Gift Card Frenzy – What to do with Extra Gift Cards

Gift cards are always a popular and abundant item at fundraisers for a reason—they are an easy thing for a store to donate.

But if they are a standalone silent auction item, they may not raise face value. Why not make it a game and have fun with it?

How Does it Work?

Contact both large and small businesses about donating gift cards. Think about your audience and target businesses that appeal to them. Don’t forget small businesses and service providers (toy stores, print shops, massage therapists, day spas, shoe stores, etc.) — this can be a win-win for them, as it gives them an opportunity to make connections with new customers.

Find a creative way to display the gift cards: perhaps as ornaments on a Christmas tree, or as bricks on a schoolhouse for a school, or as bones around a doghouse for a pet shelter. Give it a catchy name like School Bucks or Doggie Dollars.

Even though you’re selling these cards outright, make it easier on your guests and just take down their bidder number. That way they can pay for all their purchases at once during checkout. List each card on a separate line of the bid sheet.

You’ll need at least one volunteer to set out more cards as they are sold and make sure guests enter their bidder number on the bid sheets.
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When all the cards are sold, deliver the bid sheets to your checkout crew so they can add the gift cards to the guests’ purchases.

Variations And Other Names

Choose the best gift cards and let guests bid for them. Get your auctioneer involved and maximize the amount you can raise as part of your live auction.

For a black tie event, you can put the gift cards in fancy white envelopes. For a Hawaiian-themed event, guests can buy a gift card and get a lei.

Jim’s Advice

  • Gift Card Frenzy should be FUN. It should be about your guests feeling great about giving more than they think they should.
  • Offer the first few BELOW their value to start off, making sure MANY people raise their bid cards and get involved in the bidding process/auction frenzy.
  • Encourage guests to encourage each other… there should be a lot of clapping and appreciation, especially for those bidding above value.
  • Max out at 10 gift cards, and consider doing the 10 in two sets of five each at different times.
  • Jim likes to start off by asking something like, “We have a $100 gift card to XYZ Steakhouse! If we were to give this away to someone, would that truly benefit XYZ Charity?” The audience strongly yells, “No! Of course not!!!” “But if someone were to go above and beyond; if they were to give ridiculously generously for this gift card, would that help XYZ Charity?”, “Of course!”

Some Personal Insight from Jim

At a recent event, we offered the Gift Card Frenzy in the middle of the live auction. We started off with a $100 gift card to a well-known local restaurant. We asked anyone interested in taking home this $100 gift card “for only $50” to raise their bid card. Of course, many, many cards went up quite enthusiastically. We then asked for $75, and just a few cards went down. Then we asked for $100, and a few more went down. The “wow” moment for everyone was when we asked, “Who will give $125 for this $100 gift card to benefit XYZ Charity?” and EIGHT bid cards remained in the air! Energy and applause filled the room, and we kept increasing by $25 until there was one bid card left up, and they gave $300 for the $100 gift card!

This article is part of our 26 Proven Revenue Enhancers for Your Fundraiser eBook available as a free download. If you looking for new revenue enhancing ideas and how to incorporate them into your event—this easy-to-use lookbook is for you.


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