Everyone is getting on the bandwagon. Large institutions successfully use eBay auctions to sell leftover stock, the Postal Service rids itself of unclaimed merchandise, police departments sell confiscated goods. Thousands of nonprofits are doing business with eBay.
Are eBay auctions the fundraiser’s sugar daddy or are the dangling cash-carrots never quite reachable?
There you have both ends of the online auction spectrum. Likely, your organisation’s ability to generate donations in this fashion lies somewhere in between, hopefully toward the high end. Merely registering an account with eBay doesn’t guarantee that sellers will be prompted to donate part of an item’s selling price to your group. Or that buyers will gobble up your items. Philanthropically minded people are only beginning to see online auctions as a serious avenue of charitable donations.
Successfully trading on eBay is far more than a mechanical process. You’ll need staff and/or volunteer commitment, and sales and marketing know-how. It takes little skill to get on the bandwagon; it takes a lot not to fall off.
There are several main reasons to use eBay as part of your overall fundraising plan. Not because its the cool thing to do. Not because it takes the place of person-to-person campaigning.
* EBay enables your group to reach a huge, new market of non-constituents, uncultivated strangers who will immediately participate in funding your projects by buying your items.
*You can fit a few hundred people in an in-house auction room, but you can reach millions online.
*You’ll capture new prospects. A percentage of buyers will turn out to be donors to future campaigns if your follow-through is sound. Otherwise, why not simply run an online membership auction from your organisation’s web site?
* It’s cost effective. No space to rent, tickets to sell, caterers to hire, and so on.
* Its novelty will captivate volunteers who are used to performing the same campaign tasks year after year.
How you can capture a profitable share of this new market depends on the sales direction you take, the items you offer, how they’re presented, and your game plan.
Direct and Community Selling
You’ll obviously receive the most income and acquire the most new prospects if your group uses donated items to auction. For nonprofits, eBay terms this “Direct Selling.” It’s the same technique used by organisations that produce in-house, live auctions by soliciting in-kind gifts.
“Community Selling” is a term eBay uses to describe the process whereby sellers designate all or part of the selling price to an organisation. This offers your present donors new opportunities to support your drive.
For example, the Johnson’s annual gift is $100. Your latest newsletter describes and promotes the benefits to the campaign from members selling unwanted items on eBay. The Browns’ decide that two 17″ hand painted platters are items they haven’t used for years. They list them on eBay at $19.95 each and designate your group to receive 80% of the selling price.
The remaining 20%, they figure, will take care of shipping. The platters each sell for $25. You have an additional donation from the Browns of $40. If 99 other present donors did the same you’d have an additional $4,000 on top of their cash gifts. And what about the members who couldn’t afford to give you cash donations? Surely, many of them would find an item or two to sell on eBay on your behalf. So, you see, the potential for raising funds through eBay is real, but eBay is only the vehicle, not the driving force. Selling the concept is the organisation’s job.
What Items to Offer?
While it’s been shown that many non-constituent eBay buyers react favorably to knowing that proceeds of a sale are helping fund a nonprofit organisation, their interest is driven by an item’s appeal, not necessarily an organisation’s mission.
People will buy anything, especially when they think they’re getting a deal. Last time I looked, a set of 10 real cattle teeth was about to be auctioned for $7.99. But since you’re in the serious business of raising money, not running online garage sales, offering genuine collectable teeth will do little to help fund your annual budget. Stay away from trinkets when soliciting direct selling items if possible. However, memorabilia is a natural for online auctions.
The more your items play to a universal audience the more they’ll be seen, and the higher the selling price. For example, a vintage Cowboy type belt buckle from a city in Arizona could sell to a local organisation member or be even more valuable to an Australian outback buyer.
Most everything sells on eBay, but collectibles have always been big sellers, also electronics in all categories, music, books and games. Everyone has a few old books and CDs lying around that you can convert to cash by selling them on ebay. And certainly one-time, high profile items with special appeal, like seats in a corporate box at a big game. Or a trip to the Barrier Reef.