If you've ever been involved with a charity silent auction, you know gift baskets are a given. They can range anywhere from $50 to $500 in value, depending on the quality and exclusivity of the items, and are popular for a few reasons:
- The contents are relatively simple to procure. It may be less intimidating for new donors, smaller businesses and individuals to sponsor or contribute to a basket rather than big-ticket items.
- You can bundle smaller donations into one package greater than the sum of its parts. This is especially true for baskets that are nicely decorated and displayed.
- Putting out a variety of themed baskets ensures the auction will appeal to virtually all bidders. There's something for everyone, at all spending capacities.
Without further ado, here are 31 brand new ideas for unique, buzzworthy silent auction baskets, plus free resources and downloads to assist with the procurement process.
Category: Food & Drink
- A Spot of Tea. Combine a pretty tea pot with plenty of tea (bagged and loose leaf) in a variety of flavors: fruit, herbal and black. Include a tea steeper, honey, crackers, cookies, biscotti, truffles and a tea towel. Spruce up the package with fresh decorations to complement the color of the pot and teas, like lavender flowers, lemons or peppermint sprigs. (Pictured: Allison B.)
- Chocolate Celebration. Who doesn't love chocolate? Curate an assortment of gourmet chocolates, caramels and chocolate-covered fruits, nuts and coffee beans from around the world (check this guide for fair-trade artisan chocolate). Add antioxidant-rich hot cocoa powder and a chocolate fondue set (complete with skewers and melting chocolate) for good measure. Finally, you might include a cocoa-factory tour or tasting to top off an all-around luxurious basket.
- Cheers to Beer. Craft beer is hugely popular right now, and any basket stocked with high-quality, full-flavored global beers is sure to be a hit.
Up the ante in a live auction with a trip for 2 to tour the best craft breweries in San Diego. (Pictured: slowmotiongolfswing.com)
- Epicurean's Delight. The perfect basket to bring out the chef in any donor. Bundle small kitchen appliances (like an electric mixer and toaster oven) with olive oil, a wide variety of spices, and must-have utensils (like whisks, rolling pins, measuring spoons and cups). You can also throw in a gift card to high-end gourmet cookware retailer, like Williams and Sonoma or West Elm. Present the basket in a slow cooker or large pot.
Upgrade this basket to a live auction item by including a hands-on culinary workshop and 3-night stay at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa. Or, if your location allows, try coordinating a "harvest experience"! Have winning bidders join a farm family for an unforgettable day combining crops and enjoying a genuine farm-to-table meal.
- Here Comes Baby. Chances are high that someone in your audience knows, or is, a new mom. A basket packed with baby essentials will come in handy countless times. Include blankets, a baby monitor, tiny hangars, laundry detergent safe for sensitive skin, wet wipes, bibs, books, toys etc. You might also include one or two baby outfits for decoration, but keep in mind baby clothes tend to be outgrown quickly.
- Garden in a Box. Include gardening gloves (like these seen-on-tv Garden Genie gloves with digging "claws"), pots, seeds, succulents, a spade and other tools. This cute basket idea (pictured right) comes wrapped in a long green hose. (Pictured: blogs.lowellsun.com)
- One-stop Wrap Shop. This gift wrap workstation is perfect for crafty donors who love giving the perfect gift. Fill this basket with rolls of wrapping paper of all different patterns and textures, plus bows, gift bags, gift tags, tissue paper, colorful tape and scissors.
- Let Your Candles Shine. Your donors will be hosting their own wax and soy candle-making parties in no time. Include a candle making kit with wax and wax warmer (or pouring pot), candle holders, wicks, color chips and instruction books, plus matches or lighters and a set of popular essential oils (like lavender, fresh cotton, sandalwood, vanilla and yuzu) for fragrance.
- Electronic Gizmos & Gadgets. You know the drill. Smartphones, laptops, smart watches, wireless speakers (like the Amazon Echo), cordless bluetooth ear buds and even portable USB chargers are essentially guaranteed to ignite bidding. Make a high-tech donation go even further with a gift card to Best Buy or Amazon.
