Tricks of the (Fair) Trade
Tips from just a few of the great people who sell Equal Exchange products in their communities.
What To Order
Choose delicious products your community will love.
- Narrow down the list. Equal Exchange offers too many products to try them all! Look through the catalog for products that are the best fit for your community.
- Start conservatively and order just a few different items to start with. You'll get free shipping on any order over $135 (about 4 cases of most products).
- Take pre-orders. Some strategies:
- Before you order a new product, ask your customers if they will buy it.
- Hold a tasting of a new product, and take pre-orders at the same time.
- If someone makes a special request, require that they purchase a minimum quantity (such as half the case) to prevent leftovers.
- Introduce new products often to encourage people to visit your sale regularly. Promote new products in the community newsletter, make an announcement, or hang up signs to create a buzz for your sale.
- A holiday sale, when customers are buying gifts, is a great time to try products you haven't ordered before.
Display & Storage
Now that you've received your Fair Trade products, where will you put them all?
- Use racks and shelving to save table space. Equal Exchange offers custom racks for chocolate and tea, or you can find your own locally.
- Keep it set up. Rolling carts can be locked away in a supply closet fully set up, or a storage cabinet with locking doors can stay filled.
- Find a storage spot close to where your sale takes place. Storage closets, bookshelves, and carts can store your products near your sale, making setup and breakdown much easier.
Manage Shelf Life
Don't get stuck with leftovers past their best-by date!
- Track your inventory to keep it fresh. Gail at Bethany Lutheran in Cherry Hills Village, CO puts a sticker on each item when it arrives and uses a different color sticker for each delivery to track which items are oldest. Or write the best-by dates on case boxes for easy reference.
- Put older items on sale. Not only will you move products quickly, but advertising a "flash sale" will draw customers to your table.
- Order products that you can sell in time. Some products have shorter shelf lives than others. If you only have a few sales each year, avoid ordering items with shorter shelf lives. You can find this information on the product package, or ask our customer service team.
- Don't sell products past their best-by date — they will no longer taste their best. Instead, just before they expire, give them away to church staff, offer them as raffle prizes, brew the coffee for meetings, or sell to family and friends.
Get The Word Out
Educate your community about Fair Trade, and make sure they know about every sale.
- Create a sign or poster for display at church events or all the time.
- Announce your sale. Joe at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in Ocala, FL sells Equal Exchange products every month, but on months when he makes an announcement after mass, his sales triple.
- Don't underestimate the bulletin. People leaf through church bulletins and event programs, so include a reminder about your sale. Equal Exchange offers several ready-made ones you can use.
- Share your collective impact: people love to know that they're making a difference together. Naomi at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Midland, MI occasionally puts a note in the newsletter about how many bars of chocolate their congregation bought last year — it's an impressive number!
- Be specific: Are you funding a youth group trip? Building a well in a rural community overseas? Making a donation to the local homeless shelter? Talk about it: your customers will be more motivated to buy your products when they understand the impact.
- Lift up your denomination's support of Fair Trade. If you are part of one of the twelve faith groups and denominations that partner with Equal Exchange, make sure your community knows.
- Let people know there's more to learn: refer your customers to Equal Exchange's website for in-depth and specific information.
Recruit & Manage Volunteers
It takes a village to organize a Fair Trade sale.
- Break the sale down into tasks, such as placing orders and staffing the table. Once you know what the work is, it will be easier to recruit for these roles.
- Use existing channels to identify volunteers. At All Souls Unitarian in Washington, DC, Mark found volunteers at the annual ministry fair, when members learn about ways to get involved in the church.
- Reach out to new members of your community. Ellen at First Unitarian Universalist in Youngstown, OH suggests that helping with Fair Trade sales is great for new members of the congregation, because it can help them start conversations with people they don't yet know.
- Make a volunteer schedule that volunteers can access. Try a Google doc for volunteers, so they can remember their volunteer shifts and find substitutes if they can't make their shift.
Keep your sales running smoothly.
- Try a self-serve sale. Many congregations keep Fair Trade products on display all week long in a public space (such as a foyer or office) in the church building. Members can purchase coffee during the week, and leave payment in a box or with a staff person.
- Consider taking credit cards. A square reader connects to your smartphone and allows you to charge credit cards. Your customers will appreciate the convenience (and they'll probably buy more). Danielle at Holy Spirit Lutheran in Kirkland, WA recently started using square readers and has seen their sales increase.
Build A Following
Keep customers coming back for every sale.
- Start an email list for your customers. Send out sale reminders, new product information, special offers, or even calls for volunteers, recommends Geneva at First Mennonite Church in Lowville, NY.
- Make a handout. Cards or flyers with the details of your sale can remind customers when and where to shop. Penny at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Polson, MT printed business cards that tell new customers what hours the church is open and that the products are available.
- Reach out to visitors and new members. At Hope Lutheran in Cleveland Heights, OH visitors receive a bag of treats that includes a sample of ground coffee.
Be A Salesperson
A little creative promotion can go a long way.
- Hold a tasting. Kay at Monona United Methodist in Monona, WI samples a different chocolate bar each month to introduce people to flavors they might not have tried.
- DIY gift baskets. Provide empty baskets, ribbon, and other packing materials (for free or for a small charge) and encourage customers to build their own gift. Santina at Mission Hills UCC in San Diego, CA asks community members to bring in spare baskets from home for just this purpose.
- Get into the holiday spirit. At Easter, Gloria at St. John the Baptist Church in Buffalo, NY decorates chocolate bars like ducks and bunnies, complete with cotton-ball tails. The dressed-up chocolate is quick and inexpensive to decorate and sells extremely well.
- Have fun. You're making a serious difference in farmers' lives, but there's no need to be solemn. Tony at Messiah Lutheran in Yorba Linda, CA tells us: "We stand there and hawk our wares like a bunch of carnival hucksters. I have one of my bright Hawaiian shirts on and my Panama hat."
Go Beyond Your Community
Reach beyond the walls of your own community.
- Open your doors. If your congregation hosts events that are open to the public, such as concerts or speakers, set up a sale table there. Sister Marie, of Sisters of Notre Dame in Chardon, OH, sells Equal Exchange products at a biannual barbeque fundraiser that attracts up to 5,000 people.
- Sell at community-wide events. Some congregations set up a sale table at a local farmer's market, expanding their customer base and raising money for the congregation. Or try selling at your regional denominational meeting, such as a Presbytery meeting, an Annual Conference, or your denomination's equivalent.