Your donors wait all year to bid on the many great items you have procured for your annual silent auction—both the expected and the unexpected.
Keeping the auction filled with packages your donors will be eager to cast their bids on is challenging when you return to the same contributors year after year.
We’ve put together seven tips that can help you refresh your procurement search, streamline your processes, and uncover the hidden gems that are sure to excite your donors.
1. Research Your Donors’ Interests
Zero in on which items that will motivate competitive bidding by simply asking what your donors want most. Oftentimes, you’ll find that what actually sells isn’t always what your community thinks they’ll be most interested in prior to bidding, so it’s best to look at two types of data.
Ask your donor community what they would like to see on the auction block anytime you host a fundraiser. Get specific information into what different types of items they expect to see at your auction and get some background into their interest with a few simply survey questions.
Turn to your own reporting to confirm that what your findings from the donor surveys. Check to see if what they are telling you they want is the same as what they are actually bidding on. Take a look at the value of the packages compared to how much it actually sold for to find out if it’s worth adding to your auction again.
2. Make Your Wish List
Now that you know what items your donors will be most excited to bid on, it’s time to put a “wish list” together. Bring your event team to the table to get their ideas and brainstorm which contributors might be able to offer those items, and where you can find new ones to go after to fill in the gaps.
Begin by prompting your team to think about their inner circles, then have them expand out to their social groups, other nonprofit organizations, businesses they frequent, and anyone they feel would be willing to support your cause.
3. Start Early
“The early bird gets the worm” is your motto when procuring items for your silent auction. There are many great nonprofits competing for your sponsors’ contributions, so the sooner you get your team out there, the better.
Once you’ve decided what items would be of most interest to your donors it’s time to put your procurement plan into action. Target businesses and individuals that you know will be ready and eager to contribute to your nonprofit’s cause. This will give your team a boost of momentum to take with them when they approach past and new contributors.
4. Get a Crack Team Together
Your procurement team is your most valuable asset in finding the right items for your silent auction. Give them the tools that will improve their odds of success before they go out to your contributors.
Create a procurement tool kit that includes a list of ideas, event “save the date” invitations, and a template for a solicitation letter that they can customize for each target. Once the donation has been received a thank you letter, and perhaps a gift, is always a nice way to keep the door open for another request next year. Have your team follow up with the contributor after the event to let them know who received the gift and what it sold for, along with another thank you and a note about how the money will be put to use. The attention you give them will further solidify their connection with your organization.
5. Work with Your Previous Contributors to Get New Ideas
In the quest to make your auction a “can’t miss” event every year it’s important to get items that will surprise and delight your attendees. To do this you’ll need to work closely with your silent auction contributors to acknowledge the importance of their past contributions, as well as the necessity to offer something new to your donors. You can make the ask easier by offering your contributors more.
Contributors are happy to share their products and services when they know they will be duly recognized. Providing them with more places to advertise is a great way to get them to offer more items or to increase the value of the packages they offer. Program, banner, and floor advertisements are popular, as are mentions of their support during the program and on floor monitors.
6. Get Creative to Recruit New Contributors
There are several ways to involve your contributors in making your auction exciting and fun. Going back to your regular contributors or pursuing new contributors who are interested in connecting with your community are great ways to freshen up your auction’s selection.
Many nonprofits are turning to businesses who offer items on consignment, such as concert promoters or travel companies. Consignment items have a set base or reserve price that must be met for the item to be sold, any money raised above that goes to the nonprofit. This is a great option for a nonprofit because there is no initial investment in the item. No money is exchanged until the package sells.
Preparing ahead for next year’s fundraising auction is the best way to increase your chances of getting the most out of your efforts, then and in future years. Keep reports on what your contributors have provided, the value of each item, what sold and what didn’t, and which promotions or gifts were offered to your contributors that increased your chances of getting their support. When you begin to plan next year’s fundraiser you’ll be able to streamline your process and find the best items for your donors.