Silent auctions are a great way to monetize 'cocktail hour' at a gala, engage parents at a school fundraiser, maximize revenue at a golf tournament and more. As guests arrive and begin bidding, a fun and competitive environment develops as the time to close the silent auction draws near.
Many Nonprofit fundraising events just aren't complete without at least a few tables filled with exciting auction packages.
That said, procuring, setting up, tracking and fulfilling items can take an incredible amount of time - often more time than anything else! To make the most of this fundraising strategy, you'll need to brainstorm, then pursue exciting items that create a luxury shopping experience for your guests.
Travel and Experiences
Experiential travel is a top seller in charity auctions for three reasons.
First is the inherent uniqueness of travel. No two trips are alike, and with some creative brainstorming, you can send your donors to locales and excursions that have been on their lifelong bucket lists. Another big plus is the broad appeal of travel; after all, who doesn't love a vacation? Virtually everyone would love to win a tropical getaway or trip to wine country. Finally, offering travel items in the auction helps redirect some of your donors' travel budgets - money they're already setting aside for travel - to support your cause.
Here are a few ways to tap into the popularity of travel at your auction.
- Luxury hotel and resort stays
- Airline gift certificate
- Stylish luggage
- Winemaker tour & tastings
- Gas for a year (52 gift cards worth $50 each)
- Family trip to a lakeside cabin
- One-week timeshare
- Hot air balloon ride
- Helicopter ride
- Pet sitting and boarding
- Skiing and snowboarding adventure
- Romantic gondola ride
- Private boat cruise with cocktails
Education, school and classroom-related prizes are great for school raffles and PTA fundraisers. Parents are always looking for new ways to enrich their children's interactions with educators outside the classroom. Here are some auction item ideas that put the fun back in school FUNdraisers.
- One year's prime parking spot (for students or parents)
- Ride to or from school in a fire truck or police squad car
- Visit from fire truck or police squad car at child's birthday party
- Be the Principal for a Day
- Reserved seats for graduation ceremony
- Buy a teacher a day off (bidder chooses who gets time off)
- Class party including pizza, games and prizes
- Honorary police academy training for adult or child
Experiential auction items need not be in far-flung locations to appeal to many. Local, exclusive items are difficult to put a price tag on, so bidders will pay top dollar to win them. Putting together a few experiences can rake in hundreds of dollars per item.
- Dinner cooked and served by the mayor
- Dinner and historic city tour with the mayor
- Trip with the Boy/Girl Scouts (local troop guides a hike, sets up lunch, provides campfire, transportation, cleanup)
- Theater tickets including one-time non-speaking role in a play
- 20 hours of manual labor (landscaping, demolition, etc.) from local company or community service group
- Sponsorship of park bench with name on it
- Private, insider tours of local businesses or factories
- Year of oil changes at local shop
- 10 hours of certified mechanic work
- Year of car washes by local Boy/Girl Scout troop (once a month for a year)
- 6 months of dry cleaning (work with business to determine number of garments)
- Local florist delivers flowers monthly for 1 year
Wine & Dine
Private dinners, vintage wines, brewery tours and sushi-making parties make Food & Wine a guest favorite. And with the desire to win more "stuff" appealing less and less to nonprofit donors, the opportunity to enjoy fine cuisine with friends is often preferred to tangible items. Channel your donor’s inner foodie with incredible Food & Wine auction items.
- Vintage and rare bottles of wine
- Wine wheelbarrow or wine tree
- Fine wine verticals: collections of consecutive vintages (e.g. ’97, ’98, ’99, ’00, ’01)
- Subs or burgers for 25 people delivered to work or home
- Private wine or beer tasting with 10 friends
- Ultimate micro-brew sampler of 100 bottles
- Afternoon tea for six at a local botanical garden
- Five-course meal at top restaurant
- Backstage brewery tour
- Cooking lesson from award-winning local chef
- Limo ride to and from local winery
- Pig roast brought to your home
- A pedal 'n' brew bar crawl (ex: PedalPub, Brew Cycle, Pints and Pedals, Pedal Tavern)
Sports items appeal to men and women equally, and few auctions are complete without appealing to this segment of your crowd. Sporting equipment, tickets to games and tournaments, and high-value memorabilia bring in thousands for your cause.
