A funny thing happens when you are an artist. Even though being an artist is probably one of the hardest ways to make a living, until you get your systems dialed, you get asked ALL the time to donate art or your time for "worthy" causes. Most of them promise good exposure, but more often than not through my experiences the good exposure never really pans out. Artwork is something that most people want in their homes and if your art is popular then all sorts of causes will come knocking on your door asking you to help out.
At the start when I began donating to a variety of different causes I trusted the word of the person who approached me that the great exposure would lead to way more sales for me... but not the case. Most of the time all the attention had been put on the event and hardly no focus on the individuals or groups who actually donated their work to raise the funds for the event. I became a little disheartened after a while about donating to causes, but after a bit more research and experimentation I have managed to dial in a good balance with to whom and how much I donate. It always felt good to help out a person or a cause, but sometimes the donation just fell to the wayside in the event and perhaps never even raised as much money from the piece than the piece cost to create. There are several considerations you should take when are willing to use your art for the betterment of mankind.
First off it important to set a cap at how much you donate in a year. If you have been in the game for a long time you will probably become familiar with the most common times of year that you get asked for the big fund raising events so if some of the big events you would like to support are later in the year, just make sure to save up some of your donation allowance for those events. In a town such as Whistler there are fundraisers for everything all the time. With reasons varying from "I broke my leg and can't work for 6 months" to "I'm trying to set the world record for _____ and I need some extra funds". I usually get hit up about twice a week for people looking for donations and while many of them are for legit causes, I just can't give everything away.
I personally find that donating prints is the best way to go in most of these cases. It's easier to donate a print that costs you X amount of dollars than it is for your to donate an original that took 20-100hrs to paint... do the math. Would you really want to volunteer a hundred hours of your time to the cause you are donating too? Chances are, probably not. But if you would volunteer that much time, then go ahead and donate that piece. I'm sure it will do wonders for the fundraising effort!
Picking your battles is a lesson we all need to learn in life. There are so many injustices in the world, so many people in need and so many environmental hazards that need to be rectified that it would be impossible to give focus to all of them. Many people try to be Super Giving and eventually burn out and usually their health or bank account takes a turn for the worse because they are only giving out from their bodies and not taking in enough good. Maintaining a good balance in your life is important on all levels... not just your generosity. As a collective mankind has enough people to take care and solve any problems that have arisen and we don't need every person to focus and worry about everything. Awareness is the first step and then action. It is very important for all issues to be brought to the forefront of the publics attention so that the people become aware of the issue. But then it is up to the individual to decide which cause is most important to them. WE all have lived an entirely unique life and everything that has happened to us in out past has been etched into out minds and dictates how we act in the present in certain situations. If you had a rough childhood and never had much food on your table, then ending childhood hunger may be on the top of your list for worthy causes. Or if you were unfortunate enough to be the victim of spousal abuse then perhaps supporting a womens shelter would be on the top of your list. All causes with good intentions are worthy ones, but it's up to you to chose which one is the most worthy for you. There are enough people in the world with enough unique backgrounds that all the different causes will be looked after so it's important not to try to take them all on yourself.
I'm not sure if you are familiar with the "100th Monkey effect"? Have a little read of that link if you aren't, but basically it was observed in a group of monkeys in Japan, that once a certain percentage of a population or species becomes familiar with an idea or action then the idea it is somewhat miraculously transmitted throughout the species. You would need to read a little more about the phenomenon, but that's the dumbed down version of it. I mention this because with all of the infinite causes out there and all the billions of people we only need a certain amount or percentage of people to focus energy on resolving each of the problems and that will make the change for the rest of the world. If you spread your focus too thin and have your finger in the pie of a million different causes it is far less effective at resolving the causes than it is to focus on one or two at a time. Even after you have given your attention and resources to one cause and it was successful, then you can jump to the next and so on and so on. This way you can can ensure your efforts are being noticed in the universe. Every little bit of help makes a difference, but focus can really make a big difference to change!
Just last summer I joined Raincoast Conservation Foundation in a project called "Art for an Oil Free Coast". The project took 50 of BC's top wilderness artists up to the great Bear Rainforest where the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline was to be bringing tankers through the hellishly narrow Douglas Channel and through Hecate Straight. We all got a chance first hand to interact with the wildlife there and see how truly precious the area is and how much is at risk if the project were to go through. After we all got back from the various expeditions up there we all got to work in the studio and created a work of art that was donated to RAincoast to be acutioned off to raise funds for them to continue their research and fight the legal battles to help protect our environment. Our environment is TOP priority on my list in terms of worthy causes. Without a healthy environment nothing elese matters because we are all doomed. None of the other issues or causes that I have come across trump the environment in terms of importance... at least that is my opinion. You should make up your own mind on what you think is the TOP cause and focus your energy on that.
Your art is unique and has value so be deliberate with your donations and support the causes that you believe in. Art is a wonderful way to make a statement and has the power to make people see the world in a different way. If you have it in your heart to make donations and support worthy causes, regardless of "good press" or not, your kindness will be rewarded some how, some way and the world will thank you in it's own unique way. Art has the power to change the world, it's up to you to create the change in it that you want to see!