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Kick Off Your Auction Item Procurement with a “Wish List Party”

Posted by Ian Lauth


As a Nonprofit, you know brainstorming auction item ideas can be a daunting task. To get the ball rolling and discover unique and fresh ideas, gather your procurement committee together and have a wish list party.

A wish list party is a great way to kick your good old-fashioned brainstorming sessions up a notch and inspire your team to be more effective. To get the most out of the party keep the following tips in mind.

Make it Fun!

To encourage creativity and participation at the party, let the committee members enjoy themselves. After all, a little fun never hurt anyone! Host the party at a location where members will feel comfortable and relaxed, such as in your living room or backyard at home.

Provide Food

Arrange to have food and drinks available as an added incentive for your team members to show up. Pizza is cheap and appeals to almost everyone (even those who claim they never eat the stuff), but you can also make an easy salad for the health-conscious in your group. You can even turn the event into a potluck and encourage everyone to bring a dish.

Providing wine and beer can also do a lot to get the creative juices flowing, but this is a slippery slope so be careful not to overserve. The idea here is to create an almost festive atmosphere to get your team in the right mindset to discuss the event. 


Know Your Audience

Before your committee begins brainstorming, spend time discussing what you know about your attendees. Knowing your audience will help you focus on the kind of items that they’ll find most appealing. These are just some of the questions your committee will want to discuss:

  • What is the overall demographic of the audience?
  • What is the age range of the attendees and how much can they afford?
  • What are some of the guests’ interests?
  • What were the best-selling items in previous auctions and who bought them?

In some cases, it is helpful to survey your mailing list of donors before you hold your wish list party to get the answers to these questions.

There are free survey tools available online such as Survey Monkey, which you can use to create an online survey that you would email to your mailing list. Don't be afraid to ask your audience what they want to see at the event!

Read Next: "Why Surveying Donors Can Boost Fundraising Revenue at Your Next  Charity Auction"

Establish Connections

After discussing the audience you and your team are trying to target, it's time to see what kind of resources you have to work with. Have your procurement team take 10 minutes to list absolutely everyone they know on a piece of paper. List family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, people from local businesses they frequent, etc. When making their lists, have team members ask themselves, “If I got a call from this person and they needed help, would I give it willingly?” If the answer is yes, have them put a start next to those names. These are going to be their prime targets for soliciting.

Write Every Idea Down

You’ve all heard the phrase, “there’s no such thing as a dumb question.” Well in this case, there is no such thing as a dumb idea! The whole point of brainstorming is to think of as many ideas as possible, no matter how outrageous or out there they might seem. Give your team 15 minutes to write down every possible idea they have. Tell them to think big and reach for the sky!

After your first round of brainstorming, compile the list and group them into categories such as Physical Items, Travel, Services and Sports. This will keep you organized and let you see whether or not you have a good variety of potential items. 

You can have people call out ideas and write them down on a large whiteboard or poster paper, or you can type them up as people are saying them and print out the resulting wish list. Just make sure the list is viewable by everyone on your team. The group will have the opportunity to laugh and react to some of the more outlandish ideas, but keep them on the wish list! Don't let any idea get shot down by the group.

Once everyone has a chance to see each others' ideas, hold a second shorter round of brainstorming (5 - 10 minutes) to come up with more ideas. Gather these ideas and add them to the main wish list. 

Develop a Procurement Plan

After your brainstorming session, have your group take the list they created of people they know and begin the process of "matching" the items on the wish list to potential providers of those items. Start to pare down the wish list based on your audience demographics, NOT by difficulty of procurement. Depending on how much time you have left, have everyone start calling, emailing, texting, etc. right there together each of the people on their list. If you're out of time, consider hosting a second "Networking Party".


Before the party comes to a close, prepare your committee with the necessary tools to succeed on their own. Make sure they have the necessary documentation and understand how to be effective in asking for auction items.


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Winspire Communications Director
About Ian Lauth

Ian Lauth has been working to help Nonprofits maximize their fundraising revenue since early 2012 when he was hired by Winspire to develop external communications, brand expansion and product delivery processes. You can also find Ian on .

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Event Production, Time Management, Auction Item Procurement, Nonprofit Survey
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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