|Planning Time||Previous semester|
- Activity Overview
- Planning Timeframe
- Material Requirements
- Cooperating Organizations
- Suggested Walkthrough
Activity Overview: This fundraiser, besides getting you mucho dinero if done correctly, can pimp your group and the freethought movement to your campus for a long time coming - after all, t-shirts and buttons are meant to be seen! However, it requires planning and some diligent detective work, and can lose you a lot of money if you won't put in the time and effort. The size of your sale depend on the size of your group, whether your members are willing to buy your merchandise, and whether you can market your wares to the campus at large.
Planning timeframe: Preferably start planning a merchandise sale the previous semester, in order to be sure you can get items on consignment (more on that later). Since it's hard to move merchandise without an outside stimulus, you don't want to have a random table selling merchandise; figure out a way to attach the sale to a well-attended event, either yours or someone else's. It may be possible to go off-campus to sell things - at a local freethought event, at a festival, or at another school's freethought event. However, going off-campus is more difficult, and you must ask beforehand if it's ok!
Coordinating: The majority of planning this will go into obtaining merchandise, getting a place and time to sell it, and getting volunteers to help sell it. This can be handled by 2 to 3 coordinators. Figuring out what to sell and where is ultimately the coordinator's decision, but they should make it in consultation with the group as a whole. Selling itself will require 2 or 3 volunteers at the table at all times.Your group treasurer needs to be aware of what's going on at all stages of planning!
As always, group leaders need to periodically check in to be sure everything is running smoothly!
Material requirements: Obviously, you'll need the merchandise to sell. Beyond that, you'll want your group's banner on display, and fliers for upcoming events. You'll need a table from which to sell your items and a cashbox to collect money - check with student activities and/or the student union Treasurer to see if they can lend them to you.
-the Richard Dawkins Store can be a great asset in this, check out this page to find out how to get RDF merhcandise at a discoutned cost to sell on campus.
Cooperating Organizations: No groups will be helping you sell merchandise, but depending on what you sell you may want to notify related groups - if you're selling a lot of politics-related books, for instance, tell political groups or the politics department.
- Within your group, brainstorm what you want to sell - common items are t-shirts, buttons, stickers, novelties, and books. In particular, look at the catalogs of the OUT campaign and Evolve Fish - their goods are freethought and progressive, and they are willing to offer them to student groups on consignment. That is, they can sell them to you at or near-cost, and any profits you make above that are yours to keep.
- Buying goods on consignment, while useful, requires coordination. You generally need to be a recognized student group to be credible enough. Furthermore, you will likely need some lead time in order to obtain the merchandise, particularly if they do not keep a warehouse. The OUT Campaign, for instance, can offer goods on consignment for 30 day terms. Plan ahead!
- Prometheus Books, a freethought publishing house, has a fantastic offer - they will sell student groups selected titles at 50% off, which can be sold at speaker events for profit. Unsold books must be shipped back at the group's expense. The invoice comes after books are shipped, so it's a very nice consignment gig. The only caveat is that the student group must be a Center for Inquiry affiliate - for more information, contact Debbie Goddard.
- If your group determines that it can't sell items outside of the group, what may work is buying things for the group. You can order a bunch of t-shirts for members to buy from the group, which can raise money amongst yourselves while promoting group unity. However, be wary of trying to get others to make orders for group-specific merchandise - not only is it tough to break even, it is a total pain to guilt your friends into buying things to support your group.
- Place your order well ahead of time. Be sure that the volume is in line with your anticipated demand. Concentrate on particular items - you have a better chance of selling out if you get, say, 20 of a popular book or t-shirt, than if you get one each of every item in the catalog.
- If you don't know what will sell, talk to the vendor or the SSA.. They'll be able to help you place a suitable order.
- The point-of-sale is just as important as what you're selling. If you're connecting your sale with your own event, make sure there will be room for a table and enough volunteers to staff it.
- If you're selling at someone else's event, ask permission in advance, and be sure to explain that you're raising funds for a poor student group, and are not connected with evil corporations. It will help if the people running the event won't have a competing table for their own merchandise.
- Some venues have policies about merchandise sales (e.g. a percentage of the profits), so be sure to look these up in advance.
- If the sale is connected with a speaker, have the speaker's books or merchandise. Ask the speaker if they can do a book signing afterwards.
- Include the sale/book signing in your advertising for your event. If you're selling at someone else's event, it wouldn't hurt to help them advertise, if possible. Refer to the Group Running Guide for information on advertising.
- You should be tracking the shipment and delivery of your merchandise immediately after you order it. If you don't have it at least two weeks before the sale, though, contact the seller and make sure it's coming!
- Determine in advance what forms of payment you're willing (and able) to take.
- Get a receipt book at an office-supply store so you can provide receipts to customers who ask for them.
- At least two weeks before, you should confirm that your volunteers can help sell items. Nobody wants to huck merchandise for more than an hour or two, so if the table will be there for longer, then schedule rotations.
- Make sure your volunteers are a least a little familiar with what they're selling, and can pitch them to customers. You may want to prepare a crib sheet with details about the items.
- At the sale itself, have your banner and fliers on display. Keep 2 or 3 volunteersat the table at all times - one person can quickly be overwhelmed. Make sure someone trustworthy is in charge of the cashbox. The cashbox must be in that person's sight at all times!
If you're going to be handling cash, there are some important things to keep in mind. You'll need a cashbox, which you can borrow from student activities or purchase, as well as someone trustworthy to handle it. Decide beforehand what forms of payment you can take - usually cash, sometimes checks, only rarely credit. Think about using a laptop for people to access PayPal. Customers may ask for a receipt - you can get a receipt book at an office supply store. This can help you inventory so nothing gets lost!
- Keep an inventory. This will allow you to check how much money you should have in the cashbox, as well as clue you in to what sold and what didn't, something that you can use for future sales.
- Extra merchandise should either be shipped back to the seller or sold to the group membership, perhaps at a discount. You can theoretically keep it for a future sale, but that requires storage.
- A coordinator needs to follow-up to make sure that the invoices have been paid, and that all money made is properly deposited. If you lost money on that sale, your group needs to know about it!
- Be sure to thank your volunteers, coordinators, and speaker!