7 benefits consignment auction items WinspireThe scenario: You’ve bundled enough donations for four or five big-ticket packages in the live auction. You’re confident the group dinner with a private chef, red-hot concert tickets and box suite at the baseball game are going to inspire lucrative bidding wars amongst your donors.

That said, your current packages aren’t quite enough to fill the 30 to 45 minutes you’ve allotted for the live auction.

Now what?

One increasingly popular fundraising strategy: Round out your offerings with a few consignment auction items. These are items you pay for only if they sell, at the minimum price you set. You keep everything above the price of the item; if nothing sells, you don’t pay a dime.

Using consignment provides an instant boost to your bottom line – but that’s not all it can do to benefit your organization. Today we’re looking at 7 perks of consignment auction items besides live auction revenue, including:

  1. Cultivate major donors.
  2. Diversify your auction offerings.
  3. Spend less time on procurement.
  4. Spend less time on fulfillment of auction items.
  5. Raise funds through fixed-price opportunities (like games and raffles).
  6. Offer group experiences with multiple sales.
  7. Expand event sponsorship opportunities.

Let’s start with an overview on this important revenue generator.

Consignment Overview

Winspire twins only smallWhat are consignment auction items?

Consignment (in a charity auction) refers to items that are free to use in your event: you only purchase the item if it sells. This unique fundraising strategy offers nonprofits the opportunity to partner with for-profit companies that specialize in big-ticket items, like travel packages, and offer them in fundraisers with no upfront cost or risk.

In a recent webinar, benefit auctioneer Renee Jones of National Fundraising Solutions noted, “I’ve been in auction fundraising and teaching seminars for so long, and what I’ve found is that consignment packages are more important now than they were 20 years ago.”

Benefit 1: Cultivate major donors.

Offering high quality consignment packages creates multiple opportunities to strengthen the relationship between your supporters and your cause.

Identify major donors

One way consignment facilitates relationships with major donors is by identifying those with a significant capacity to give.

Let’s say you’re auctioning off a trip to Ireland, and five people in the room raise their hands to bid. No matter who wins the item, you now know five supporters with deep enough pockets to bid on a high-end item, plus the desire to support your organization.

Knowledge of a donor’s willingness and capacity to give is invaluable to any development strategy. Big-ticket trips give generous people a reason to raise their hands and say they are willing to give – so you want to mark down each and every person interested in the package, then take them out to lunch.

After all, who would you rather meet one-on-one: the person who bid $300 on a gift basket, or the person who bid $3,000 on a travel package?

   FACT:    1 in 3 winning bidders of Winspire packages say they had little to no prior exposure with the organization where they bought the trip.

Discover donor interests

You can also use the fundraising auction to learn more about your donors’ passions. One way to find out where your audience wants to travel, is to ask. Try sending out a pre-event survey to past donors, social media fans and/or your board.

“In my survey, four board members may say they want to go to Italy, and the committee members are also writing, ‘Oh my gosh, I’d love to go to Italy!’ With consignment, we can find a great Italy package,” Jones says. “When I know I’ll have two strong bidders going at it, I can plan to make the trip a profit center for the organization, and perhaps sell a third or fourth.” (More on selling multiples in Benefit 6.)

Piazza Navona, Rome. Italy

Benefit 2: Diversify auction offerings.

“In the live auction, one thing that’s really nice to be able to do is offer your top bidders choice. Consignment packages allow us to cross pollinate opportunities that organically grown packages sometimes can’t do,” Jones says.

With the global reach of consignment providers, you can offer packages to the tropics, historic Europe, South America adventure and more, all for no upfront cost.

Partnering with a consignment provider empowers your nonprofit to send donors to unique, exciting destinations around the globe – no matter what experiences are on your guests’ bucket lists.


Benefit 3: Spend less time on procurement.

It takes countless hours to put together and fulfill a big-ticket travel package, and event planners need to maximize limited resources. Consignment packages offer a time-saving, turnkey solution.

“Do you have the resources within the development or special event team to secure 5, 7, 8 strong packages for the live? If not, maybe you’re able to secure 3. Then you would consider 2 consignment packages,” Jones says. “Fact is, it’s very hard to grow an organic package. If your organization is blessed with it, then that’s great, and I am so thankful that you have those resources. But even within those resources, there’s limitations.”Networking in community

What could you be doing with that extra time not spent on procurement?

Consider canvassing the community for business leaders, entrepreneurs, civic leaders, and C-suite executives; promoting the event; and securing more sponsorships.

You want to plan your event with the future in mind, and steps like networking and promotion are key to building a sustainable, long-lasting event community.

Benefit 4: Let travel pros handle the fulfillment of complex auction packages.

