Giving back: Local artist agrees to donate percentage of sales to nonprofits

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Jim Nelson is no stranger to giving back. Like many local artists, Nelson has donated his work to silent and live auctions for years. This year, he’s changing things up a bit.

“All the fundraisers for years and years and years have been silent auctions where artists donate things and they relinquish control completely of the value of what they’re donating,” Nelson said. “They have no say in that. I’ve been trying to figure out a new model to give back.”

In this new model, Nelson will sell his art at full price and plans to donate at least 50 percent of the proceeds to local nonprofits. Nelson said he’s already used the model to help Chris Epley’s family after Epley’s untimely death, as well as Five & Dime Drama Collective. Tom and Ann Hopkins, who help run the collective, recently purchased a piece of art for $1,500, Nelson said.

“So they get the piece and I turn around and donate $1,250 of that $1,500 to their production,” Nelson said.

When artists give in this way, Nelson said, they retain the value of their art while giving more to charitable organizations.

“For me, a lot of this is about the making of the art. The selling of the art … well, I’m not going to give it away anymore, and I wish more artists would stop,” Nelson said. “They’re not helping their own cause.”

Anyone can help out nonprofits through this model, Nelson said, no matter how much their goods cost.

“You don’t have to sell things for $2,000 or even $500,” Nelson said. “You can sell things for a lot less, but you can use the same model.”

The latest nonprofit he has his eye on, Nelson said, is Good Shepherd Humane Society. Nelson toured the shelter on July 28 with Good Shepherd’s president Jay Fusaro and shelter manager Sandra Mittler. The tour, Nelson said, was phenomenal. He said he especially loved how Mittler and Fusaro narrated the tour.

“There was a good storyteller, and there’s a lot of information in the story,” Nelson said. “The shelter is going to be improving over time, which is great. They know what they want to do. There’s a plan. I just can’t imagine anybody going on a tour that wouldn’t say, ‘This place is great.’ ”

Mittler thanked Nelson for his offer to help the shelter, saying the shelter wouldn’t run without generous citizens donating to it.

“We don’t get government funding. We get half our money from our thrift stores, but everything else comes from donations and grants,” Mittler said. “It’s part of what keeps us going — a big part.”

The shelter uses donations for pretty much everything you could imagine, Mittler said, from food to utilities to vet services.

“It could be a special type of food that’s not budgeted or we just need to upgrade something,” Mittler said. “There’s always a need, always. There’s a never-ending list. We’re never going to stop improving, so the donations are always going to be needed.”

Fusaro said he’s grateful to Nelson and others who donate their time and money to the shelter.

“I think it’s just tremendous, and it’s an honor. For Jim to call us unsolicited and just out of the blue … I think it’s terrific,” Fusaro said. “It shows what he thinks of Good Shepherd and what he wants to do to help the community. We’re privileged that important local business people want to participate in what we’re doing here.”

The reason why he chose to help Good Shepherd, Nelson said, is simple.

“My wife and I love animals. That’s the short answer,” Nelson said. “And we can help, so we do.”

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