Live auctions are big money makers. They also offer great entertainment value for a fundraising event, dazzling audiences and building excitement as patrons compete for once-in-a-lifetime auction items.
A successful auction requires awe-inspiring items, which can make coming up with ideas for your live auction a little difficult.
We thought it would be fun to compile a list of the best live auction ideas we've come across, drawing from the thousands of fundraising events we work with each and every year.
Some of the auction item ideas we've heard were so great that we developed them into our own no-risk travel packages, a few of which we’ve included in this list. Many of the other ideas, though, are too specific, extreme or difficult to scale for us to be able to develop into a workable charity fundraising package.
We hope this list of actual live auction items from across the country will help inspire your auction committee to reach for the stars during the procurement process. And hey – if it doesn’t work out, you can always reserve one of our incredible Experiences for free and with no risk to your nonprofit. Simply create a Suitcase or schedule a free consultation to speak with an expert.
Most people have a travel budget (as opposed to a "philanthropic budget") which is money that is set aside each year for vacations. When you target your audience with unique travel packages, it can open the door to an entirely new revenue stream for your nonprofit. Some of the best live auction ideas we've heard about in this category include:
- Vacation to tour the top 10 surfing beaches in Hawaii
- Trip to Washington D.C. for VIP viewing of Fourth of July fireworks (Tip: Contact your congressman to see if they're in town)
- Your choice travel: Pick when and where in the continental U.S.
- Trip to New York City for VIP viewing of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
- Vacation for four to Florida with early entrance to popular amusement parks
- Trip to New York and seats to shows during New York Fashion Week
- Trip to the Kennedy Space Center for an authentic astronaut training experience
The right experience for the right person can be priceless, meaning you get to watch bids soar. Some examples include:
- Creation of a special dish at a popular restaurant and ability to name it before it appears on the menu
- Interview a legend or celebrity for a local news station’s featured report
- Opportunity to throw out a first pitch or toss a coin at the first game of the season or to commemorate a new stadium
- African Safari to see the "Big 5" (lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, and rhinos)
- Supermodel: Hair, makeup and the works before walking the catwalk during a live fashion show
- Attend the opening/closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange
- Join a sports team for a day with a personalized jersey
- Win a trip to the Super Bowl
- Assist the chef during a TV cooking show segment
Unique Dining and Culinary Experiences
The foodie movement continues to grow, meaning unique dining experiences are growing in demand. Some prime live auction ideas include:
- Dinner at the city's hottest restaurant where the chef cooks table side
- James Beard House dinner party in New York City
- Opportunity to go undercover and help a reporter conduct a restaurant review
- Behind-the-scenes tour and opportunity to meet the founder or brew master
- Hands-on culinary workshop at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris
- Private dinner for two on a hot-air balloon
- Dessert delivered monthly to your home for a year from the city's best pastry chef
- Five course dinner with mayor/governor/congressman at his/her own home
- The winner of a popular cooking show comes to your home to cook your choice of dish
Memorable Experiences for Children & Families
Unique experiences that are appropriate for kids or families can be big winners. People love to share one-of-a-kind experiences with their family members and friends. Here are some standout ideas:
- Career experiences for a day, such as police officer, firefighter, pilot, etc.
- Meet a local legend (i.e. current or retired athlete)
- Behind-the-scenes tour of the local zoo, including feeding the animals
- Overnight sleepover with friends at the local aquarium or planetarium
- Opportunity to create your own flavor at an ice cream shop and bring a gallon home
- Full after-hours access to attractions, such as four hours of private access to an amusement park
Have some good auction item ideas of your own? What about an idea for a new Winspire Experience you think we should create? We want to hear about them! Use #experiencecharity on social media or the comments section below to share your best ideas.