Pricing a domain sale to a non-profit org
November 14, 2008 2:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm talking with a non-profit org that wants to buy a domain I've owned for years and haven't used at all. It's time to name a price. Ideas?

The domain is a short English word ending in .org (it's not my primary domain, but it's on the same scale of length/simplicity).

It would be a great domain for this non-profit to own because they're using an oddly spelled form of the word as their current domain, and my domain is the real English-word form. (I doubt it's recognizable from that description, but just in case: for their privacy, please don't speculate here about their current name.)

So I emailed them yesterday saying, hey, wanna buy this domain because I haven't been using it and if it were yours you could redirect visitors who misspell or misremember yours? They emailed back saying they are "definitely interested" but "as a nonprofit [their] funds are limited." They want me to tell them a price.

I do still have notions that I would like to use this domain, so it has value to me; but I also support this org's mission, and I accept that cash is more useful than holding onto the domain, in terms of supporting the work I'm actually doing right now.

They are an arts org that's administered by (funded by) a major private university. Do you have ideas about where I should research this question, or what price I should quote? Feel free to email me or message me if you want to talk in private. Thanks!
posted by kalapierson to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Honestly, most arts organizations, regardless of who they are funded by would be able to pay much more than $100. You could throw out $100 to start negotiations, but if you throw out a huge number, I imagine they'd just drop it.
posted by advicepig at 2:28 PM on November 14, 2008

Make them give YOU a number. Then add about 10%.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:30 PM on November 14, 2008

I can't help you guess a price, but it occurred to me that you might be able to donate it to them, and then take a tax deduction at whatever "fair market price" you choose. Lots of domains go for exceedingly large sums of money, I doubt the IRS could draw issue with whatever number you choose. INAAcountant.
posted by JimmyJames at 2:32 PM on November 14, 2008

If it's of any benefit to your financial situation, you may want to consider negotiating a price you determine the domain is "worth", and then donate it to them for the tax break.
posted by pkphy39 at 2:35 PM on November 14, 2008

I think JimmyJames has it. Figure out what similarly priced domain names have gone for; tell them that's what you'd want, but you'd be willing to donate it to them for a tax deduction receipt of the same amount. Document comparable prices well so they feel comfortable issuing you a letter accepting that amount as a donation and so the IRS doesn't think you're bilking the system. You could come out way ahead, assuming they really don't have a big budget.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:37 PM on November 14, 2008

The fact that they haven't already approached you about it (or tried to sue) means that a.) they don't really want or need it, and b.) they don't have much to spend.

See if you can work out a trade in service, or donation, etc. Maybe they can hustle up some tickets to a sporting event (only applies if the owner-university is nearby, I suppose, but you get the idea...)
posted by wfrgms at 2:41 PM on November 14, 2008

Tax receipt is the way to go. Also, I should add that you need to be careful about how you're handling this. Do they have any trademarks on the name in question? If so, the fact that YOU emailed THEM about the domain instead of the other way around could be seen as intent to commit domain squatting if an action is filed with WIPO over it.

It's unlikely to go that route, but just something to keep in mind if you highball them too highly, someone over there might go "Geez, kalapierson wants $x,xxx for it, but I betcha we could get it given to us by a WIPO panel for less since we have the trademark" Note as well that a WIPO panel will cost the initiator a few thousand dollars, so if we're talking in the hundreds range, it's not a factor either way.
posted by barc0001 at 2:45 PM on November 14, 2008

fwiw I sold a .com registration from 1996 (anybody got a time machine???) for ~$2000 this summer through You could check their listing to see what similar names to yours are selling for.
posted by troy at 2:49 PM on November 14, 2008

Good thoughts. I registered my domain three years before they registered theirs, and mine is the standard form, so I don't imagine it would be interpreted as squatting. I also think the idea that the eventual deduction might be worth more is smart and I'll consider it.
posted by kalapierson at 2:53 PM on November 14, 2008

The fact that you approached them puts you in a weaker position in terms of pricing. And there are non-profits that have quite a bit of cash to swing around, though not necessarily this one.

I think that getting an appraisal, donating it, and getting a tax benefit sounds like the smart move here.
posted by adamrice at 4:23 PM on November 14, 2008

Non-profit does not necessarily mean they have no money although I imagine it comes in handy for them to help people assume that. Limited funds? Yeah, well that's true for everybody.

IOW, make no assumptions about their ability to pay.
posted by trinity8-director at 4:56 PM on November 14, 2008

Based on what you said, my guess (based on relatively standard measurements of worth for domains) is that open market value on the domain is something like $500-600.

Do with that number what you will.
posted by joshrholloway at 5:30 PM on November 14, 2008

Get your domain name appraised (many domain registries do this), then figure out how much of that you are willing to negotiate on.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:02 PM on November 14, 2008

If I were you I might dig a little into their finances. Look for their IRS Form 990 or their Guidestar report. Are they paying their top staff $50K/yr or $150K/yr? This doesn't help you with your question exactly, but it helps you figure out what they spend on other things. (This answer is assuming you are in the US)
posted by jay dee bee at 7:18 PM on November 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd say get it appraised, realize they can't afford it, put up some page, and give them linkage for free.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:18 AM on November 15, 2008

As it turned out, they happily accepted my offer of $500, and I'm happy with that too. Defining 'worth' objectively is impossible in this case, but I think this is a clear win-win because I definitely support what the org is doing.

Thanks for the other good ideas... they'll definitely help people who come in after searching this topic in the future.
posted by kalapierson at 3:44 PM on November 21, 2008

You cannot squat on a generic dictionary word in and of itself. You can lose a generic dictionary word if you use it in any way that would be confusing to the general public and possibly mislead a similarly named company's customers.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:11 PM on December 4, 2008

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