In December 2017, this story hit the news.
A Beatles fan in Australia donated seven tickets to the Salvation Army. The tickets were to be given to homeless clients so that they might enjoy the December 5, 2017 concert.
Four hours before the show, two of the ticket holders returned the tickets. One of the managers at the Salvation Army made an effort to find other clients or volunteers to attend, but because of the late notice, no one accepted.
At that point, the manager made the decision to give them to the daughter of the Commanding Officer of Melbourne, telling her that she would be attending to look after the homeless attendees. She accepted.
News got out.
The Commanding Officer was accused of impropriety.
This story has been mentioned in a few of my nonprofit online chat groups.
Most readers offered sympathy for the Commanding Officer. Many shared similar situations. A donation arrives, but the circumstances make it difficult to use the gift or liquidate the gift into cash.
As the Commanding Officer said, “Concert tickets were not an appropriate donation for homeless people.”
Most nonprofits prefer money over other donations. It’s one reason auctions are popular. Auctions allow donations (like concert tickets) to be converted into an easily used medium — cash.
But what happens when an item donation has a date restriction that means it cannot be sold at the auction gala?
Below is one example.
A school received an item donation of Packers tickets.
The game date was November 6.
Their gala date was November 11.
It was a nice donation, but the game date meant that the tickets couldn’t be sold at the auction gala.
To turn the tickets into a usable commodity (cash), they had to sell the tickets before their event.
Here’s their email campaign.
Email #1, sent October 17, 2017 (online bidding opened).
Subject line: The Packers need your help!
Email #2, sent October 18, 2017
Subject line: Plans for November 6?
Email #3, sent October 19, 2017
Subject line: St. Marcus and the Packers
Here are some reasons I like this campaign.
- It features photos of the kids (the school’s “mission”)
- Emails were sent three consecutive days, and were sent even while the nonprofit was advertising the gala itself. They weren’t shy about marketing.
- Bidding started with the first email; no time wasted.
- One email has a view of the field from the offered seats.
- The other emails offer a schematic of the stadium to help bidders appreciate the location.
- The emails were short and to the point.
- The call to action was clear.
I don’t know the results of the sale. But as an observer, I think this was a solid marketing push.
If I was the donor of the tickets, I would feel good about the efforts made by the nonprofit to capitalize on the donation.
If you’ve received a similar item donation that needs to be converted into cash before or after your gala, here are three ideas on how to manage it.
- Run an online auction, as this school did. Your software provider might already offer an online auction platform. Alternatively, seek out a vendor that offers a trial version of their software, enabling you to sell one item for free.
- Instead of running the auction on a software platform, simply ask bidders to email you their bids. You can update bidders each day with the current high bid. It’s a bit more clunky, but it has worked for some of my clients.
- One of my clients asked that bidders submit their best bid, and told all bidders that they would sell the item to the bidder with the highest bid submitted by a given deadline.
Have you had to convert a donation to cash outside of your regularly scheduled gala auction?
If so, how did you do it?
Post your experience below.