Nonprofits can sell both goods and services to support the mission of their organization. Selling tee-shirts and other swag at conferences and holding rock shows in people’s backyards are time-honored traditions in the harm reduction community that organizations undertake to provide themselves with unrestricted funds and promote their mission and brands.
Both events and sales are great because they generate fully unrestricted funds, which organizations can use for anything they need. They also build the organization’s brand, reputation, and reach. At the same time, events and sales take time away from the core mission and they may take a fair amount of overhead with no guarantee of a return on investment.
The pros of selling merchandise are that it can always be available, and it ensures that your name visibly gets out into the community. The downsides are storage and shipping and the time that both will take. Organizations can choose to have a “print on demand” virtual store that eliminates the issues with storage and shipping, but the companies that run virtual stores often take most of the profit margin.
Events, on the other hand, can generate a large amount of revenue in one day or evening but they often take an enormous amount of work and significant up-front expenses. Some of this can be mitigated by asking smaller, local businesses for support. These businesses may not be able to offer cash but may be happy to give a gift certificate that could act as a silent auction item or reward for donations. Be careful about raffles, bingo games, or any games of chance. They are often lucrative but they have especially intense state and federal tax and legal implications and obligations you should know about before you try.
During our development Harm Reduction Hacks have collected together a large number of resources from around the web you can find these in our resource folder in Google Docs. We are also always looking for more so help us by suggesting any resources we may have missed.
We do not claim that this is an exhaustive set of strategies, shortcuts, or tips for running an SSP. What we do suggest is that Harm Reduction Hacks offers down-to-earth, practical information for being a better leader, starting and running an SSP, and providing syringe access services. We feel we can say this with confidence because the Hacks are based on interviews with, and the experiences of, literally generations of people who have been doing harm reduction work.
Please note that nothing in this guide should be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney local to your area to ensure your program is in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations that apply to your situation.