Early in my career I've struggled back and forth (way too much) when asked to donate my work to benefits. Since 2009 I have been working full time with my art and in that time have developed this list of rules.
My 11 rules for donations:
1. Don't donate. Ask for a percentage of the sale and a ticket or two to the event. If you are donating for a theater ask for tickets, donating for a museum ask for a year long membership, always with 50% of the sale. If they don't agree, professionally suggest for them to "kindly consider offering 50% of the sale to the artist at the next benefit."
2. Agree in advance you will get the name and address of the winning bid.
3. I like to show new work for auctions, it creates an exciting buzz to say this art has never before seen by the public, and makes it stand out from my other work.
4. If you are selling your art in a gallery ask their opinion on the organization.
5. Consider promoting yourself during the event. See if the organization will arrange a special "meet the artist".
6. Consider who will be at the event. Will you have past collectors, new collectors that have never seen your work. Will this event really help you in the long run?
7. Top artist have their work auctioned, less known artists will have a silent auction. Decide what you want at this point in your career.
8. Make sure the transaction will be considered a tax deduction.
9. An event catalogue showing photos of my work is not important to me.
Local press with photos of my work before the event is much more important.
10. I don't even want to think about this, but you do take the chance that your work doesn't sell when the starting bid is not reached.
11. If you like the organization, you have the option to make a cash donation.
AFTER ALL IS SAID: There are certain organizations I have taught that I simply LOVE, and will send them some older work with none of the conditions above! Go figure!