Organizing a Craft Fair

Much of this document is written from the point of view of a non-profit organization trying to do some fundraising. Any prices listed are in Canadian funds (CDN$ = $0.65 to $0.70 US$) and are used for example only.

Securing a Hall:

You need a hall in which the fair is to take place. If you don’t own your own hall, there are a number of options:

  • church halls;
  • legions/VFW;
  • community centres
  • town halls
  • Curling Clubs
  • Senior’s Clubs
  • Schools (may or may not be possible but if so, they offer a great source of foot traffic, particularly if you offer to split the proceeds with them in exchange for some help)
  • Local restaurants or inns
  • Scout Halls
  • Theatres
  • Golf Clubs

Look for a place that has a reasonably large open room where tables may be set up. If you have to rent the hall, some may have a dual standard whereby the hall is free or the fee largely reduced if the proceeds are going to charity, while if the fair is for profit, there is a higher fee. This may also mean that if you get the reduced fee, you will have to provide your own janitorial services.

You may also want to be able to have some kind of kitchen out of which you can serve food (see below  here.)

The hall should be reasonably accessible, of course wheelchair accessible but also easily accessible from main arteries; believe it or not, some buildings “on main arteries” (such as the service road of a major highway) can actually be very difficult to access.

Table Fees:

On a budgetary level, determining your fee can largely be determined by two factors:

  • your goal (both whether or not to raise money, and if so how much)
  • any rental fees and identifiable expenses directly related to putting on the fair

To determine the table fee, divide the budget by how many tables you can set up. The actual fee will cover the hall rental and has a small surplus for your group. Calculate your group’s small portion of the fee as being the difference between a round figure (such as $20) and the calculated average cost per table for the hall (for example $16.78). Also note that this difference will act as a buffer in the case that you are unable to completely fill your tables.

There are many forms of fees:

  • A set fee per table;
  • A set fee for one table and a second smaller set fee for a second table
  • A set fee for the table and a sales commission
  • A sales commission only

Depending on your market, the commission rate you use, and the table fee itself, a larger sum may be collected by using a set table fee. A fair with 45 tables can earn $800 at $20 for one and $35 for two tables, but depending on sales the same fair might only get $400 in commissions at 10%. (I go to one fair where the fee structure is a combination of set fee of $20 per table, $35 for two, and a 10% commission; it averages $800 in fees AND $400 in commissions. Another at $25 per table probably earns $1000 in tables but whose commissions, at 15%, probably earns at least as much; they have a ceiling of $60 per table for commissions.) Note that with aggressive marketing you can easily make your commissions into a larger portion without increasing the rate.

Decide whether or not to allow table sharing; this becomes a tradeoff situation in which you have to balance the possibility of two artisans who would rent one table versus neither renting a table at all. Usually this may not be an issue since filling tables is not difficult given reasonable advertising. To offset said tradeoff (and therefore allow sharing), use a commission rate as part of the fee structure. Using the combined set fee and commission also allows for you to keep costs reasonable to the artisan in the case of your group having to rent the hall.

Generally, the nature and quality (and ultimately the pricing) of the items artisans bring will increase with the fee. This is not to denegrade the quality or value of many crafts, but rather to point out that given a higher table fee, the more upscale the crafts (and their prices) will be since craft type and their prices will determine whether or not an artisan can afford to enter the fair.

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