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Charity Auction Items: Save Time and Raise More Money

Posted by Ian Lauth

Time is money, right?

Raise More Money with Auction ItemsWhile this likely means something different to each of us, one thing’s for sure: at some point, we question the value of our time.

For example: Do you hire a gardener rather than spending half of the weekend doing your own yard work? The answer depends on how much you like getting your hands dirty, whether you have better things to do with your time and if you can afford to pay someone else to do it for you. 

At work, you have to make similar choices. You have a long list of things to do to make sure your upcoming fundraising event is a success. Where should you focus your efforts?

What are the most critical tasks? What do you do best? What could you use help with? And most importantly, how is your time best spent so you get “the most bang for your buck”?

Arguably one of the most arduous tasks of planning an event fundraiser is procuring items for your live and silent auctions.

The more exciting and valuable items you have in your auction, the more money you will make. Of course, these big ticket items are more difficult to procure... and therein lies the challenge.

According to a report published in 2013 by the Corporation for National and Community Service, it is estimated that 64.5 million Americans, or one in four adults, gave 7.9 billion hours of volunteer service in 2012. Of those nearly 8 billion hours of volunteering, the top activities included:

  1. Fundraising or selling items to raise money (25.7%);
  2. Collecting, preparing, distributing, or serving food (23.8%)
  3. Engaging in general labor or transportation (19.8%)
  4. Tutoring or teaching (17.9%)
While having highly desirable charity
auction items at your fundriasing event is a necessity, spending countless hours is not.

There you have it. Event fundraising is at the top of the list and equates to over 2 billion volunteer hours spent annually developing auction events and soliciting donors.

How much time do you spend?

Perhaps you are the Development Director and have a committee of 5-10 volunteers who work on charity auction item procurement. Or maybe you are a “committee of one” and do all of the work yourself.

In a recent Winspire survey of Nonprofits, more than 45% of respondents reported spending between 150 and 500 hours procuring and fulfilling auction items.

Hard to imagine? Think of it this way: you have 5 people on your committee and you each spend 10 hours a week for 5 weeks leading up to your event – that’s a total of 250 hours right there!

Hundreds of hours spent brainstorming, searching and acquiring auction items for your event – whether it’s sending out emails, making phone calls or soliciting local businesses, think of all the time and effort that goes into this (and this is but one aspect of your event!). While having highly desirable auction packages at your event is a necessity, spending countless hours is not.

80 20 RULEThe 80/20 Rule

The key to minimizing the time spent on the auction while maximizing your event’s revenue is something you’ve undoubtedly heard of before. The “80/20 Rule” is based on an observation by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in the early 1900s about the distribution of wealth in his country (his mathematical formula showed that 20% of the people owned 80% of the wealth).

This has gone on to become a popular maxim in everything from business (80% of sales come from roughly 20% of customers) to time management (20% of your time produces 80% of your results), occurring rather frequently and having widespread application. For example, the same rule can be applied to event fundraising. Generally speaking, consider the following:

  • Fundraising: 80% of money raised comes from 20% of donors
  • Volunteering: 80% of volunteer hours come from 20% of your volunteers
  • Auction Items: 80% of auction event revenue comes from 20% of auction items
By working smarter – not harder – you will maximize revenue and have more time to focus your efforts elsewhere.

This principle is an incredible tool for growing everything from your donor base to the amount you raise at your event. For example, if you can figure out which 20% of your donors contribute 80% of your revenue from individual giving, you can spend more time cultivating those types of donors.

When it comes to procuring auction items – which requires a disproportionate amount of time compared to other aspects of the event planning process – this rule has particular significance.

Focus On The Auction Items That Really Count

Chances are, if you take a look at your last fundraising event and do a quick analysis of how much profit each auction item brought in, you will likely see the 80/20 rule in action. The take-away here is to focus your efforts on the 20% of items that are going to generate the most revenue. These are going to be the big ticket, highly desirable items - such as experiential travel – that will entice donors to spend not hundreds, but thousands of dollars at your event.

Experiences Back Pocket

In a perfect world, you would get some, if not all of these packages donated, but of course that’s easier said than done. And while it’s important to spend time trying to make this happen, it’s also prudent to realize that you may – or may not – get these big ticket items donated.

What if you could begin your procurement process with a guaranteed selection of big-ticket items? No matter what happens with your donation efforts, you would be able to count on these 5 – 10 experiential travel and entertainment packages to make up the 20% of items that are going to  bring in 80% of your profit.

With these Experiences in your back pocket, you will have the time to strategize and focus more of your efforts on getting other key donations, such as as tapping into board member's connections and resources. Perhaps one of your board members owns a condo in Aspen. A donated item like this can net several thousand dollars, so the impact is significant. Time well spent!

Charity Auction gift Ideas

Guaranteed Trips and Experiences

How can you get your hands on those high ticket packages we’re talking about? It’s actually quite easy. Winspire’s portfolio of consignment packages includes hundreds of trips, sporting events and award shows that you can use in both your live and silent auctions. By working smarter – not harder – you will maximize revenue and have more time to focus your efforts elsewhere. 

No one knows better than you what makes the most sense in terms of how you spend your time. Your "to-do” list is long and there’s just not enough time in the day to accomplish everything. That’s why the best strategy is to incorporate a selection of Winspire packages into your auction that will “wow” your audience and bring in the majority of the event’s proceeds.

By utilizing high quality trips, sporting events and award shows upfront - instead of last minute - you will have more time to focus on promoting your event, cultivating donor relationships and improving your event’s bottom line. From providing detailed package descriptions and display material to handling travel arrangements for your winning bidders, Winspire can be a valuable resource that can help turn your time into money.


Use Winspire Experiences
in your next charity auction!

Browse over 200 unique Experiences and add your favorites to mySuitcase, where you can compare, collaborate and then reserve for your fundraiser.

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Winspire Development Director Sharon Ruback
About Sharon Ruback

Having been a member of the Winspire team since its inception, Sharon works with hospitality and travel partners to expand and enhance Winspire's portfolio of experiences.

A self-proclaimed armchair traveler, she focuses on developing trips and experiences that will bring a "wow" factor to charity fundraising events. The better the experiences she puts together, the more money Nonprofits can raise. With 200+ packages -- and more in the works --  the possibilities are endless! You can also find Sharon on .

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Travel Experiences
Ian Lauth
Ian Lauth
With an extensive background in marketing development and content design, Ian’s role at Winspire is to develop external communications, brand expansion and product delivery processes to help Nonprofits maximize their fundraising revenue. Ian serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Winspire News, creating and managing blog content, newsletters, eBooks and other resources for Nonprofit fundraising professionals.

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