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From Art Auctions to Art Lotteries: A Better Way to Fundraise?

June Rogers

Reading the blog entry by Stephanie Evans Hanson that focused on the beginnings of new methods through close observance of our conversations reminded me that changes employed by Fairbanks Arts Association (FAA) on the issue of art-for-sale at fundraisers started with conversations.

One of my previous posts told of FAA’s new direction for art auctions and our concern about the value of an artist’s work in local galleries and the success that was realized with the new direction. However, we’ve gone a step further and paid heed to suggestions from two of our members, each bringing the same suggestion from two different cities – an art sale by lottery.

One person had attended an event in Denver and the other had attended a similar event in San Francisco. The event is simple and focused – art is for sale. The innovation that puts a spin on the event is offering the work for sale through lottery. (In Alaska we need a gaming permit from the state to conduct this event so check on your state requirements before embarking on this idea.)

Entry tickets to the event include food and entertainment in addition to three tickets for the lottery portion of the event. All works of art donated for the event are offered for sale at an  appraised value, which is entered on a label that accompanies the artwork and a program of art-for-sale that is provided for those who attend.

A small container (white gift box) with a lid is placed by each art piece. If someone desires a chance to purchase the work, they deposit one or more of their tickets in the box next to their choice of art. For those who want to have more than three chances to purchase, extra tickets are available for sale at the event. Extra tickets are sold at $2 each or three for $5 – there is no limit to the purchase of extra tickets. However, trying to “buy” an artwork by having the most tickets in the box doesn’t always win out, since it only takes one ticket to win.

Take care to explicitly inform your guests that placing a ticket in the box is a “promise to purchase” at the appraised price of the piece. This can be done in advance through the invitation, with signs next to the artwork, in the program, and through a general announcement at the beginning of the event.

FAA’s event is held in our gallery, which is a great space with a pleasant ambiance that requires no decorating. Delicious hors d’oeuvres and delightful entertainment provide a great evening of merriment, whether a person is inclined to make a try at purchasing the art or not. There’s no interrupt, with a loud call-out of silent auction tables closing or a long and loud session of an outcry auction. At evening’s end tickets are drawn and the art is purchased. A good time is had by all. It’s simple, it’s fun, it makes money and the value of the artist’s work is protected.

As a footnote to this entry, I should point out that the artwork for this event is not solicited from artists. Fairbanks Arts Association members who are downsizing, moving, or for other reasons wish to contribute artwork have brought many fine works to us. With our art sale lottery, these donors are assured that their contribution assisted FAA in raising significant funds. 

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