- Signed memorabilia (helmet, jersey, balls, bats, gloves, practice gear, hats)
- Perform (and keep!) the ceremonial coin toss before a game
- Tickets to championship sports events, including transportation
- Signed, framed photos of famous sports personalities
- Golf clubs
- Opportunity to sit in on a local sports radio show
- Sportscaster for a Day
- Catered tailgate party including set up and tear down
- Passes to golf tournaments
- Pro lessons for any sport
- Rare baseball cards
- Tee time at a luxury or private golf course
- Personal yoga sessions at your home
- Box seats for college or professional sports team
- Personal trainer
Send your donors to enjoy the glitz and glamour of an awards show, a behind-the-scenes look at the taping of their favorite show, or the excitement of securing tickets to a sold-out Broadway show. There's something for everyone in the world of Music & Entertainment. The more difficult the tickets are to obtain, the higher bids will soar.
- Tickets to a popular talk show (i.e. Ellen, Tonight Show, Conan)
- Guitar or other musical instruments signed by famous musicians
- Complete makeover with a local stylist, including makeup, hair and shopping
- Red-hot concert tickets
- Broadway tickets and in-theater meet and greet
- Seats during live taping of a popular TV show
- Music instrument lessons
- Vocal lessons
- Red carpet award show passes
- Tickets to a comedy / improv show
- Ballroom dancing lessons
If your donor base includes families, it's ideal to include some family-friendly auction items. From young parents to grandparents, everyone is looking for more ways to unwind from work, play, make new memories and enjoy quality time with family. Just be sure every item is still unique, exclusive and worth the high bids you seek.
- Breakfast at the firehouse
- Birthday visit from a princess or superhero
- Month of child care from a local center
- Tickets to theme parks
- After-hours passes to community center or swimming pool
- Photo shoot with professional photographer
- Painting commissioned by local artist
- Children's room mural painted by local artist
- Magician comes to your home to teach card tricks
- Private lunch and book reading with a favorite children's book author
- Group paintball outing
- One week of chauffeur services for your child
- Inflatable rental for child's birthday or family party
- VHS to digital / DVD conversion
Donors are clamoring for the latest gadgets and gizmos. Electronics (like flat-screen TVs), mobile devices (like smartphones and watches) and streaming subscriptions round out the list of top techie auction items today.
- Computer or coding classes from an expert
- Amazon Prime subscription for a year
- Netflix subscription for a year
- New iPhone, iPad, Apple watch
- Kindle, Nook
- 4K TV
- Computer, laptop
- High-quality digital camera
- High-quality camcorder (like GoPro)
Gift baskets are a staple at silent auctions. The contents are relatively easy to get donated and represent a wide variety of interests.
Just remember the importance of appearances as you're decorating and bundling items into baskets. Another must-do: Include description sheets that accurately list all the contents.
- Gourmet cupcakes
- Spa: Bath bombs, slippers and gift card to local spa
- Rainy Day: Games and goodies for a day indoors
- Campfire: S'mores and unique gear
- Beer sampler
- Movies: Popcorn, boxed candy and certificate to local theater
- Car emergency kit
- Golf: clubs, tees, towels, gloves
- Beach party: Beach towels, sand toys, sunscreen and tropical beverages
- Mixology: Variety of liquor, mixes, mixing tools and cocktail recipes
- Strike it Rich: Different types of lottery tickets
- Grill accessories and spices
Home goods can be a bit of a toss up, as they're subject to donors' particular preferences more so than other categories. Still, the right luxury item makes a great gift, so don't be shy about putting out high-end home appliances, accessories and furnishings.
- Designer handbags
- Tiffany-style lamps
- Crystal dishes, vases or stemware
- High-end kitchen appliances (cappuccino maker, KitchenAid mixer, Vitamix)
- Snowblower, lawn mower
Seasonal / Holiday Experiences
Everyone loves holidays; these special days unlock warm, fuzzy memories or complement a theme to generate higher bids. Seasonal auction items also add some urgency and relevance to your event.
- Santa Claus or Easter Bunny visit to your home or work
- Traditional St. Patrick's Day's dinner for six
- Prime viewing spot for July 4th fireworks
- "Pew with a View" front-row seating at Christmas mass
- Limo ride to view holiday light displays
- See the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular in New York City
- Be the Grand Marshall in a parade (St. Patrick's Day, Polish Constitution Day, Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving, etc.)
- Mountain passes with ski/snowboarding lessons
Want even more ideas? If you found these silent auction item ideas useful, , Winspire News. As an added bonus, you'll automatically be entered to WIN our quarterly drawing of at least $1,000 in donated auction items! Click below to see what we're giving away next.