Tis the season for procurement

It is the time of plenty, a time of thanks, and a time to SPEND. That’s right, it’s time to SPEND a little effort on the auction.

Now, before you stop reading, please reconsider. This message is for all the parents or individuals tasked with raising money for a specific cause (gallbladder disease) or organization (a non-profit) or school (your child’s, nieces, nephews). The process of securing goods and services is commonly referred to as procurement, since procuring these items means it is being given to you, for free.

Procurement is about helping you be successful now, well before most auctions occur, in the spring, not downing your holiday spirits. Specifically, this blog contains 2 important things that will dramatically improve your changes of achieving success AND joy during the holiday time, with very little effort. (I suppose you should still read if you lack children, but are someone with a product or service that’s is much in demand. Trust me, you’ll get hit up twenty times this year).

Some background….
For the parents with children entering school, let’s be clear. Schools lack funds. So do non-profits and churches. Selling cookies works, the money is in the hundreds, not thousands. As such, formal auctions are held, designed to raise thousands of dollars in a single night. Some raise $50K, others $250K. Major institutions, like hospitals, will walk away with $5Million after three hours.

To a first-time parent being asked to participate in the kindergarten auction, the notion of going out and asking a local business owner to donate a spa certificate can be a bit, well, scary at first. I know. I’ve been there. My first year with my daughter’s auction, I raised about $3K, but it was hard. I nearly swallowed my tongue a few times, it was so tied. The great news for me was I had the support of those who had been through it before and could help me. Now on my third year (sounds like a law student) I’m here to help others families are here to help and support you.

Start early, start NOW. The key is to leverage your spending to start chipping away now, during the holiday season. Two very good reasons exist to not delay.
Reason number one—you will be spending something, maybe not a lot, during the next 30 days. Every time you pay, it’s the best possible time to ASK. The retailer, particularly small ones, staffed by the manager or owner, are far more inclined to throw in a freebie when you’ve dropped some money. In other words, they are less inclined to say no to you, for fear of losing the sale, or causing ill will (e.g. You won’t return).
Reason number two— the end of the calendar year also means tax deductions. When a retailer gives you the product (for a non-profit), it’s a tax write-off. The retailer benefits in both ways.

If the above 2 points aren’t enough to convince you, this should……When official auction season officially kicks off (for most, in January, we, the parents, literally and figuratively compete with auction procurements in the area. The retailers are inundated with requests, not just from us, but scores of other parents. Now is the time to get creative. Beat them to the punch.

An example…
It’s as easy being in a garden shop, buying a row of lights for the house. Tell the clerk about the non profit school, ask him/her the company can contribute to the non-profit, and ask for a pair of trimming shears. The next few outtings to garden stores, do the same, always asking for garden items. Soon enough, you will have enough for a garden gift basket worth a few hundred dollars. A team can offer up 10 hours of gardening, and BAM, you have a live auction item (or at the very least, a solid silent item). Take little steps and you will find it’s not as scary, or horrible as imagined (or talked about).

In procurement, everyone is inspired by a little motivation. As in, motivation for the hard working parents who give so much to this great school. If you are the person tasked with motivating a team or teams of individual (or simply a crowd of parents), come up with some awards and fun give-aways. This year, the school theme is Diamonds are Forever (a James Bond theme). We are using three different motivations for procurement.

  • A Spirit Award, for the procurement that best exemplifies the theme of Diamonds are Forever, gets a flight around Seattle for 2.
  • The Achievement Award, for the procurement that is above and beyond the gold standard of the auction. This doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive or exotic. It is a procurement that is unique, one of a kind and also includes a team effort of unparalleled proportions. The entire group will receive a dinner out at a hotspot restaurant.
  • The Founders Award: This award is for the procurement, individual or group, that best represents the premise of the (school, org). And because the founder of our school happens to be a lover of fun, bold jewelry, thats what the winner will receive.

I’ll admit, this topic is part of the fabric of an adult’s life–supporting the org, school or cause that is meaningful. It’s likely I’ll have more posts on the topic, with hints and techniques. The auction I’m working on isn’t until May. That means the actual procurement takes place for three months, from January to March 15th or so. 

Prior to that time, I’ve already donned on my procurement hat, and started asking.

Quick tip o’the day: ask the manager for overstock items that are going to be returned, or provided to discount seller. This stack of stuff can be bundled, or placed with other items to create a gift basket.

Have fun and get going. 18 days until Christmas. gogogo