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EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 128 - October 10, 2004 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 8

eBay Consignment Strategy: Helping Non-Profits with Fundraising

By Lu Paletta

October 10, 2004

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eBay and other auction sites are replacing garage sales, yard sales, flea markets, swap meets. Why not non-profit fundraising?

Fundraising, including the collection of donated items, is vital for non-profits. What better place to find goods for consigned auctions, whether you are an eBay drop-off store or a Trading Assistant?

My firm is currently running online auctions for a local church youth group that is raising funds for a mission trip to Mexico. They tried garage sales, car washes, bake sales and babysitting. But they were still running short of their goal. We took their items, offered them on various sites and are providing them with additional sources of revenue.

Offer Your Online Expertise
Non-profits can now tap into online marketplaces like eBay, expanding their ability to reach new donors and raise funds. But they don't always have the expertise to do it themselves. Offer your expertise as an online auctioneer to help the next fundraiser. Point out the advantages of not having to rent space, hire caterers and bands, selling tickets. Explain how you can actually save and make them money at the same time.

Give the non-profit a game plan of how you are going to market their goods. What sites will you use; how will you price; how will you advertise; how will you pay them; what are your fees? Facilitate the collection and storage of items (even if it's at their site). Discuss how you will photograph, write the description, answer questions, collect funds and ship items for them. Emphasize how non-profit volunteers can concentrate on supporting the true mission of the group rather than just selling candy or holding garage sales.

Promote the Items and the Non-Profit
Use subtitles to promote the auction and entice bidders. For example: "Proceeds to benefit Great Oaks Elementary PTA programs." This will also help identify the auction for supporters specifically looking for those items. Include the logo or masthead of the group in the listing (with the organization's permission).

After you describe the item and before you list the auction policies, include a paragraph about the auction and the non-profit. "This item is being auctioned by the PTA to benefit additional student learning activities at Great Oaks Elementary. GOE is a Blue Bonnet school located in Anytown, USA, serving 1000 students. Past PTA supported projects have raised funds for guest speakers, field trips, a new gymnasium floor, library books and playground equipment. For more information on the GOE PTA and our programs, visit our Web site" (and include the URL).

If a restaurant, service provider or retailer donates an item, promote them as well. "This item is donated by The Big K Family restaurant, a proud supporter of GOE." Include their logo in the listing. This rewards the donor and is "free" advertising for their business.

Suggest Live-Help from Volunteers
The nonprofit may also want to offer live help and information on their activities. Some people still harbor a distrust of online shopping and don't want their credit card or personal information floating in cyberspace. Sometimes, donors want more information about the group or would just like to donate money without bidding. Include a statement like the following: "For more information visit our Web site or call 1-800-GIV-MONY." Staff/volunteers can discuss their charity as well as answer questions on items being offered.

Train the live-help staff on the auction process and how bidding works. Explain buy-it-now options, maximum bids, auction terms and the payment/shipping operations. The more information you provide, the easier your job will be.

Expanded Audience - Local and Beyond
The biggest advantage to the non-profit is the expanded audience that will see the items. Instead of 200 people in a stuffy gym or church hall, they can reach millions of potential bidders.

While some items such as lunch with a favorite teacher or gift certificates are local, most items can adapt to global audiences. For example, in our Texas youth-group auction, they had a cowboy themed item with a desired price of $5. We sold it to a bidder in Canada for over five times this price.

Bidders will be presented with information about the auction items, the non-profit organization and its mission, and information about your firm. This is inexpensive advertising for you.

Treat as a Partnership
Online auctions can be a valuable extension of the non-profit's fundraising, so you need to rely on their partnership. Work with the committee chairman to get the word out that you are auctioning their items and on what sites. Help prepare a flyer or an email/fax blast that lets current patrons, members or family members know the items are available.

Help prepare advertising for church bulletins, organizational newsletters and school folders. Help the organization develop their Web site, which promotes the auction and recognizes donors. Not only will this promote the organization and their fundraiser, but your firm will be mentioned as well. Your firm and Web site should be promoted as much as possible to gain incremental business. Past donors represent a built-in new audience of people that will be visiting your Web site, auctions and online storefronts.

Bid-N-Pack charges listing, final value fees and reduced consignment fees to non-profits. This is our way of supporting the organization. You have to decide what is best for your firm and the organization. Keep in mind the benefits and how many people will be learning of your sites by participating in the auction process. The goal is for you to gain additional business both for personal and other non-profit auctions.

About the author:

Lu Paletta is a partner in Bid-N-Pack, LLC, a full-service online ecommerce business http://www.bid-n-pack.com. In addition to consignment auctions, B-N-P reps consumer electronic items, sells business overstock and closeout inventories. BNP also conducts fundraising for non-profit organizations via online fundraisers. Lu has over 20 years in the consumer electronics industry. An autograph collector and history buff, she is the author of three books on the American presidency and political process. She is a regular contributor to political newsletters, has conducted radio commentary on elections and is a frequent guest speaker to civic groups and schools on American history.

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