Requesting Art for Nonprofits

by Holly Nowak

The Dos and Don’ts

Disclaimer: I mean this in the nicest, most unbitchy, no-I’m-not-annoyed way possible…pastedGraphic.png
On behalf of all professional artists, and speaking from an actual personal experience…


  1. You cannot call an artist midNovember and ask for aaaaall their Christmas art for a party/event/show you’re having in a week. Artists are busy all year creating art for markets, galleries, shows, clients, personal lines, etc. We are not Christmas elves stocking up all year in the hopes someone calls last-minute and wants everything we have in inventory.
  2. Most artists have already established relationships with charities and organizations they work with and to which they give their time, money, and art. Most artists begin receiving a large amount of requests from many organizations this time of year to donate original art. If you want an artist’s support, it works both ways: Art is income and we, as artists, have to decide which organizations we support and can only give away so much art.
  3. Please do not call an artist last-minute (we are just as busy during the holidays so sounding panic-stricken and spastic does not help your cause) to ask for them to help you for FREE with your event. Would you do YOUR job for free? Some of us do, often. If you’re going to ask for free, it’s not unfair for the artist to ask for professionalism and support from your organization in return, rather than get your free art then drop the artist like a hot potato. Professional includes keeping appointments, returning calls and emails in a timely manner, and having realistic requests.
  4. Never promise an artist EXPOSURE in lieu of original art. Exposure does not pay our bills. A lot of time and skill goes into original art. Sometimes it takes months to complete a piece. Promised “exposure” never pans out for, I’d venture to say, 10/10 artists.


  1. Call an artist and talk with them about their art. Tell them about your organization and professionally discuss building a relationship WELL IN ADVANCE! If you can’t commit to working on these initial steps, it’s a huge red flag to the artist.
  2. Call an artist as soon as you know about an event and give the artist time to work your request into their production/creation process. Yes, yes…you’re busy…so is the artist…so is everyone.
  3. Form a professional relationship with an artist you like. Treat them like a professional and you’ll be rewarded with a wonderfully creative collaboration.

This happens every year and we all swap stories, roll our eyes and laugh.
Professional artists want to work with business owners, organizations and charities but we also would like to be treated with the consideration and respect our work/time/business deserves.

Thank you…carry on

I welcome feedback.

I know many friends have experienced this who aren’t artists but, like artists, are small business owners.

Related: Market manager Mitch Cohen covers why artists can’t deduct the value of their donated art, in his art column, Art Valet.  Read more. >