What should I charge for a charity shopping event?
August 17, 2011 12:23 PM   Subscribe

What should I charge for a charity shopping event?

I'm specifically looking for a pricing/revenue model for a charity shopping event.

We'll be selling tables to local businesses - how should I price the tables? Would you use a flat fee and/or % of sales to charity? Would you require an item donation for a raffle? Would you charge an entrance fee?
posted by mgarnhum to Shopping (5 answers total)
Best answer: I organize the fundraisers at our school (rummage sales, garden parties and the silent auction); and have volunteered at a few charity-run shopping events, and one in particular every year because it's so fun (and I meet people who then support my own events!).

As I learned from experience, and from the other organizers, you donate your time, and hope for volunteers.

The price of the tables covers the costs you can't arrange to have donated, and you ask for donations to cover what you can - design, printing, refreshments, advertising, venue... (you have to know your costs before you invite the vendors).

You use as much social networking as you can to advertise (provide pdfs for vendors and volunteers to print and distribute, and offer incentives for blogging/tweeting & retweeting and Facebooking etc.) (though it's in everyone's best interest to do so). Try to get as much small-press local media as you can, too.

Vendors often expect to donate an item toward raffles (raffles make more money than silent auction items) and door prizes, but some can't afford to. They can offer a discount coupon as part of the package, if inclined.

The admission is what you raise for the charity - the vendors have paid for their tables, so a percentage of the sale isn't fair - charge whatever the market will bear. Here in Toronto, $2-5 is common. Basically, for that low price, you're curating a fun couple of hours and that's not an insensible cost for a craft market-type sale or move wardrobe warehouse sale. However, if you're having a high-end sale, and you get phenomenal snacks donated and can have a "high tea" and shopping in a gorgeous venue, you could charge per plate and have advance tickets plus a higher door price.

Also provide opportunities for people to just leave money in a jar for the cause. It's surprising how that adds up.

Make it known what you need, and ask specifically where you can - friends of friends can provide a lot, if you just mention it, or leave the information where it's available for people to offer their services.

It can be as simple as how we have one coffee shop that donates cups, stir sticks, napkins and sugar, and another coffee shop that gives us their beans that are just past their sell-by date, but are really just fine. That lets us provide "FREE COFFEE" , which is a draw, believe it or not. Another neighbourhood place provides a pizza lunch for the vendors and volunteers, which helps attract quality and keeps the vendor's costs down.

And, it is better to ask for a little money from a lot of people, unless your event is in a market where you can ask a lot for a few. (This is how the silent auction with about 65 donated items that I run generates about $5000 for our school every year, and smaller events about $1000, all from between 100 and 300 people attending, depending on the event).
posted by peagood at 12:46 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

All of the advice above is awesome. I agree that vendors probably won't want to pay multiple times and the % thing would be a huge PITA to track and collect. You might not require the donation for the raffle but could say that you are selling table but if they are unable to attend they could still contribute by donating a raffle item.

One thing I would add is is that it might be nice to have something so that people can connect directly with the charity if they want to. You could ask the charity if they want to have out signup sheets for emails lists for example or donation envelopes in case donors want a tax receipt for cash gifts - those could be near the cash jar.
posted by oneear at 1:41 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much - such great answers and tips.

So if we don't require a percentage of sales or a raffle item - what would you suggest we charge for tables.

What type of venue would you suggest? Most won't necessarily donate space.
posted by mgarnhum at 2:10 PM on August 17, 2011

I'm back! I'd forgotten to mention that charging a percentage of sales doesn't guarantee that you'll make your costs.

So, your answer makes me ask - have you done this before? What is the scope of your event? Is this a bunch of Etsy-type crafters or every high-end dress shop in the city for a "Little Black Dress" event?

Your venue dictates your date and time, your number of vendors and your main cost as well as the tone of your event too. If you use a church hall, community centre, or school gym, they may be able to provide tables as well, and these can all be permitted at little to no cost or often have mandates that they can be available for community use. Since they can be booked up weeks in advance, the date will also determine which vendors are available - you need to check for competing events too. If you use a bar or restaurant or gallery, depending on what they hope to get and what staff they need to provide, that will have an effect. If you use a park or outdoor setting, you may need to rent table and figure out waste disposal and porta-potties.

So, if a church hall requires a $250 donation and can provide 35 tables, that means you need to charge a minumum of $10. But, you may have a whole bunch of other costs, depending on what else you get donated. You may also want to quiz your vendors, and think about what your event will bring them for their work, and what they pay at comparable events. For example, one event here is $65 per table, but the items sold will more than cover that usually. But for that they get an established crowd for this yearly event off over 500 people, many of them regulars, in an area of town they may not usually get to sell in. I sell things at a community bazaar that has about fifty spaces outside a library in a square, and that used to be $10 a table, and is now $25, but I usually make over $200. Paying myself from 9-5? Not so good - but I make more regular customers each time, it's the only place I sell across town, and I have fun.

So, you need to design your event and research your options before you set your table price. It doesn't sound like you're there yet.
posted by peagood at 3:13 PM on August 17, 2011

Speaking from a vendor's perspective, I'd much rather pay a flat amount for my table than a percentage of sales. I like to know my exact costs before going into something like that. I also like to know how popular this even is going to be, how you plan on advertising, etc.

How much you can charge depends a lot on what type of event it is and how many people you expect to attend. I've done Church parking lot type events for $30 or $50 and I've done the Renegade craft fair which is $400 but the number of customers was significantly higher at Renegade so it was worth it at the end of the weekend.

In about 75% of the fairs/events I've done I had to provide something for a raffle or gift bags, that won't be at all odd to your vendors.
posted by magnetsphere at 3:40 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

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