I’ve said this a thousand times in the last seven years: The quicker you can start to think about your nonprofit or school auction as a business, the faster your auction will grow.
Your auction should be treated like the money-making venture it is. Marketing, sales, technology, customers … they are all components of your “business.”
And as your auction receives proper TLC, you’ll be looking for ways to add additional revenue to nurture your growing baby.
One revenue stream popular at for-profit enterprises is branded merchandise. Let’s consider how you might adopt this idea.
Branded merchandise refers to auction items sold at a flat rate.
(If you’ve ever bought a T-shirt at a concert or Hard Rock restaurant, you’ve purchased branded merchandise.)
The logo of the auction gala is on the item, or (if you want to brand the item to your nonprofit or school) the logo of the charity.
When to sell it?
The merchandise is typically sold at the auction or in the days immediately before and after it.
How to sell it?
Consider checking with your auction software provider because it’s typically easy to take orders via your website. Otherwise, apply to the bid number at the auction itself.
What should you sell? Here are some items I’ve seen:
- Stadium chairs
- Ball caps
- Megaphones and mini-foam footballs
- Beer mugs / beer steins and wine glasses
- Sports-like pendants
- Beach towels (great for beach-type themes)
- Tote bags / reusable grocery bag
A vendor who sells giveaways (AKA “tchotchkes”) is going to be able to suggest items in your price point and expected volume.
What will you raise?
Revenues will vary based on your sales and price point, but a few hundred dollars to the low thousands isn’t uncommon.
My advice: Ensure that you’re charging enough to raise the intended amount of money. Factor in all costs: the item itself, marketing expenses, and your “labor” in selling it.
Realize that even if labor is free because a volunteer will sell the item at a table in your silent auction, you still have an opportunity cost. Is it better to assign your sales-y volunteer to the table so she can pitch $10 beach towels, or would you raise more money having her selling $100 raffle tickets?
The key is to make sure selling these products isn’t more hassle than it’s worth.
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Sandy Rees says
I think this is a great idea. I have branded merchandise from one of my favorite nonprofits and I love it! I wish more would do this.
Gayle L. Gifford, ACFRE says
Brilliant! as always Sherry. I keep sharing your site with all of my clients and colleagues thinking about or running silent auctions.
I especially like the reminder to think about the auction as a business. Good advice.