Making the Most of your Organization's Used Book Sale
Our executive director’s husband, Henry Quinn, is a creative thinker and occasional blogger whose thoughts sometimes stray into topics of interest to the nonprofit sector. This is one of those times...
If your organization is having a used book sale, and you're not making online price-checking and selling part of your plan, you're choosing option B. Fortunately, technology and the internet have made it easier than ever for your organization to do the right thing and choose option A.
My wife and I go to a lot of book sales, and while I’m happy to get cheap books, I always feel terrible for the organizations throwing them. These sales are stuck in the 1980s, when individuals and small organizations didn’t have access to the information or sellers who might allow them to get a fair price for their books. The winners in this arbitrage are the dealers who show up early and pick the sale over for steals, and the loser is the nonprofit. IMHO, that’s a lousy situation.
Here’s what you need to make online pricing and selling part of your book sale strategy. Your plan is going to be to take all your books, find the ones of value, sell those for what they’re worth online, and put everything else out on tables just as you normally would. Note, as you read, that I don’t suggest you use anything other than free tech. And tape. And bubble wrap.
You need to decide where you’re going to sell them. Me, I use Amazon because I use Amazon for everything, but eBay and Half.com, Powell’s, AbeBooks and about a dozen other sites are also in this space. Check fee schedules and think about the support the site has for importing, listing, and tracking books.
- You’ll be able to attract volunteers whose schedules might not allow for a full weekend day, but who can give you an evening during the prior or subsequent weeks.
- The nature of the activity offers an opportunity to learn about how online bookselling works, and can attract a slightly techier, younger volunteer population.
- It enhances your donation solicitation – “You can trust our organization to make the most of your books, because if you give us something of value, we’re not going to sell it for a dollar.”
I don't hate used book dealers. But given the choice between supporting them and supporting the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, it's a no-brainer. And I suspect ‘subsidizing used book stores’ isn’t in your organization’s mission statement, either. Go get a scanning app, and go make the most out of your book sale.