How Much Am I Bid For This Sweaty Towel?

When it comes to fund raising, I imagine there have been quite a few people who have looked around their buildings wondering how much they could get for various objects laying around.

They probably aren’t the first, but Philadelphia radio station, WXPN has started an auction section on part of their website in the hopes of shortening their fund raising drives. They offer a mix of objects from access to special seating sections at concerts and dinners with artists to old stuff they found laying around their former building.

There are times I have joked about selling the towels artists have used on eBay to raise funds, but sent them all to the washing machine. I wonder if I have been too shortsighted….

If you are like me, your problem isn’t that you don’t have plenty of interesting stuff to auction off. It’s that your budget is so tight, you have recycled the stuff so many times you can’t decide which significant performance to claim it belongs to.

In fact, it may have more value to schools teaching art restoration. Students can practice removing successive layers of paint to analyze the techniques used. Most of the stuff you have is probably good for at least five-ten semesters of instruction before they reach the original finish. This is probably the way to go anyway since the multiple attempts to repair the objects over the years have endowed it with a good three pounds extra in glue and screws and a strange tilt when placed on a flat surface.

But in all seriousness, it is something to consider to raise some extra funds. Certainly, it can’t become a veritable business unto itself for your organization or else the IRS may be stopping by to review your non-profit status. I know there are a few theatres around that rent/sell costume pieces just before Halloween to clear out their storage areas and generate a little income.

XPN’s auction site seems to be created via Services like theirs can provide a more professional environment than something like eBay can. However, given the cost, it would likely only be worth it over the long term, (as opposed to single use around a special event), if you intended to offer things consistently and had someone tasked to attend to the arrangements.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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