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June 25, 2022
 
Introducing Art in Giving: How a shared revenue model benefits art, research — and nonprofits
By Eliane Markoff

Eliane Markoff2
Eliane Markoff

This nonprofit leader explains how she transformed tragedy — the loss of a young child — into a mission and innovative nonprofit model to raise funds to combat pediatric cancers.

Thirty years ago, my 8-year-old daughter, Rachel Molly Markoff of Wellesley, Mass., was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She subsequently passed away on Oct. 17, 1992, one week after her ninth birthday. In the nearly three decades since her passing, the nonprofit Art in Giving—which I co-founded with my husband, Gary—has raised more than $2 million in seed money for basic childhood cancer research through the sale of fine arts.

Plainly put, my daughter’s battle against cancer put us on a mission to eradicate all pediatric cancers.

Art in Giving is an online gallery that raises money for pediatric cancer research by selling art to commercial real estate firms and other companies. It combines the creativity and generosity of more than 50 artists with the needs of talented cancer researchers. Half of the proceeds go to the artist and the other half goes to the Rachel Molly Markoff Foundation, which provides research grants.

Our entry into the nonprofit world has been gratifying and has taught us that the power of kindness and compassion can merge with the concept of entrepreneurism and creativity to form something quite beautiful, special and unique. In our case, we have adopted a shared revenue collaborative model that supports artists, cancer researchers and other nonprofits.

We’ve learned a few lessons along the way that may be helpful to other nonprofits as they explore their own models.

Launching a concept

After Rachel died, I began painting as therapy. During my first show at Quebrada Baking Co. in Wellesley, I displayed about 16 watercolors, and we ended up selling most of them, which boosted my confidence. Soon after, I rented a studio at SoWa Boston, an interesting business hub for office space, art, and more.

Some of the artists I met offered to donate pieces for an auction, and I later developed a business plan and presented it to some leaders. One was Bob Coughlin, who was then the CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. He was so gracious and introduced us to leaders at Sanofi Genzyme, who bought 42 paintings for their then new offices in Cambridge.

Soon after, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc., and BioMed Realty, both in Cambridge, ended up collaborating with Art in Giving. Additionally, we garnered early monetary support from private donors. We were gratified because this concept was gaining a foothold from the business and scientific community.

How our shared revenue model works

Our shared revenue model makes it possible to increase funds available for pediatric cancer research without taking donations away from other philanthropies. The funds we target are business expenses allocated for facility management to adorn buildings and offices with art.

The idea behind the shared revenue model is to engage other nonprofits to partner with Art in Giving in identifying opportunities to benefit both nonprofits.

The model—which links hospitals, foundations, and societies with institutional donors—is designed to partner with all nonprofits that are committed to health initiatives, to cancer research, and/or to the wellbeing of children.

For instance, hospitals such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore; foundations such as Childhood Cancer Foundation and The Lung Cancer Foundation; societies such as the American Cancer Society, and other nonprofit organizations committed to children, cancer research and other health initiatives have institutional donors such as Google, Bank of America, Staples, and Novartis that may be in need of art for new or renovated buildings and offices.

A win-win proposition

If a nonprofit organization is aware of an office expansion by one of its institutional donors, and the nonprofit feels confident about the donor’s commitment to cancer research, we ask that it consider introducing that donor to the gallery of Art in Giving for potential acquisitions for its building project. All net revenues to the foundation from the sale of the art are equally shared with the nonprofit.

For example, a biotech firm recently bought about $100,000 worth of art from Art in Giving for its facility. We engaged two of our curators and 10 of our artists in the project. Fifty percent ($50,000) went to the artists whose art works have been selected and the other 50 percent went to the Foundation. However, if a nonprofit had introduced us to the biotech firm, it would receive 50 percent of what goes to the foundation, $25,000 in this case.

The model generates new funds for childhood cancer research and health initiatives beyond what currently exists for philanthropy. The model and value proposition convert traditional corporate expenditures to benefit Art in Giving’s philanthropic cause.

In the end, we think the shared revenue model is a win-win for the nonprofit and Art in Giving.

Eliane Markoff is the co-founder of Art in Giving, a Wellesley-based nonprofit that raises money for pediatric cancer research through the sale of fine arts. She is also the ombuds at Bentley University. She can be reached at esmarkoff@verizon.net.

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