Procuring auction items that will draw the most interest at a fundraising auction takes a significant amount of time and energy, but the results can be substantial when you find ones that will raise the excitement level in your guests.
When you put your preferred list together, we recommend you follow these best practices.
Set your goals early on. How much money are you hoping to raise, what sort of relationship do you want to build with your sponsors, and what do you want your community to gain from the night? Asking these questions is a good way to get your ultimate goal.
Consider your audience. Based on last year’s event, how many people are you expecting? What is your audience’s income level, their interests, and average age and gender? Go back into your records to find their typical spending mix and how you can balance the types of items to match the configuration you see in your data.
After going over your data from last year, brainstorm with your team. Share ideas about which items should be included and the relationships you’d like to build with sponsors. Lastly, after looking at these first three best practices, calculate how much funding you want to raise. Having goals will guide you to success.
Circumstances change and so does fundraising. Consider what has changed throughout the last twelve months that may affect what items your audience would find desirable this year. Procure a variety of offerings that range from classic to trendy.
Make the auction exciting for your bidders. Find items that will draw multiple bidders who will go the extra mile to get the package they want. Offer a balance in the types of offerings you offer so people with different interests will all find something to bid on.
Your event marketing extends into the presentation of your items at the auction. Make sure the photos and messaging are executed at a professional level and print them on quality paper. The look of the messaging will also be the look of your organization to your guests.
There will be many different levels of incomes represented in your auction audience and you want to provide the opportunity for everyone to join in on the fun. Offering a variety of items in different price points will allow all your guests to contribute.
It’s tempting to get excited about every opportunity to fill your auction with your sponsors gifts, but this urge can actually work against you. Overloading your silent auction with too many items can overwhelm bidders. Instead, focus on groupings of no more than three similar offerings and review your guest list to get an appropriate number of packages to satisfy everyone.
If you do find you have too many items for your silent auction consider hosting an online auction, too. You can host it throughout the registration process, which will encourage guests to go online to register and give them incentive to make your event a priority by getting a preview of the great packages that await them.
If you’ve been hosting an auction long enough you might eventually see a drop in interest from your attendees. This indicates a need to freshen up your offerings to reinvigorate their attention. Work with your sponsors to come up with new ideas and seek out new sponsors to bring in unexpected items.
Consignment items are an option that can open the door to partnerships with outside companies who specialize in unique “experience” packages, such as travel or sports or concert tickets. Partnering with consignment companies is a no risk proposition because the nonprofit only has to pay the consignment company if the item sells at the auction and, typically, a reserve price must be met before the auction item can be awarded.
11. Start asking
Approach sponsors with an ask that offers them something as well. Promotion, association with a reputable nonprofit, etc. Invite them to the event and give them a shout out during the program and on the program material.
Gratitude pays it forward. Make it a point to follow up with your sponsors and provide them with the results of the auction. Mention how much their contribution has meant to your efforts and thank them for being a part of the night. This will make it much easier to go back next year with a similar ask.
The fundraising stars of your next event are the items you offer in your auctions. Whether online or in-person, your attendees will be excited to give when you work with these best practices for procuring desirable auction items.