- Spoil Fido & Fluffy. Most pet owners are obsessed with their "fur babies", so a basket dedicated to pets can ignite bidding. Gather a wide selection of toys, treats, grooming supplies and donated services (like a free checkup at the vet or 3 nights of doggy boarding). You can also include DVDs of favorite pet flicks like Marley and Me, Homeward Bound, 101 Dalmatians and Secret Life of Pets. (Pictured: All About Gifts & Baskets)
- Fourth of July. Everything you need to celebrate Independence Day, our favorite summer holiday! You might include food (like a side of AAA beef or bison cut and wrapped for the freezer); guaranteed front row seats and parking at the local fireworks display; catered cookout; red, white and blue apparel; even a private party in a historic building or new barbecue grill. For a unique Experience, add a hands-on sailing excursion on the famous America's Cup yacht, 'Stars & Stripes.'
- Paint for a Cause. Facilitate a craft or paint room for aspiring artists with an easel, apron, canvases, oil and acrylic paints, watercolor, brushes, and palettes. You can also include a private group painting lesson, like a paint-and-sip package for 12.
- Auto Detailing. Appeal to auto enthusiasts with a complete car care package. Gather glass windshield wipes, microfiber towels, car wash mitts, spot sprays, car wax and air fresheners. Spruce up the package with gift cards for fuel and a certificate for interior and exterior auto detailing by hand, which can easily surpass hundreds of dollars in retail value. (Pictured: Bonnie D.)
- Shutterbug Session. Donors regard few things as preciously as memories. Combine a donated family portrait session with photo frames and appealing camera - like waterproof, fish-eye lens, instant or even DSLR.
- Cool, Calm and Collected. For spring fundraisers, try offering air conditioning installation in your silent auction. (Since services can be hit-or-miss, it's better to put niche services like home repair in the silent auction rather than live.) Spice up the certificate display with fans, cooling towels and unique ice cube trays (like this mold of Easter Island heads).
- Warm and Cozy. The same service provider might also do furnace installation, which can be worth hundreds of dollars. Paired with campfire gear, fleece-lined jackets and thick blankets or quilts, this makes one cozy basket in a fall fundraiser. (If the service provider offers donors the option to choose one or the other, combine both themes in one lot!)
- Date Night. "Date night" packages are arguably the most popular and commonly used basket in silent auctions. Virtually every bidder will be interested in enjoying a night on the town with gift certificates to a 5-star restaurant, tickets to a movie or play, taxi vouchers and even a limo if you can procure it. You can also skip the movies and include a fun activity, like go-karts, climbing or beach cruiser bike rentals.
- At-home Salon. Women are known to bid more in the silent auction, so it's smart to provide beauty-centric items like an at-home hair salon setup. Combine a plush bathrobe and fluffy slippers with high-end shampoos, conditioners, gels, hair spray, combs, clips, accessories and more. You can also include key hair appliances, like hair dryers and ceramic straighteners, and a certificate for a salon service, like a cut and color. (Pictured: Memli N.)
- Makeup Maven. If you don't regularly use cosmetics, you might not know just how pricey an eyeshadow palette can be - they range from $1 at the drugstore to upwards of $300 for designer brands. Get the high end goods with luxury brushes, bags, palettes and nail polish, plus a certificate for a makeover and tutorial with a makeup artist.
- Dude Crate. On the flip side, curate a basket that will appeal to the men in the crowd (and their significant others) to fill out any den. Gather items like fine cigars, whiskey, savory snacks, darts, a poker table with poker chips and certificate for a round of golf, and display in a crate.
While women may be more active in the silent auction, men are the more impulsive spenders - which is great news for your bottom line.
- The Great Outdoors. Outdoor clothing and sporting goods make the perfect basket for intrepid bidders. Highly sought after brands include Black Diamond, Marmot, Canada Goose and Arc'teryx. Stuff a tent or sturdy cooler with lanterns, a sleeping bag, tabletop charcoal grill, climbing shoes, a telescope (for stargazing) and binoculars (for birdwatching). (Pictured: JCA of Jacksonville)
- All-Access Pass. Combine tickets to different local attractions (theme parks, zoos, museums and more) for groups of 2 or 4. You can attach the tickets to related items, like stuffed animals for the aquarium, a telescope for the planetarium, or ballons for theme parks.
