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The Biggest Secret to Hosting a Successful Charity Auction

Posted by Ian Lauth

Biggest Secret to Hosting a Successful Charity Auction Items

It's six months before the big nonprofit fundraising event. You have a great theme, awesome location and hope to raise record-breaking amounts by hosting an auction packed with exciting items. The procurement team has plenty of time to gather auction donations, so you're not worried, right?

…Then a month goes by and there is still just the possibility of those concert tickets and backstage passes. Another month goes by and there's radio silence from the board member’s sister who was going to donate her timeshare condo in Hawaii. Three months later and nothing has solidified except a few restaurant and spa vouchers. Panic sets in.

This is a common scenario that keeps development directors and event coordinators awake at night. How will your nonprofit ever raise big numbers when your big-auction items fall through?

To avoid the mad scramble before the event, try securing a few no-risk auction items earlier on in the process. The biggest secret to hosting a successful nonprofit auction is offering intriguing items and getting them early enough to connect with donors and build excitement through marketing and outreach strategies.

  1. Find out what donors want to bid on: You can be proactive about contacting big donors and asking them which packages they are most interested in. A simple conversation could go as follows: "We're thinking of three travel packages for this event; which would you be most interested in, and how much would you be willing to bid?" Getting valuable insight like this early on might mean you can sell the item - or at least get a commitment - before the event even begins.
  2. Build excitement for the event: Using priceless Experiences such as trips and sporting events in promotional event flyers and email campaigns will get people talking about the auction before the event. This helps build excitement and momentum that will translate into better attendance and more participation. Big-ticket items can also add credibility to smaller or first-time fundraising events.
  3. Prepare your audience to spend money: By giving your audience a sneak peak of your biggest and best auction items ahead of time, you will encourage them to start thinking about what they might like to bid on when they get to the event. This is especially true for folks who may think twice about spending more than $1,000 when put on the spot, and may benefit from some lead time to plan for such an expenditure or assess their financial situation.
  4. Sell each Experience multiple times: When you promote your event using experiential travel packages it will start to generate a lot of interest in those items. This usually translates into some competitive bidding at the auction. Since no-risk Experiences can be sold multiple times you're not limited to selling it to only one winner. Let normal bidding raise the value of the item, wait until bidding stops and then sell the package to the top two or three donors at the second to last bid price.

Experiential travel packages in particular garner a lot of attention. Most people who fit the target demographic of high net-value donors (wealthy 50+ year olds) have a budget for leisure travel every year, which means they already have money set to purchase these kinds of Experiences. Giving your donors a chance to bid on exciting travel packages and contribute to a cause they believe in is a win-win for them. For the nonprofit, selling the Experiences at or above 20% of the package cost – and doing it multiple times – has the potential to raise several thousand dollars for your cause.

Why wait to reserve experiential travel packages until you know exactly what the procurement team has secured? You will be missing opportunities to connect with donors in advance and promote your event.

Winspire's Top 10 Best Selling Experiences

Auction Item Procurement, Event Promotion
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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