media, who will also come to cover the event. The whole local contingent of Make a Wish supporters show up, admire your beautiful gallery, and support their favorite charity with art that they purchase from you.

There are ways other than hosting a show that benefit both parties, as well. One gallery in St. Louis held a food drive, which was so successful it has become a national event. For every can of food brought in with a framing job, $1 was deducted from the framing cost, up to half the cost of the entire project. During their first drive, over 2200 pounds of food was collected for the local food bank, enough for over 700 meals. Pretty impressive what one small company can do!

Undoubtedly, your gallery has been asked to make a contribution to a local charity or event. Donating a piece of framed art is less “expensive”, if you will, than donating cash, may help the charity raise more money, gets your company some exposure, and is often a write-off for you.

Some guidelines to working with a charity:

  • Pick the charity carefully. You may choose one that is near and dear to your heart, so it will have more meaning for you. Or you can be a little more analytical in your choice, finding one that has a network of supporters who are possible customers, a mailing list you can have access to, established fundraising and media experience, and an already well-known cause. Make sure it is a legitimate charity and that you know where the money is going.

  • Get the membership list and be sure it is a charity whose constituents are qualified to be art buyers.

  • Look for other partners, non-competing local businesses who can help spread the word and defray costs, like supermarkets, media outlets, banks, or local corporations.

  • Don’t be afraid to tell other potential partners that this is a charitable event, and even to ask for support. The printer you patronize may give you a break on postcard mailers or signage, the caterer may throw in the coffee and cookies for free, the parking garage may discount their parking fees for your patrons. It’s hard for some people to ask for these kinds of breaks, but many companies do this regularly and are happy to help. Give them credit for their support however you can, either in advertising or with a professionally printed sign in your gallery during the event.

  • Local charities are often a good bet, since they may have more meaning to local residents. They may not have the resources and polish of a national organization, but will often have ardent supporters.
    - Use your website and the organization’s website to promote the event, and take advantage of free community listings that may be offered by the local paper or radio station. Invite local dignitaries – the mayor, Chamber of Commerce members, etc, - to broaden the appeal.

Having a show is a lot of work – always has been, always will be – but give it a new twist by adding the charitable element and you may find it’s a whole ‘nother ball game. The excitement level is different, the sales approach is different, the people may be different and your bottom line, hopefully, may be different. Plus, there’s the feeling you get from helping someone out. One gallery owner said “I want people to know that the feeling you get in your heart is worth so much more than just the publicity. The money will come if your work hard and do your job.”


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