Procurement During a Pandemic

15 Apr 2020 By Roger Devine

Due to the COVID-19 induced economic downturn, many businesses and families are struggling to make ends meet. And nonprofits are struggling to support their communities during this time of increased need. To fulfill their missions, nonprofits need funds–and fundraising options–now more than ever. We’re hard at work developing new virtual live fundraising tools to help you meet the needs of your community. Your 2020 auction may look a little different than past auctions, but you’ll still be able to run one.

Your procurement process and catalog may look a little different, too. Local businesses are the mainstay donors of most benefit auctions. And many local businesses are temporarily closed or may not have the ability to donate their usual goods and services to support your cause. If you haven’t already started your procurement process, the situation may feel daunting.

Remember, if you’re pivoting to an online-only or online plus virtual live auction event, you need fewer items than you would for a gala auction. See our previous post for advice on curating a successful catalog of online items.

Think about items that have sold well for you in the past, and consider whether they’d do well in an online auction. Then reach out to potential donors of these items. Ask donors how they are doing and update them on your organization. Let them know you’re still raising money and what you’re raising it for. Tell them exactly how they can help (by donating X, Y, or Z). This is a great time to reach out to your long-term donors by phone. Many people are home these days and happy to take a chat with someone in person. Making direct, personal connections really matters right now–and will be remembered in the future.

If you plan to solicit donations by mail, now is the time to rethink your procurement letter. Rewrite it so that it really stands out. You are competing for increasingly limited donor contributions, so your ask must tell your story in an attention-getting, inspiring way. Tell your potential donors how your organization is being affected by the crisis, and what you need to fulfill your mission. Schools need technology (laptops, tablets, etc) so their students can learn online, and they need funds to train teachers to provide online curriculum. Churches and other nonprofits need funds to ramp up their benevolent, community-based work, which is needed now more than ever. Make sure your potential donors understand your mission. Be transparent about how much funding you need to meet your goals.

Finally, reach out to your talented base of supporters. Many people have skills and services they can offer online, and right now they may also have time. Tell your supporters you’d love to receive donations of the following services (either online or in person at a safe future date):

  • IT support
  • Garden/landscape design
  • Home office organization
  • Pantry planning and organization
  • Wardrobe consulting
  • Home remodel design consultation
  • Tax preparation
  • Financial consulting
  • Estate planning
  • Legal services
  • Music lessons
  • Dance and exercise classes

You can also ask your community to donate items for baskets. Think of themes that will appeal to people right now:

  • Game night
  • Movie night
  • In-home spa day
  • Baking supplies
  • Knitting or other craft supplies
  • Soup making kit
  • Beer making kit
  • Cocktail making kit
  • Chocolate lovers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Wine tasting basket

If you can come by them, don’t underestimate how well a 24-pack of toilet paper or some economy-sized hand sanitizer could do in an online auction these days.

If you have traditional signup parties that are popular sellers, recruit hosts to offer them again, with the understanding that party dates may change. Plan a community-wide Reunion party, with a relatively low signup cost (to make sure everyone can attend), to be held at a date TBD. This doesn’t need to be a fancy, planning-intensive event. Even if the Reunion takes place in the school gym with coolers of soda, your community will be thrilled to gather together again.

If you’re doing a Virtual Live Auction, travel packages and experiences (but not cruises, at the moment) still sell and make excellent virtual live auction items. As soon as restrictions lift, people will be yearning to travel. But ask the donor or consignment vendor for an extended window on package component expirations, if possible. One consignment vendor we know well is offering 5-year windows (the norm is 1 year) to use their packages right now.

These ideas are just a starting point. Have some great ideas of your own? We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a line in the comments below.