Recently I’ve involved myself in two charity auctions. I had the winning bids for three items in an online fundraiser for Northern Light Theatre, and I have donated a painting for an online auction organized by Edmonton artist Jay Bigam as a fundraiser for the Red Cross’ relief efforts for Fort McMurray. These two online fundraising auctions got me thinking about a decision I made sometime ago: I make it my policy to not donate my art to charity auctions unless there is a minimum reserved bid. I made this decision after I learned that one of my paintings was sold at charity auction for less than the cost of the frame. I found this to not only be personally insulting, but also insulting and disrespectful to the organization trying to raise money for its good works.
In the case of the Northern Light Theatre fundraiser, I went online to check it out because I’ve been a fan of the Company since its early days a generation ago. I saw fifty dollar gift cards had been donated by three restaurants I’d be happy to feed my hunger at — The Blue Plate Diner, downtown, Under The High Wheel and The Next Act, both in my neighbourhood (Old Strathcona). I checked out what the bids were at.
All three of them had been offered five miserly dollars. Some schmuck had said (three times) “Fifty dollars of your food and drink is worth five bucks to me! And your theatre company? The same Five bucks!”
Screw that noise!
I bid fifty bucks on each of them because Northern Light Theatre is worth at least a hundred and fifty bucks to me and those restaurants deserve proper respect for supporting live theatre in our city.
In the case of the ongoing artists’ fundraiser for Fort Mac evacuees Jay was adamant from the outset that there would be artist-set minimum reserved bids. Once Jay and the Red Cross worked out the mechanics, and even though I’d already donated to the Red Cross’ Fort Mac fund, I without hesitation offered my Sunflower:
We’ll see how it goes when bargain-hunting vultures are shut out.
Something else that really bugs me about all this is that crowd-funding campaigns have fundamentally the same model as charity auctions but with reversely inflated reserved bids. Give ten bucks you get a doohickey worth a nickle. Give a hundred and you get a wotzit worth five.
And bragging rights.
Sad, but, since crowd-funding seems to be so much more attractive than charity, maybe charities should give up the charity auction idea and sacrifice a few percent on the kickstarter altar.
But, I’m going to claim my bragging rights:
I gave a hundred and fifty bucks to Northern Light Theatre to help keep Edmonton the insanely vibrant live-theatre place it is. And I gave proper respect to three generous restaurants who help make Edmonton the crazy foody city it is.
Next time you see a charity auction, show some respect: bid the value or even more (it’s a fundraiser, not a firesale).
And then brag about it. You’ve earned the right.