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3 Simple Steps to Offer Travel in Your Fundraising Auction

Posted by Summy Lau

One of the most common challenges we hear from event fundraisers is ever-increasing revenue goals.

Sound familiar?

It is very rare for a fundraising event’s revenue goals to stay flat. In fact, the revenue goal almost always increases next year... while new resources, budget and strategies are rarely deployed. Soon after you experience the high of reaching your goals, reality sets in, and the stress starts all over again.

Break the cycle with a fresh, emerging revenue strategy.

Have you tried redirecting donor travel budgets to your cause using big-ticket travel packages?


Surveys show two-thirds of winning bidders take 3 or more trips per year. Almost half take 4 or more trips, and nearly 20% say they take 6 or more trips annually!

People want to experience life through travel. It just so happens the type of high-net worth individuals you are trying to identify and develop into major donors travel a lot.

Winspire twins only smallWhy offer travel in charity auctions?

  1. Stand out from the competition.
  2. Improve your event branding and perceived caliber of auction items.
  3. Give supporters the chance to spend part of their annual travel budget in support of your event.
  4. Attract new donors and identify potential major donors.
  5. With no-risk (consignment) trips, sell multiples with a guaranteed return on investment.

If you're not already offering travel at your annual auction or fundraising event, you could be missing out on a huge opportunity. Read on for the 3 step process to including travel in your next fundraising event.

  Step 1:   Brainstorm where donors might like to travel.

Offer auction packages for popular destinationsWe've established that travel sells, and sells well. Now, how should you go about getting travel for your fundraiser?

Getting quality travel items (and other auction lots) donated requires an organized, strategic effort from your procurement committee.

First we suggest kicking off the process with a procurement partyThis is an initial meeting where your committee gets together to brainstorm a list of exciting, fresh auction items to try and procure. It’s likely that the members of your committee or board attend multiple auctions during the year, and thus have ideas for hot and current items to target.

At the party, have each member write down their personal bucket list of once-in-a-lifetime experiences (like driving a NASCAR Sprint Cup car) and travel destinations (like Fiji). Consider these categories:

  • Local experiences
  • Domestic travel
  • International travel
  • Services
  • Sports & Event Tickets

The key to procurement party success is creating an environment in which everyone is free to think outside the box. There are no bad ideas! Too many organizations offer the same items at their auctions year after year, which sucks all the excitement out of the event and causes revenue to stagnate and decline.

For more tips on hosting your procurement, or "wish list" party, see...

Read Next: "Secure Better Auction Items: How to Host a Procurement Party"

  Step 2:   Get as much of your procurement "wish list" donated as possible.

How to get auction travel packages donated

Once you’ve come up with the initial list of ideas, it's time to brainstorm the connections you have to make these packages reality.

As a procurement committee, your goal is to get as many high quality items donated as possible. Travel only sells well when complemented by other amazing items in your live and silent auction.

Have everyone list out their entire network of contacts: family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, business owners. Begin to match up individual connections to auction package items.

This process is bound to take some time, and you might not immediately have an answer for every item. That's fine. While making asks for item donations, those donors might have connections they are willing to also share with you.

For more procurement tips, click below for our free eBook all about getting auction items donated.

Free eBook: An Introduction to Procuring Quality Charity Auction Items

  Step 3:   For travel packages, decide between DIY or leaving it to the pros.

Travel is inherently trickier than other items to get donated.

With time and effort, it's certainly possible for nonprofits to get airline miles and hotel nights donated. However, the fact is, big-ticket Experiences that generate excitement and garner high bids are simply not donated. They're often not even available to the general public.

So it's important to ask honestly:

Are the travel packages we can feasibly get donated enough to generate buzz and ignite bidding wars?

Decide whether you're better off putting these travel packages together yourself or partnering with a reputable consignment travel provider.


Both options have pros and cons (see slide presentation above), and many organizations do some of both.

Here's a few reasons you might consider partnering with a provider to round out your auction catalog.

✈ Travel providers limit your risk.

Trying to assemble a fully-donated travel package is, in a word, tough.

A committee or nonprofit staff member will need to devote countless hours to procuring donated travel components - lodging, airfare and exciting excursions. Then, after the event, your organization is on the hook for playing travel agent and fulfilling the trip for the winning bidder. 

It's important to acknowledge the opportunity cost as well: This time and effort could be spent procuring other donated items, networking with potential sponsors, or improving other aspects of the event. 

With no-risk travel, incredible vacation packages are already put together with no procurement effort needed on your part. You only pay for a package if it sells for the minimum profitable price you set, meaning a guaranteed return on your investment, or no transaction occurs.

Open-ended travel appeals to more bidders.

Open-ended travel packages appeal to the most biddersComplete travel packages with open-ended dates are often the highlights of fundraising auctions.

Charity auction guests are typically sophisticated buyers who don’t want to be told when they can and can’t travel. In any given room, it's hard to predict who will bid on a certain trip, where they're from, who they might give it to, and when they want to travel. This can be extremely difficult to manage when you are dealing with donated travel components.

With Winspire, the winning bidder has up to a year to begin the reservation process, and we lead the industry in minimal blackout dates.

✈ Satisfied bidders = repeat donors.

Unforeseen circumstances can throw a wrench in DIY travel packages.

Say a board member donates his or her vacation condo on the coast. That's great! But you'd hate to discover three months later that the property needs renovations or is being rented out, before your winning bidder gets to go on the trip.

An unsatisfactory experience immediately sours the bidder's relationship with your fundraising event and even the cause.

A good travel partner takes on the risk of open-ended travel along with the time, package components and overall attention to detail it takes to create an excellent experience for your winning bidders. In fact, 94% of Winspire travelers rate their Experience as "Good" or "Fantastic"!

Bottom line: Keep your event fresh by employing new, emerging revenue strategies - like access to donor travel budgets.

Whether or not you decide to procure donated aspects or leave it to the pros, we hope this post has given you a broad understanding of the appeal of travel and potential impact on your revenue.

To learn more about using travel in your upcoming auction, leave a comment or click below. Your state-designated Fundraising Specialist would be happy to provide more details on the services of Winspire and suggest specific packages to bolster revenue at your event, all with no upfront cost.

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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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