Monday, April 27, 2020

Giving to artists survey results

I promised to share the results of a survey that I made earlier this month with zero expertise in making surveys. I wanted to know how people felt about being asked for money from artists and what incentives would help them donate. I was considering reactivating fiscal sponsorship, but because that requires that I pay a set amount each month/year to a 501(c)(3) and give them a percentage of any funds raised through them, I wanted to know: how important is that tax deduction? I built this survey in a matter of minutes and only after I made it public did I see its many flaws. But everyone has to start somewhere!

The above graphic shows responses to the first question, and overwhelmingly most people are open to being asked to support artists financially (my assumption is that they are okay with the ask, not that they all donate—but this is a framing flaw. Also, there are many other reactions to being asked for money besides yes and no). I first asked people who are invested enough to receive an email from me each month. Unsurprisingly, they answered 100% of the time that they are happy to support artists if they are able. After a few days, I opened the survey to a book arts listserv and that is when the 5 out of 115 responses arrived saying that artists should not ask for money.
The second question gets hairy because I made up reasons that people might donate money, and allowed people to choose as many as they liked. Many people chose more than one incentive. Where I offered "none," I meant, "I don't need an incentive to donate money to artists, I just do it." But that may not be how people read it—another flaw. What I found interesting is that tax deductions are NOT the most important incentive, which aligns with my own personal donation philosophy. When I was younger I wanted the deduction, but as I learned who gets to write off what and why, it became much less important to me. Guess what people want the most? Rewards! After that, the option to pay by credit card. Then, exclusive donor access to the artist in some fashion.
The most responses after exclusive access was "Other," which I left wide open, and these are the typed-in responses. I won't even try to analyze them but you can see a big range of ideas from respect for the artist's work, donating to artists you know or only to those in visible financial need, subscriptions, and so on. After "Other," tax deductions came into play, then anonymity, and way down on the list were not needing incentives and public acknowledgement of donations.

I'll show the breakdown first of my smaller network (28 people) and then the total blob after it was opened to a larger group (87 additional people) in the order of most to least clicked incentive (# of clicks in parentheses). Yes, I'm aware that the second list contains the first, so that's also a flaw. The question was, "What incentives help you donate to individual artists? [You may choose more than one.]"

People who are subscribed to my monthly updates responded:

67.86% (19) Rewards (artwork, prints, merch, etc.)
46.43% (13) Credit card payment options 
39.29% (11) Tax deduction
31.58% (36) Other (please specify)
25% (7) Access to updates, pictures, videos, etc. exclusively for donors
25% (7) Anonymity
14.29% (4) None
10.71% (3) Public acknowledgement of my donation

The entire cohort, which now includes people who are subscribed to a book arts listserv, responded:

65.79% (75) Rewards (artwork, prints, merch, etc.)
49.12% (56) Credit card payment options 
34.21% (39) Access to updates, pictures, videos, etc. exclusively for donors
31.58% (36) Other (please specify)
28.07% (32) Tax deduction
25.44% (29) Anonymity
7.02% (8) None
5.26% (6) Public acknowledgement of my donation

I regretted the survey's shortcomings from the moment it went public, but I am still glad I tried. It opened insightful and meaningful conversations with people I might not otherwise have connected with. Also, I am not a scientist, and approached this idea the way I approach my art. I'm sorry for my mistakes but am grateful to the 115 of you who indulged me. For years, my work and thoughts have been interested in notions of what is official and not, who has authority and what that looks like, and many gradations of impostor syndrome. For sure, I am an artist. All the other identities I inhabit fall on a scale of perfectly tailored fits to Yikes Who Let Me In Here.

Special thanks to Maureen Cummins for pointing me towards Why Are Artists Poor?
Also, if you want the pdfs rather than the jpgs here, let me know!

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