When it comes to auction item procurement, the goal is to acquire items that cost little to nothing upfront but are still distinctive enough to attract high bidding. It’s easy to get stuck in the auction rut of gift certificates, jewelry and themed baskets which can make your auction feel cluttered and won’t garner high fundraising numbers.
It’s time to think outside the benefit auction box. Rather than seeking material items - or “stuff” - for your auction, focus on offering experiences for your donors to bid on. Experiences appeal to a much wider audience and cut down on the kind of donor fatigue that results from the same old items appearing on your auction table.
While the big money is going to come from auctioning off once-in-a-lifetime travel Experiences like those we offer here at Winspire, it's easy to put together a few local experiences that might raise a few extra hundred bucks at your event. These types of auction items can also create the kind of "buzz" in your community that generates more interest in your cause.
Consider these four ideas for coming up with unique local experiences that are sure to inspire high interest levels and fierce bidding:
1. Connect to the Community
Reach out to your community leaders and seek experiences. Solicit the local firehouse to offer a ride-along for one lucky kid – winner’s choice - to get picked up from school for a special ride home in their big red engine or ladder truck.
See if the Chief of Police will take on an “assistant” for the evening to observe the day in the life of a local police officer. Auction the opportunity to cut the ribbon at the opening of a new park or name a new city street; and who wouldn’t bid on the chance to soak the mayor in a dunk tank?
2. Feature the Family
Parents of young children will pay top dollar for well-planned family-themed experiences that are focused on their kids. These types experiences are cheap and may only require a few volunteer hours, such as a home visit from Santa complete with story time, cookies and a collective analysis of the household Christmas List.
For active or sports-oriented groups, consider auctioning a dodge ball or capture the flag tournament for a large group kids – including the location, equipment, refs/parent organizers, pizza and prizes. If you know of a parade coming up in your area, auction off the opportunity for a family to be grand marshals and lead the procession.
3. Surprise Guests with Unusual Auction Items
To generate plenty of bidding interest, offer exclusive access to areas or events people normally wouldn’t be able to get.
One example is auctioning front-row parking for a year at a popular event venue or school. See if the city will offer a year of free downtown parking. For colleges and high schools, why not auction front-row seats at an upcoming graduation, sports event or concert?
Consider reaching out to your local news network to see they'll offer an experience to hang out on the set, view a live newscast and go to lunch with a news anchor.
It's all about networking, or utilizing connections your nonprofit may already have, to snag unusual auction items you hadn't yet considered.
4. Offer Behind-the-scenes Experiences
At Winspire, we love VIP tours and have our own list of incredible Experiences that take you behind the scenes at venues across the U.S. and the world.
Locally, behind-the-scenes experiences are a great way for local businesses to earn positive PR and get their name out in the community.
Wine tours are enormously popular, so if you have any boutique wineries in your area, see if they will offer a group grape stomp, followed by appetizers and wine tasting. If you have a popular restaurant in your town – whether it’s high class dining or the best BBQ in the state – offer to pay for food if the head chef will donate his or her time to cook a private dinner party for 8 at their home. Museums are also a great resource for VIP Tours or overnight sleepovers for kids.
Have you bid on or auctioned off any particularly unique items or experiences? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!