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6 Steps to Your Most Creative Auction Item Ideas, Ever

Posted by Summy Lau

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A big part of successful charity auctions is strategically leveraging the auction items themselves.

We recently hosted a free webinar all about best practices to procure auction items, maximize bidding during the auction, then raise even more money after the event.

For a taste of what was covered, learn 6 strategies to get inspiration for exciting auction items - surveying guests, procuring tried-and-true bestsellers, attending other local auctions and more.

To view the full session, fill out the form on our Webinar Library page, then scroll down to "AUCTION ITEMS: Procurement, Production, Profit".

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1. Survey donors and guests

Survey your donorsWhen it comes to procurement, you need to be strategic. There's only so many months before the big day, so you want to spend your limited time going after items your audience will want to buy.

How do you know what donors want?

Sidestep the guessing game and ask directly with a survey. Surveys are a quick, free way to learn what your donors are interested in, what drew them to your cause, and most pertinent to today's discussion, what items they may want to bid on.

Travel is a top seller at charity auctions, so you can ask where they want to travel (like perennial getaway favorite Hawai'i) and/or what experiences are on their bucket list (like a trip to Machu Picchu).

To give some ideas of questions you can ask on a pre-event survey, we created a simple Winspire Event Planning Survey Template...

Nonprofit Event Planning Guest Survey Template

Click to view the full SAMPLE survey.

2. Look at sales history

Look at past sales historyWhile every event goes a bit differently, in general, last year's results are a good indicator of what to expect if you put out similar items this year.

What types of items sold best? Which only garnered one or two bids? (Tip: If an item didn't get any bids, don't put it out again!)

Items that generated high bids and started bidding wars should be on the top of your procurement priority list.

3. Procure tried-and-true bestsellers

Wine is a tried and true charity auction bestsellerWhat if your event is relatively new, and you don't have much sales history?

Even if you've been hosting the event for years, you always want to keep donors engaged and surprised with new, exciting auction items.

As experts in event fundraising, we have discovered certain categories sell like hotcakes among virtually any audience. These include food and wine (private dinners, vintage wines, brewery tours and more); sports (box seats, memorabilia, red-hot championship tickets); entertainment (like tickets to Broadway); and bucket-list travel with unique Experiences (like a trip to Iceland or Napa Valley).

For more ideas, be sure to download our FREE list of over 400 unique auction item ideas. Simply print out the list and bring to your next auction meeting.

Download our free list of over 300 amazing auction item ideas

4. Attend other local events

Beth A. Huck Photography: AV Children's Center 2017 Heart Sounds Havana Nights-photos &emdash; 210

What better way to know what may garner high bids, than to observe bidding activity at other fundraisers?

Chances are you or someone on your auction committee knows of other philanthropic events in the area with a similar demographic. You can attend to support their cause while getting a feel for what's selling like hotcakes now.

5. Ask connections

Leverage connectionsSpeaking of connections on the auction committee, networking is key. Everyone on the auction committee needs to go through their contacts and think of who may be willing to donate unique, high quality items to the cause.

Another key piece: asking all of your board members. They are an invaluable resource and will ultimately connect you to bigger players in the community. For more on event fundraising alongside (not against) your board, see...

Read Next:

6. Leverage your benefit auctioneer

The "benefits" of using a benefit auctioneer are hard to underestimate. They know precisely how to extract high bids from a charity event audience, getting the most out of each and every live auction item for your cause.

Read Next:

If your auctioneer offers pre-event consultation, they may (not necessarily, but some will) assist in the brainstorming and procurement process. The auctioneer may have ideas of other items that worked in your area, or additional connections you can contact on behalf of your event.

The end result: exciting items you've never considered.

View the Full Webinar

If you liked what you read in today's post, this is just one small portion of the material covered in a recent webinar with fundraising software provider Gesture.

To access the recording for "AUCTION ITEMS: Procurement, Production, Profit" - click below, fill out the short form and immediately access this video (plus 20+ additional Winspire webinars).

View Winspire webinars on demand

Summy Lau
Summy Lau
As Fundraising Editor, Summy brings hands-on experience in nonprofit development, event fundraising, publishing, copywriting and design to Winspire News. She creates blog content, infographics, templates, eBooks and other resources to help fundraising professionals and volunteers exceed their fundraising goals. Her two favorite perks of working at Winspire: hearing nonprofit success stories and dreaming of new bucket list destinations.

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