Fundraising via Trade Me

TradeMe is a great way to fundraise for your school, sporting team, community group or charity, primarily because you can deal to several birds with one stone:

  • Raising Funds
    Doh. Naturally, Trade Me allows you to turn donated goods into cash – and to sell them to a much wider audience (2.8 million members and rising!) than would otherwise be possible through traditional fundraising methods. The more potential purchasers, the greater the likelihood you’ll achieve at least market value for the goods you’re selling — virtually 100% pure profit!
  • Promoting Your Cause
    727,759 visitors wander the corridors of Trade Me every day. A Trade Me auction for your worthy cause gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself to a huge audience of potential supporters, both on Trade Me itself and through the publicity you’ll be able to generate by promoting your auction through traditional media (although you will have to fan the flame of publicity yourself, through the combined efforts of every single member of your organisation — you can’t expect people to just trip over your auction on Trade Me).
  • Harnessing Celebrity Power
    Even very ordinary items can achieve star status if aligned with a celebrity, by ownership or autograph. Items once owned (or recently signed) by the Rich & Famous can attract bids well out of proportion to the real value of said item. So talk turkey with absolutely every  member of your extended group — who do they know who’s clocked up at least 15 minutes of fame and could they twist arms so that said celebrity will donate, sign or otherwise add value to an item? Nag, plead or beg as necessary.
  • Finding New Donors
    The more you sell (and the more interesting your items are), the more people who will learn about your cause. Each buyer is a potential addition to your Donor list. BTW, the very best items to auction off are for unique experiences that can’t normally be had for love nor money (eg lunch with major celebrity, walk-on part on The Hobbit, drawn as a bystander on Tintin, etc.)
  • Involving Your Whole Community
    Not everyone can afford to make big donations, even if they are strong supporters of the cause. But most can find at least one item of value in their garage or attic that they no longer need.

So what specifically do you have to do to set up a fundraising auction on Trade Me? These are the ten basic steps to the process:

  1. Look first within your community or amongst your friends and acquaintances for someone who’s already selling successfully on Trade Me. They’ll already have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t on the site. If you don’t have any luck there, check out Trade Me’s online help pages for the essential details. Or you could always read a good book on the subject (ahem — do check out the Second Edition of Trade Me Success Secrets).
  2. Create a name for the event. If you have any budding artists on your midst, this is their chance to make a real contribution, drawing up a logo for the event for use on Trade Me and elsewhere.
  3. Set up a timetable for the event (ideally allow yourself three months to organise it all and a week for the auction to run).
  4. Pitch for donations. Ask your community to rummage through their homes and donate any items they’re not using. Talk to anybody who knows anyone of celebrity status and shamelessly hustle them to cadge for your cause.
  5. Photograph the items. Take multiple photos for each item and choose the very best images.
  6. Write colourful descriptions, as detailed as possible (you have 2048 characters to use, spend them all). You’re trying to sell these items to people who won’t have the opportunity to touch or inspect the merchandise before bidding.
  7. Write item headlines that identify the charity nature of your auction (as well as each item) eg “Autographed Rugby Ball, support Zonta”.
  8. Promote the auction to anyone who’ll listen – especially your local newspapers, radio stations, bloggers. Post fliers on noticeboards. Text, email or IM details to your community and ask them to spread the word. Tweet the auction on Twitter, promote it to your Facebook friends — get the word out there.
  9. Manage the auctions professionally. Answer any questions promptly (and with personality — funny questions and answers help auctions spread). Remember, you’re promoting a great cause. Take every opportunity to spread the word.
  10. Once each auction is over, communicate promptly with the successful bidder, take their money, send out the goods quickly. And don’t forget to invite them to join your cause!

If you’re a registered charity, Trade Me can help with additional support. See here for details.

That’s about it (apart from the other three hundred pages of advice in the Trade Me Success Secrets book, of course). Happy Fundraising!

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