Experiential Travel is the #1 selling charity auction item in the US and Canada

For many years now, experiential travel has been a top seller in charity auctions and raffles. Whether you use a no-risk travel provider or you and your committee put together travel packages yourself, offering donors incredible vacations is a great way to generate excitement and revenue at fundraising events of all sizes.

Whether you’re hosting a live, silent or online auction, or you are boosting your efforts with a winner’s choice raffle, experiential travel is the ultimate incentive to offer your donors. Why? We narrowed it down to three main reasons why travel performs so well at charity auction fundraisers:

Experiential travel packages for charity auctions

1. Travel is Unique

With virtually unlimited options for destinations and experiences all over the globe, you have a lot to work with.

Travel can mean many things: There’s leisure travel, business travel, adventure travel… even interstellar travel! But when it comes to charity auctions, most event patrons are interested in one thing: Experiential Travel.

Experiential travel is the kind of highly sought after, hard to find and unique experiences that you usually find on people’s life-long bucket lists.

What are Experiential Travel Packages for Auctions?

An experiential travel package is typically comprised of three things: airfare, lodging and a planned experience at your destination. Examples include:

  • Private behind-the-scenes wine tours in Napa Valley
  • VIP red carpet access at famous Award Shows
  • Race named in your honor at Churchill Downs

With such a variety of options (The world is your oyster!) you never have to worry about offering the same old items at your event. This is especially important in today’s event fundraising space, where donors are subjected to many of the same charity auction items year after year.

The challenge is to stand out and still provide unique opportunities for people to support your cause, which can be difficult as fundraising events continue to increase in attendance and sophistication.

Donors are veterans of the dinner gala

Most donors attend multiple charity events throughout the year. We know this because we ask them. In fact, we survey each of the thousands of winning bidders who redeem Winspire Experiences each year – first and foremost to gather feedback about their trip – but also to see if we can learn a little more about event fundraising from their perspective.

76% of donors attend at least 3 charity events each year

Our surveys have shown that 76% – that’s 3 out of every 4 of donors – attend at least 3 fundraising events per year. So that really puts the burden on you – the event organizer – to give these people something unique and different each time.

Why auction travel packages are better than gift baskets at your next charity auctionHow do you stand out?

We know everyone loves gift baskets (*cough*). But while gift baskets are great for incremental revenue during your silent auction, when it comes to your live auction, big-ticket items like unique travel experiences are what add that “WOW!” factor that helps your nonprofit stand out and earn more from the overall event.

One of our favorite questions to ask fundraising committees is:

“Would you rather take a donor out to lunch the following week to thank them for their $20 bid on a gift basket or $5,000 bid on a travel package?”

destination travel auction packagesDonors are Sophisticated Buyers

Most charity event patrons are successful people who know what they want and know how they want to spend their money. Fundraising events are great because they create that connection to your cause.

But when it comes to live and silent auctions – you need to offer things that get your donors excited. Your “one-night only storefront” needs to have quality items that stand out for every category and demographic in the room.

Prepare your audience to expect travel

When you’re planning the auction for your next event, begin with your board of directors. Go around the room and ask them, “We know you will be traveling and going on vacation this year, where is it that you want to go?”

From there, expand your survey to your most important donors. Reach out through phone calls and email campaigns with the same question: “What destinations are on your bucket list?”

Then, based on the answers you get, you can choreograph the appropriate travel packages and offer them the night of the event. The idea here is two-fold:

  1. First, you are finding out what your most important guests are more likely to bid on.
  2. Second, you are preparing these guests to anticipate big-ticket vacation packages at the event.

When you prepare your audience to expect unique travel items that correspond to their existing travel plans, they’re no longer being forced to make an impulsive decision at the time of the event. They’re more likely to make a big purchase because what was once an impulse buy becomes and informed decision.

Tropical travel packages for your charity auctionThis has the added bonus of creating more competition between bidders who arrive at the event with their eye already on a specific travel package. More competition leads to bidding wars, which leads to more opportunities for multi-selling and ultimately more revenue for your cause.


2. Travel is Popular

Seriously though… who doesn’t love a vacation?

Travel has an amazingly broad appeal. Everyone loves to travel! And you’re in luck, as it just so happens the sort of donors you are trying to cultivate travel more than your average consumer.

Travel trends for charity auction donors

In fact, more than half of winning bidders polled (53%) take 3 or more trips per year while almost half (46%) take at least 4 trips. Over a quarter of all winning bidders (26%) say they take at least 5 or more trips each year!

This is great information to use and communicate to your audience during a fundraising event. Have your auctioneer or emcee acknowledge these travel trends to get people thinking about their purchase in terms of their existing vacation plans:

“Ladies and gentlemen I know we’re all making vacation plans and we’re all traveling somewhere this year. When you’re looking at your calendar, plan on taking a trip while supporting tonight’s charity.”

If your supporters and charity event attendees are already traveling – a lot – why not give them an opportunity to access unique and priceless travel experiences while supporting your cause? This is one of the core principles behind selling no-risk travel.

people-share-experiences2People share experiences

Aside from baby photos and dogs dressed in Halloween costumes, what is the most common thing you see people posting on Facebook and Instagram? People experiencing life through travel!

A positive winning bidder experience is a great way to generate some positive buzz for your organization. Whether it’s word-of-mouth or on social media, people share their experiences. When it’s your nonprofit that’s sending these donors on the trip of a lifetime – it’s a great way to stay engaged and strengthen that relationship because it was your organization made it all happen!

travel budgets for donors who purchase auction travel packages

3. Travel Budgets

Most donors set aside a ton of cash each year for vacations.

Most well-run fundraising events primarily aim at securing donations that come from a donor’s ‘philanthropic’ budget. But recognizing that a separate ‘travel budget’ also exists can open the door to new revenue streams for your nonprofit.

According to American Express, more than half (53%) of Americans have a distinct travel budget. That percentage starts to increase dramatically when you consider the audience of your typical charity auction dinner gala.


In fact, 46% of donors who bid on travel packages stated they have a budget of at least $10,000 for these type of vacations.

People always have more to give

We often underestimate the giving power within a fundraising event. A recent study of the philanthropy landscape showed that a huge number donors – 47% – say they had more to give. This means there is often money that gets left in the room and walks right out the door at the end of an event.

If that is the case, nonprofit fundraisers need to continue looking for new opportunities for their supporters to give to their favorite cause. Having access to a travel service provider year-round can help you condition your supporters to plan their travel around what you can offer at your events. 

How much potential revenue is out there? We intend to find out. It is our mission as a company to help nonprofits redirect some of the $600 billion spent every year on leisure travel back to our clients and their causes.

How do I secure travel for my event?

We’ve established that travel sells. We’ve seen how and why it can be such a powerful tool for raising money and making donors happy. But how should you go about getting travel to use in your auction and raffle fundraisers? Does it makes sense to put these travel packages together yourself or to partner with a no-risk travel provider like Winspire?

Check out these other articles from Winspire News for answers these questions: