4 Cures for a stagnating Spring Charity Auction Fundraiser

If your organization hosts a spring or summer fundraising event, we hope you’re getting more and more excited as the day approaches, donations roll in and plans begin falling into place.

But we know for many, the planning period is very stressful.

Today, we want to address reader questions like, “How do I refresh my 14 year event?”“Our auction used to pull in five times what we got last year. What can we do?”…”Is it time to give up and move on to another type of event?”

Our quick response: Never give up. Fundraising auctions are still a fun, fast, and efficient way to generate a lot of money for your cause. But they must be done properly.

In today’s post, we’ll focus on the quickest way to cure a stagnating event: revitalizing the auction catalog. Many factors can influence bidding and revenue, but the quality and fit of items offered is priority number one.

Read on for 4 practical cures to restore your auction to good health, including:

  1. Evaluate sales history
  2. Apply a hefty dose of “WOW” factor
  3. Start from the ground up
  4. Consider bestselling items

Best of all, these tips are perfect for getting a first-time auction off to a roaring start. Let’s begin!

Auction Rx 1: Evaluate sales history.

Whether your auction is live, silent or online, it’s critical to put out the right items for your audience.

The best auction items appeal to many people in your audience, complement the event theme, and have high potential for significant bids.

How can you determine what’s right for your audience?

First, look carefully at past revenue. What items have sold like hotcakes in the past? Which ones were duds? Focus your procurement efforts on items with a history of good sales.

(Important note: Anything that didn’t get a bid last year, should not be put out again this year.)

Auction Rx 2: Apply a hefty dose of the “WOW” factor.

This is the tricky part!

A recent survey by the National Auctioneers Association revealed the #1 reason 93% of all event attendees go to events, is to have fun. Your audience wants to be delighted and have a great time!

Unfortunately, predictable items take all the “sizzle” out of the event.

Are you repeating auction items year after year? Think: the same dinner at the President’s house, the same autographed hockey jersey or football jersey, the same gift cards and baskets…

In short, how buzzworthy is your auction catalog?

If you’ve noticed revenue dipping downward, it’s time to jumpstart your event with some creativity, a blank slate, and truly exciting items worth the high bids you’re aiming for.

Auction Rx 3: Start from the ground up.

At a “wish list” or procurement party, gather your auction committee around a blank sheet of paper. Try coming up with a fresh new theme. And if revenue has really gone south, commit to not procuring any of the live auction items used in previous years.

Rest assured there are still limitless possibilities for items your audience has never seen before. For inspiration, check out Winspire’s list of over 400 amazing auction items (free download).


Auction Rx 4: Consider bestsellers.

While you want to keep the focus on procuring new and surprising items, there are tried-and-true top sellers that capture most everyone’s attention. Food & wine (private dinners, vintage wines, brewery tours); sports (equipment and tickets); and travel (bucket-list Experiences) top the list.

Experiential Items:

A Must-Have in Any Live Auction

Create memories, not clutter. Studies show people of all ages are yearning to create lifelong memories rather than collect more stuff. Experiential items like travel packages, concerts and classes get people emotionally involved and more likely to pay top dollar.

Appeal to younger donors. Auctioneer Danny Hooper notes, “The big supporters in the past are not the big supporters today, and big sales are being made to young professionals with new money to spend.” This generation in particular is interested in creating memories while supporting causes they believe in.

Sidestep a “glass ceiling” for bids. The value of experiential items is more subjective. Bidders are less likely to know the value of tickets to sold-out Broadway hit Hamilton, versus a 55” flat screen TV and the like.

Bottom line: Premium auction items, especially experiential items, sell more tickets, get higher bids and ensure the live auction is the highlight of the night.


As your next fundraising event approaches, try some of these auction cures and watch results soar.