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Successful silent auctions depend on your ability to procure exciting, high quality items - and few items generate as much buzz as incredible vacations. Today we are excited to unveil our brand-new line of Luxury Properties for 2018-2019 designed specifically for the silent auction tables. These are stays at 140+ luxury boutique hotels and resorts around the world with lower price points than our Signature Experience packages, which are traditionally positioned as live auction items. Just like our Signature Experiences, if a Luxury Property item sells in you silent auction, you collect everything above the Nonprofit Cost. Otherwise, if the item doesn't receive any bids, you don't pay a dime. It's that easy!
If you've ever been involved with a charity silent auction, you know gift baskets are a given. They can range anywhere from $50 to $500 in value, depending on the quality and exclusivity of the items, and are popular for a few reasons: The contents are relatively simple to procure. It may be less intimidating for new donors, smaller businesses and individuals to sponsor part of an auction item or a basket rather than the big-ticket items in a live auction. (Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't ask!)
With spring fundraising season upon us, many nonprofits are hustling to procure quality items for their charity auctions. How can you generate higher bids on every item and make the silent auction worthwhile? In popular ABC sitcom Last Man Standing, funny guy Tim Allen plays Mike Baxter, a marketing director for sporting goods retailer Outdoor Man. His wife, Vanessa, is a revered geologist doubling as leader of the PTA. See below as Vanessa and Mike attend a fundraiser for the school that includes a silent auction - and one hilarious pen-and-paper bidding war. Then see if you can spot the 4 best practices we found in the clip, plus get free downloads for your next auction (like customizable bid sheet templates).
Silent auctions are a critical part of many fundraising events' success, bringing in about a third of the revenue at a typical gala or dinner event. As your organization's one-night-only storefront, you have just 3 or so hours to make money. Everything must go! So you want to take advantage of all your merchandise. Today we'll look at 6 of the most commonly asked questions on procuring silent auction items that maximize revenue, including: How do we revive an auction that's gone downhill? How do we encourage more spending during the event? What are the best-selling, highest-profit silent auction items? How do we politely turn down unwanted donations? How many items should we include? What's a "super silent auction"? Most silent auction items fetch 40 to 60 percent of their retail value (see our recent infographic on predicting total revenue). Read on for practical guidelines to ensure bids reach 50 percent retail and above. 1. Revive a Dull Auction How can our nonprofit revive a silent auction event that used to bring in thousands but has gone downhill in the past couple years? This question came to us at the end of our webinar, "10 Deadly Sins of Charity Auctions," and I suspect this participant is not the only one facing this problem.
We've all heard April showers bring May flowers, but those in the nonprofit world know what else spring brings: a peak time for event fundraising. Preparation for galas, raffles and auctions has already begun filling the calendars of many nonprofits. Auctions in particular can raise significant revenue in a short amount of time, but when it comes to procuring auction items that actually attract bidders, it's hard to know where to start. The collective sum of trusty auction standbys—think donated gift baskets, restaurant gift cards and jewelry—doesn’t draw in as much revenue as you’d like. Worse, they don’t generate the kind of “buzz” that gets people in the door, and give donors the impression of a "been there done that" event rather than an exciting shopping spree. The good news: Careful planning and some creativity can help you curate an auction catalog worth talking about. In this post, we’ll review a few essential strategies to set up your auction for success. Tip #1: Form an enthusiastic, well-informed committee dedicated to auction item procurement. It can be tempting to task a development coordinator, volunteer manager or even the executive director of your organization with procuring donated items—in addition to everything they’re already doing to get ready for the event.
As you prepare items for your nonprofit's next silent auction fundraiser, you would be inclined to think more is better. After all, who doesn’t want table after table of auction items for donors to bid on? More items means more bids means more money... right?? Well, not really. In fact, having too many items can be counterproductive and actually hamper the performance of all the items in your silent auction. Problem: Having more auction items than bidders Offering guests too many silent auction items can cause decision-making fatigue, where guests end up shopping too much - instead of actually placing bids. Just like a kid in a candy store, they spend all their time running around trying to pick their favorite instead of actually spending the money in their pocket. With too much to choose from there is also less competition for each item. If there's something for everyone, what's the point of bidding?