- (Country) Music Lover's. A basket for any music lover includes iTunes gift cards, high-end earbuds or headphones, local concert tickets and/or a gift card to Ticketmaster. Keep in mind country music is having a moment right now! You might create a basket dedicated to country crooners using boots, flannel shirts, hats and records of vintage and current country artists.
Easily flip this basket into the night's most-talked about live auction item by including tickets to the Country Music Awards, plus lodging and airfare to Nashville for 2. (One of Winspire's most popular Experiences, the CMAs sells out every year, so reserve your package today!)
- Sing Your Heart Out. Sticking with the music theme, combine a high quality karaoke machine with microphones, a mic stand and throat lozenges (to soothe overworked vocal chords, of course!). Up the ante with donated voice lessons and/or the opportunity to professionally record a song in studio.
- All Dolled Up. One lucky bidder is about to become the parent of a very happy child. Combine American Girl Dolls, Barbies and more with accompanying books, movies, accessories and doll houses - and keep in mind American Girl Dolls retail for $115 apiece.For a higher-end item, give donors the opportunity to create lifelong memories with an American Girl Shopping Spree at select locations around the U.S. (For a preview, enjoy this video of Conan O'Brien visiting the American Girl Store in Los Angeles.)
- Swooning for Ballooning. Ditch the go-karts and send your donors on a thrilling hot air balloon ride! Dress up the hot air balloon ride vouchers with wine and cheese, all in a gorgeous mini hot air ballon basket made from papier-mâché (instructions here).
We know travel is a #1 best seller at charity auctions - after all, who doesn't love a vacation? Travel-themed baskets are a fun way to bring the world to your donors' doorstep.
Include food, jewelry, clothing, travel books, artwork and other symbols to tastefully represent life in a popular tourist destination. Big cities offer the most material to draw from, so here's a few of our favorites.
- New York Minute. Give a bite of the Big Apple with items unique to New York, New York. Include a gift certificate for thin slice 'za, bagels, cheesecake, art prints of the skyline, Yankees memorabilia, Statue of Liberty figurines, subway maps, famous movies about New York and tickets to see your nearest Broadway production.
Bump up NYC-in-a-basket to the live auction with a trip for 2 to see Broadway smash hit Hamilton. Donors get not only red-hot tickets to this record-setting show, they'll also get the inside scoop with a private meet and greet and backstage tour with two cast members. Check out rave reviews here.
- An American / A Canadian in Paris. Transport bidders to the City of Lights with a Parisian-themed basket: think Paris-themed books, pillows, red wine, cheese, French lotions and shampoos (like L'Occitane en Provence), chocolate pastries, vintage journals, and Eiffel Tower decor. (Pictured: Sarah H.)
Upgrade the Parisian bundle to a live auction showstopper with an opulent escape to Paris; the trip includes deluxe lodging and airfare for 2.
- Tokyo Tonight. This bustling mega-metropolis makes a unique basket for any silent auction audience. Consider including vibrant teas and teapots, snacks, sake, ceramic dishes, certificates to a high-end Japanese restaurant, and a bonsai tree with instructions for care. Add a unique incentive with a private sushi-making class.
- Windy City Wins. Capture the cultural milieu of Chicago with sports memorabilia, Garrett's popcorn, art prints and skyline souvenirs, a copy of Blues Brothers plus a voucher for frozen deep dish pizzas shipped to your donors' doors (this native recommends Lou Malnati's). Up the ante in the live auction by sending your donors to watch the championship Chicago Cubs from the storied rooftops of Wrigley Field (check out reviews here).
- Weekend Staycation. Try coming up with icons that capture your local community: think regional cuisine, sports teams, attractions and natural landmarks. Then procure a couple nights' stay within driving distance, like a romance package at a luxury resort or seaside cottage getaway.
That's it! We hope this list gave you ideas and, above all, encouraged you to think outside the box to surprise and delight your supporters. For even more ideas, check out our last post:
Free Resource: Silent Auction Handbook
Silent auctions, while straightforward, require plenty of time and expertise to put together successfully. These FREE pocket-sized guides are chock full of tips to maximize every facet of your silent auction: procurement, set-up, displays and more (plus bonus guides on sponsorship and live auctions!).
Your turn - What baskets have you tried that almost always generate plenty of interest, and which ones haven't worked out? Help out thousands of readers each month with a comment below!