“Whether you’ve been preparing 9, 12, 18 months, even 2 years for a special event, or this all fell in your lap 30 days ago, it’s a huge relief to know that when the event’s over, fulfilling special packages on the backend is all taken care of,” Jones asserts.

It’s hard to overstate the benefits of being able to hand off your winning bidders to a reputable travel provider.

“Many of my clients rely on Winspire and your team because for me, as a professional benefit auctioneer, I have to know beyond a shadow of a doubt when I sell it on stage, that you’re my partner in this process,” Jones says. “I have to know that what I’m representing is full transparency to the audience and what their expectations are. There’s no fine print that I missed without my readers. I’ve found working with Winspire ensures the guest’s experience is free from anxiety and hiccups.”

Winspire Booking Agency

The long-term benefit of satisfied winning bidders? Greater sustainability of your event. Big-ticket items elevate the caliber of, and lend credibility to, your entire fundraiser. And satisfied returning attendees will be eager to buy another no-risk travel package at your event.

Benefit 5: Raise money with fixed-price opportunities (like games and raffles).

Here’s how one of Jones’ events used consignment packages in fixed-price revenue opportunities outside the live auction:

“One of my events had 125 guests. (It doesn’t matter how many people, but a sweet spot for raffles and games is 200 – 300 guests.) We had a consignment package that cost $3,000 and was a bit too nice, kind of outside the scope of our live. I didn’t think we could reach its full potential price in the live, but we still wanted to make something really special.

So, we built it into a raffle by selling a hundred chances at $50 a piece, and guess what: The audience ate it up like candy! We created a $5,000 revenue stream and great profit.

We needed a low buying opportunity for guests that night, and it was a lot of fun. Everyone enjoyed it.”


Benefit 6: Offer group travel (and create the entertainment highlight of the night) by selling multiples.

Sell MultiplesMany consignment auction items (like Winspire Experiences) can be sold virtually limitless times. Jones’ highest multiple item sale? Fourteen times!

“This was just a great price point package that appealed to multiple parents in my audience. It became really fun after the sixth or seventh time, because then I was like, ‘Well, who else wants to go?’ Everybody was in it, it was fun, and it raised a lot of money. I could have never done that with an organic package.

Maybe you have a family or a business sponsor that has a home in Park City, and maybe you can sell it twice – but can you sell it six times? That’s typically what happens to me on the consignment package side.”

Group and intergenerational travel is becoming more popular as well. If more than one couple wants to travel together, the auctioneer can likely sell the same consigned package multiple times. The couples can then book the trip for the same dates, creating an exciting group experience.

  ADDED BONUS:     Winspire rewards nonprofits that sell packages multiple times. If you sell any one of our packages three or more times, you get a credit worth $300 or more to use in your next event. The more times you sell a package, the more credits you’re going to accrue.

For more, see “What is the Winspire Multiples Credit?

Benefit 7: Expand sponsorship opportunities with underwriting.

Finally, turn consignment auction items into 100% profit by procuring auction item sponsorships, also known as underwriters.

Just as you can get expenses like mobile bidding, the band, the caterer and the auctioneer underwritten, you can also get consignment packages underwritten. Local businesses and individuals alike love how easy and rewarding it is to underwrite the cost of a consignment travel package and get recognized in the live auction as if they donated it.

This is a great option for supporters without products or services that lend themselves to auction items, like doctors and lawyers.

The auctioneer might say something like, ‘This incredible golf experience is brought to you by Mr. and Mrs. Smith’, or ‘Special thanks to XYZ Law Firm for their donation of a 7-person villa in Fiji.’


No consignment policy, no problem

Underwriting is also a great way to get around a “no consignment” policy and still refresh your live auction. You’re much more likely to get approval for consignment packages if you’re pocketing 100% of the proceeds.

Retain donors with changing circumstances

Here’s Jones’ experience working with a family that used to donate their mountain retreat each year but decided to underwrite instead…

“This happened to me last November for one of my clients. A family had always donated a mountain retreat, and it was interesting because they normally sold it once, but the family approached me before the event. They called my office and said, ‘You know what, we’ve always enjoyed donating it, but our daughter’s graduating and there’s just circumstances that are changing with regard to their connections at school.’

I said, ‘Well, what would you like to do?’

They said, ‘Instead of it being our home, we would like to underwrite a package of something similar. Just let us know what the cost would be.’

They still wanted to support the organization. It’s just they didn’t want the personal connection of having to coordinate what week, and the cleaning services, all these things that came to it. Offering underwriting took the pressure off.

Life circumstances can take an organic package donor out of the system. Instead of losing them all together, reach out and see if they’ll underwrite something similar.


Your turn – Have you used consignment auction items? What are the top reasons you’d recommend or dissuade someone from adding consignment items to their fundraiser?