Developing a professional procurement packet for your auction committee will benefit both your team and the businesses they solicit for auction item donations. For your team, a procurement packet provides a way to stay organized, professional and on task. Prospective donors (businesses who you ask to donate an item for your auction), on the other hand, will appreciate being presented with professional documents containing clear information, and may be more receptive to an organization who looks like they have their act together. In this post we look at the most important pieces of an effective procurement packet. If you would like to download our own Winspire templates that contain all the pieces discussed below, you can download the Procurement Packet Starter Kit. To make your procurement packets as effective as possible, include these 3 essentials: 1. Procurement letter Face-to-face meetings are typical when asking individuals or businesses to donate items for your live or silent auction. For those you do not initially reach in person, you can mail, fax, email or hand deliver a procurement letter to their place of business. Just like face-to-face meetings, your procurement letter should provide clear information regarding your organization and how the item you are requesting will help your mission. More specifically, your letter should include: An emotional story and picture to tug at donors’ heartstrings and inspire them to donate. How donors will make an impact by donating. Opportunities for donors to be recognized for their contributions. A specific request for an item or service to be donated. How to donate an item or service. Your federal tax ID number so donors can write off their contribution*. The organization’s logo and mission statement to reinforce your goals. *Circumstances and state laws may vary. Consult executive management. 2. Donation form Donation forms are designed to ensure your committee members gather all of the information you need for each auction item they bring in. The forms are filled out by your team following the solicitation of an individual or business who has agreed to donate an auction item.
The last thing you want is for your guests to ignore the exciting silent auction items you've worked so hard to secure. Here are a few tried-and-true strategies to help draw donors to the silent auction tables and encourage more bidding activity. 1. Arrange the Room Strategically Popular retailers are very deliberate about the way they arrange stores and display merchandise to entice shoppers to spend money. The next time you walk through Nordstrom, take a look at the way items are presented in various departments. Observe everything from the amount of space separating displays to the little artistic knick-knacks that add to the "look & feel" of a collection. The same concept applies to silent auction tables, where presentation is just as important for enticing donors to bid. Consider these tips when you set up your displays: Arrange your silent auction tables with adequate space between them so guests can move freely. Incorporate visual cues such as colorful balloons, lights or signage to mark pathways and other points of interest. Set up drink stations on the opposite side of the auction-staging area so when guests want a fresh beverage they'll have to walk through the silent auction. Spruce up your tables with decorations that compliment the theme of the event or the mission of your organization. 2. Distribute a Silent Auction Item Catalog A great tool for all of your guests is to create a simple and attractive catalog in Microsoft Word with pictures and brief descriptions of all the items up for auction. Strategically place the catalog throughout the event on dining tables, at the bar and even in the bathrooms. For a link to download our professionally designed, 100%-customizable auction catalog template for Microsoft Word, click below: If you have a large selection of silent auction items, select only the top 20-30 to include in the catalog. You can also use this list of top items in the event program and to promote the event in email newsletters, on social media and on your website. The printed information will give all guests (even those who can't attend) a chance to browse the items, increasing the chances they will bid.
The key to collecting incredible auction items is a capable procurement team, but even the most skilled and connected volunteers might run into roadblocks or get too busy to find quality items. Offering your auction committee incentives shows you appreciate all they do, boosts morale and motivates them to get better donations earlier. Start by discussing potential incentives with the team – they’ll know better than anyone what motivates them. Then set procurement goals based on either the number of silent auction items or the dollar value of donations acquired. You can set goals and allocate prizes for individuals or for the entire procurement team, depending on your preference. Here are six easy ways to incentivize your procurement team for outstanding acquisitions: 1. Event Tickets Offering complementary tickets, especially for expensive dinner galas, is a great incentive for individuals who reach certain auction item procurement goals. If members from your auction committee usually work the event, reward outstanding performers with a night off to enjoy the festivities. 2. Preferred parking Preferred parking is another way to reward and recognize exceptional achievement. For events with a large number of attendees, such as school fundraisers or high-end galas, put “Reserved” signs on parking spaces for committee members who reach their goal. Or, go one step further and offer free valet for those who helped with procurement – a nice VIP touch. 3. Premium seating Offer special seating for procurement team members who are attending the event as guests. They’ll enjoy sitting at some of the best tables in the house, plus by seating the team together you’ll strengthen their relationships, which will be helpful for when they work together at future events. 4. Bidding money Set individual goals. For each achievement or goal met, provide a set amount of money for use at the live or silent auction. This can range anywhere from $75 to $300 depending on the event. Committee members can use this money to participate in the event they worked so hard to help put on, plus they might get so wrapped up in the excitement of the auction that they’ll bid even more!