Saturday, October 17, 2009

Artist Myth #1: The Non Profit

The money talk wouldn’t be complete without a small entry on the non-profit. It’s true; if you’re not making any money with your art, semantically speaking, you are a “non-profit” making artist. In fact, most of your artist friends who are probably in the same boat with you, are probably, semantically speaking, “non-profit” makings artists. My mother, who is not an artist at all would be considered a “non-profit” making artist under this stipulation as well.

In fact, if you and all of your artist friends got together with my mother and decided to form an artist’s support network, you would be considered an informal nonprofit organization. You could even advertise the organization as such.

But, if you wanted to receive tax deductible donations, be granted tax-exempt status from the IRS or apply for all those art grants that exist for 501I(3) nonprofits, then you’d be out of luck.

Two points to consider:

One - Most artists think that just because they aren’t making a profit that it’s reason enough to become an official “non-profit.” You’ve probably considered it yourself? You should know that by the time you finished filling out all the required paperwork, you’d be ready to cry. From articles of incorporation to the governing board of directors to the regular meetings you’ll be required to organize and attend, you’re life as an artist has just ended. For what little grant money you’d likely receive from your hard earned status, it barely makes sense to even consider the process.

Two – You’re on crack if you think non-profits are poverty driven rather than profit driven. Last I heard the CEO of Goodwill industries had a salary cap at $1,000,000 – that’s a lot of digits behind the first one. I’ve also worked for the rare, well-run non-profit where I was paid better than I ever was in a for-profit company. A million dollar non-profit can still be considered a non-profit if, after it pays all it’s bills, it doesn’t keep any of the money earned.

So, what does it all mean? Don’t be fooled as an artist, into giving your good hard earned work every time you hear the violins start playing. Instead get out your own violin and learn how to negotiate your terms.

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