A guest post from Kelly Velasquez-Hague at OneCause
In order for your auction to be a success, you need exciting items. Determining which items to procure and how to solicit them can be challenging, even for the experienced fundraiser. You should include a variety of items in your auction that engage audiences and encourage them to bid. The main questions are: Which items will resonate? And where can I get them?
Let’s start with the first – what items should I put in my auction?
This all depends on your nonprofit’s mission and audience. Nonprofits and donors are all different, but they share a common passion for making the world better through your cause. So to determine the best items, ask yourself:
- Popular: Are they popular with consumers? If shoppers like them, your donors will too.
- Unique: Are they one-of-a-kind? Specialty items and experiences resonate well.
- Rare: Are they hard to get? Rare or hot market items fare well in any auction!
- Mission Focused: Do they connect to your mission or offer opportunities to engage with your cause? Mission related items or experiences can be a big hit.
Whatever you choose, your items should inspire multiple bids, create excitement, and entice donors to engage in your fundraiser.
Now, for the question of where do I get my items?
To maximize revenue and minimize expenses, your nonprofit will have to get creative when it comes to procuring in-kind donations.
We recommend the following best practices to help you and your team solicit items that are guaranteed to motivate donors and help you drive auction success:
- Form an item procurement team.
- Consider your audience.
- Brainstorm item ideas.
- Write donation request letters.
Whether you’re hosting a silent auction, a live auction, or an online fundraiser, these best practices can mean the difference between hitting your goals and falling flat. Let’s dive in.
Form an item procurement team.
The item procurement process has multiple moving parts, so we recommend dispersing responsibilities across a team. Create an item procurement committee that will work together to solicit the best items for your charity auction. This allows you to cast the widest net and resources to secure the best items with little to no cost.
When building your item procurement team, look for the following individuals:
- Staff members
- Devoted supporters
- Community or board members with social connections
- Creative individuals (artists, entertainers, designers, etc).
- Corporate supporters who’ve donated in the past
Taking the time to select people who are passionate, connected, and creative ensures will give you the widest reach and diverse interests needed to assemble an amazing auction!
Consider your audience.
Your audience’s interests and demographics will largely determine what types of items or packages people will be interested in purchasing, whether that’s a local dining experience, nonprofit merchandise, or even a day spent playing with puppies if you’re an animal welfare organization.
If you’ve hosted an auction in the past, review past performance data to understand which items people liked best. Consider which items received the most bids, which items received the least bids, and the average bidding amount. This helps you zero in on the types of items your audience engaged with as well as their price range, and your auction non-performers (so you don’t spend time procuring them again) .
Besides data from past events, ask around! Talk to your top supporters and browse other local charity auctions. Getting first-hand knowledge on what’s hot and what’s not can help you tailor your auction to the trending needs and wants of your donors. We guarantee, put what they want, what they like, what they can’t easily get in your auction, and you will reap fundraising success!
Brainstorm item ideas.
According to the OneCause guide to charity auction items, the most popular items tend to fall into these categories:
- Classic auction items, like gift baskets, certificates, and memorabilia.
- Auction Wow Factors, travel packages, unique dining experiences, or VIP seats at the next big sporting event.
- Auction baskets, bundled items that together create fun and package value.
- One of a kind art, which can perform incredibly well in school auctions or for causes where hand-made items are highly valued.
Include a variety of items and spread them out across categories. Expanding your item selection can help your nonprofit appeal to different donor interests and budgets, further maximizing bids.
Write donation request letters.
Once you’ve made a wish list of your ideal item selection, you’re ready to begin the outreach process for support. Requesting sponsor or in-kind donations is essential to any fundraiser auction, as it will be too costly for your organization to buy all the auction items.
A great way to receive support for your auction fundraiser is by researching businesses with corporate philanthropy programs. According to Re:Charity, corporate charity comes in many forms, including in-kind donations and sponsorships.
For example, your nonprofit can ask a restaurant to provide a free dining experience that you can auction off in exchange for marketing at your future events. Alternatively, your organization can request funding for costly event expenses like catering or venue expenses.
Your nonprofit can also reach out to supporters who may have access to items you need or are willing to donate funds. You’ll need to craft an effective donation request letter. Your letter should be personalized to the recipient, provide a clear call to action listing the items you are looking for or the financial support you need, and explain the impact of their contribution and how the auction’s results will help power your nonprofit’s mission.
To make your donation request more effective, add storytelling elements that demonstrate the tangible impact your nonprofit has on the community. For instance, you can describe a constituent your nonprofit helped or a recent project you completed and how this was made possible through donor support. Use vivid detail and emotional appeal to encourage your recipient to take action.
Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings over 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause.
As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors and raise more funds for their cause.