If you’re hosting a fundraising auction this year, it’s essential that you start the procurement process early. This timeline will help you stay on task so you aren’t scrambling for fundraiser auction items at the last minute.
Seven to eight months before event:
Build Your Procurement Committee
The people who are on your procurement team can have a huge impact on whether you obtain benefit auction items that are successful on the big night. You want to build a team that is capable and dedicated to acquiring quality goods, services and experiences from local businesses and community. When choosing candidates for your procurement team, consider their availability, connections, work ethic, leadership abilities and experience with your organization.
Six months before event:
Start Procuring Auction Items
Once you've assembled a solid team, it’s time to begin the process of procuring fundraiser auction items. A popular way to get the ball rolling is to host a wish list party to brainstorm ideas and establish mutual connections within the community.
Make it fun! Provide food and drink and host the "party" in a place where members will feel comfortable and relaxed to encourage participation. After finalizing a list of ideas, assign individuals from your committee to obtain specific items based on their community connections. Assign multiple people to items where your team doesn't have any connections.
Regardless of how much experience your committee members have (or think they have) approaching donors, it is always a good idea to review the components of an effective "Ask". Have an open discussion about what has or has not worked well for procurement in the past.
Make sure each person is armed with a fundraiser auction item procurement packet containing a donation form and procurement letter they can customize for each donor they approach. Also include a copy of the complete wish list showing who is responsible for each item.
Two to three months before event:
Organize Auction Items and Start Advertising
With only a few months to go until your event, hopefully your team has had some success acquiring their target items from the wish list. As items come in, stay organized by assigning each one number and log them in an excel sheet.
If you’re hosting both a live and silent auction, separate these items into the two different auction categories. Remember that it's never too late to get auction items, so encourage your team to continue their push on this final stretch leading up to the event.
Promotion for the event should be in full swing (usually starting 4-6 months out), but now is a good time to entice donors by revealing big-ticket items you've acquired. Post a picture to Facebook and Twitter every time an item comes in and publicly thank the donor. Not only will this build excitement for the event but could also drive further contributions from other donors who are following you.
One month before event:
Begin Labeling Items
The event is almost here! Now that you have acquired most of the elements for the auction, you can start the labeling process. Item descriptions are important, and should both entice and inform donors. Be sure to include essential information including the item title, a brief description of the item, any restrictions, location and minimum bid. For more information on effective presentation, see "3 Tips for Displaying Auction Items to Attract Fierce Bidding".
There is still time to get fundraiser auction items! Keep encouraging your team to pursue any new or untapped leads. Also tell them to circle back to donors they approached in the beginning of the procurement process now that you have some momentum leading up to the event. Auction item procurement doesn't end until the event has started! (Winspire Experiences, for example, can be reserved and sold on the day of the event at no cost)
Procuring enough quality auction items can be one of the most stressful aspects of planning a successful fundraising event. The key is to start early and plan ahead, and following a timeline will help you stay on task so everything comes together on the night of the auction. Good luck!
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With an extensive background in marketing and 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. You can also find Ian on Google+.