Including no-risk travel in fundraising galas, auctions and raffles is an increasingly popular strategy for nonprofits. Whether you are considering using consignment travel packages for the first time or have been leveraging Winspire Experiences for years, chances are you still have a question or two about how best to use this fundraising tool.
Below are a dozen real-life questions we've recently received from nonprofit professionals and volunteers just like you. See what other auction organizers are wondering about fundraising, consignment travel, Winspire and more.
Q: What type of trip sells better: international or domestic? - Kimberly
International trips tend to go well above the reserve price (the minimum bid you set at which you'll buy the trip), since bidders interested in exclusive international locations often have deeper travel budgets. Many bidders will be dazzled by trips like the Ireland Golf Adventure, an Escape to Paris or a luxury stay in Jamaica. It just doesn't happen quite as often as the domestic locations.
Every event is different, and the popularity of any trip depends on your audience. Your Fundraising Specialist can help suggest a good mix of trips that are likely to work for you.
Q: We want to ask our donors what they'd like to bid on in our upcoming auction. Problem is, our top donors and constituents are very busy. How can we encourage them to take our survey? - Rosa
A: First, keep it short. Email out a survey with just a few questions. This is low-impact, non-intrusive and fairly easy to create. See sample questions to ask in a pre-event survey.
To boost participation, one trick that almost guarantees responses is to include an incentive. For example: Fill out our survey and you'll be entered into a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card! You could raffle off a duplicate auction donation or a perk specific to your nonprofit, like a special lunch with the Executive Director.
And for your biggest donors, why not take them out to coffee or lunch? You can use the time to get their feedback not only on auction items, but also the event and the direction of your organization as a whole. Major supporters care deeply about your cause and appreciate the chance to help you improve.
Q: If our event is in November, when should we start procuring auction packages or looking at no-risk travel? - Michelle
A: It's never too early to start procuring items. Consignment trips can typically be reserved with little notice but we recommend talking to your donors and reserving Experiences at least 45 days prior.
The reason: Big-ticket, "whiz bang" trips are a great marketing tool to sell more tickets and enhance your event's reputation. The sooner you reserve these items, the more time you have to feature the trips in promotional materials like the auction catalog, email campaigns and social media.
Q: When auctioning consignment items, should we start at cost or below cost, as is normal? - Shanna
A: This is a great question, and the strategy you choose can depend on the style of your fundraising auctioneer. You might start at the reserve price you set (typically 20% above the Nonprofit Price) to ensure a profit. Otherwise you can start a bit below the reserve price to generate some bidding momentum. (We don't recommend starting below cost.)
How you do this is entirely up to you, and a Fundraising Specialist can offer more insights on the process.
For more information, read How to Set Starting Bids on Consignment Auction Items.
Q: If we pay for a vacation package and it doesn't sell, are we stuck with the package? - Erin
A: Absolutely not! This is a huge misconception of no-risk travel. You pay nothing upfront, and no transaction occurs until a package sells for the reserve price you set. So, if you reserve a package in your online suitcase, put it up for auction but it doesn’t sell or meet the reserve price, you don't have to buy it.
Q: We recently got Disney tickets donated to our nonprofit, but procuring a hotel and flight is difficult and time-consuming. Does your company offer just hotel and flight packages? - Alicia
A: As a full-service travel agency, Winspire does have the ability to fulfill specific travel requests like hotel and flight packages. However each request varies, so please reach out to a Fundraising Specialist for specific information.
We fulfill thousands of packages each year and work with nonprofits across North America to accommodate donation; we can even add donations onto our existing Experiences for an extra-special trip.
Q: Bidders are generally interested in getting a deal on the item they're bidding on. Does Winspire offer discounted trips below market value?
A: We work with vendors around the world to book hotels, flights and more. They know we're working with nonprofits, so they offer us very competitive prices, and we pass along the savings to you.
As far as getting a "good deal," the specials you find online are normally for a particular date or time period, and there’s really no way to offer those trips in your auction. The deal that’s there today may be gone tomorrow...and it's extremely tough to book deals without knowing your travelers' information in advance.
Winspire’s trips can be booked whenever the Winning Bidder wants to travel (based on availability), with minimal and clearly noted blackout dates. Plus, many of our packages are "bucket list" items that don’t have an obvious market value. You’re just not likely to find a deal for a weekend at the Kentucky Derby, for example, or a private wine tasting and blending seminar with a winemaker.
Q: Do you offer flights in business class? Many of our bidders don't fly coach, so I'm wondering if business class or no airfare at all is an option. - Carol
A: Yes, we can always upgrade airfare. Most of our packages can be customized and sold without airfare if you want, but we typically encourage full package (with airfare) options.
In our experience, travel-inclusive items have the highest perceived value and thus generate the most bids (since not everyone flies or has access to business class).
Winning Bidder Redemption
Q: When it's time to book a trip, I'm worried your booking agents are going to try and upsell them, leaving a bad impression on our donors. Is that true? - Scott
A: Great question! The answer is simple: No winning bidder or traveler is asked to upgrade at any point in the booking process.
These are your biggest supporters, and we want to make sure they receive the "white glove treatment" throughout their trip. As a concierge service, we have the ability to provide upgrades if desired (for example, booking additional nights or activities) but do not request or recommend them to your bidders.
Q: Do we need to provide the name and contact information of the travelers in order to buy a trip? What if the winning bidder is unsure of who's actually going, or wants to give the trip as a gift? - Dan
A: Every consignment travel provider is different, but in general travelers need to provide some basic information when they're ready to redeem a trip (in order to book plane tickets, hotels, tours and so forth).
When you reserve an Experience with Winspire, you'll work with a Fundraising Specialist that guides you through the entire process from start to finish. Before the event, they'll help you select packages and use our promotional materials to make the most of these incredible items. Then after the event, if it's unclear who will be using the package, your Fundraising Specialist will be available to help make sure the purchased package gets to the correct person.
Q: After the donor has redeemed their trip, are they contacted at any time in the future? - Nicki
A: They are not. We want to make sure every Winning Bidder has the best possible Experience, so we offer each one the chance to complete a brief post-trip survey via one phone call and one follow-up email. After that, that's it. They are your donors to contact; we're just here to successfully redeem their auction winnings.
Q: Does the winner work with a travel agent? - Rosa
A: Yes, we are a full service travel agency that helps winning bidders fulfill their prizes and have an unforgettable time. We know these are your winning donors and should be treated with impeccable service.
When a Winning Bidder begins to redeem their Experience, they simply follow the redemption process directions outlined on the Booking Voucher they receive after your event. Our travel professionals handle the rest! We book the flights, hotels, tours and experiences. We are also available for guests to call and ask questions before and during their trip. And as discussed above, our booking agents can provide additional hotel nights, stays and upgrades upon request.