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For over a decade now, experiential travel has been a top seller in auctions and raffles. Travel is unique, appeals to just about everyone (who doesn’t love a vacation?!) and, best of all, people already budget thousands annually for vacations.
Travel packages add the “WOW!” factor that separates your event from a crowded fundraising space.
Whether you procure your own trips or partner with a reputable travel provider like Winspire, you want to be smart about it. Travel packages are the highlight of any live auction, so you don’t want to squander a cent of your biggest revenue potential.
Today we will highlight some of the major opportunities created by offering travel to your patrons, both for the night’s profits and years to come. Get 20 specific, practical steps to:
- Select the best travel for your audience
- Place trips in your auction or raffle
- Promote travel before and during the event
- Profit as much as possible from each package
To help, we also created a handy slideshow presentation demonstrating these strategies – check it out above! If you’re considering giving donors the chance to buy travel in support of your cause, use this guide to make the most of each item.
Auctions are like fishing.
You put out different items as different types of bait so you can catch bids from a diverse audience. Present the wrong items, and you won’t get any nibbles.
Selection is everything—especially when it comes to travel.
How can you know what Experiences and destinations will interest your audience? Get know your attendees.
- Talk to major donors. Talk to your biggest and most faithful donors in advance, and find out where they want to travel. What’s on their bucket list? Having a donor or board member see something in the auction they specifically requested can have a tremendous positive impact on that relationship.
- Analyze previous sale data. You can also gauge potential interest and viability of repeat packages based on prior sales. What has worked? Which items rarely sell? If an item sells far above its retail value, approach the donor about donating that package again as soon as possible (after you’ve shown plenty of appreciation for their support!)
- Survey all donors. You can survey all registrants (or even your entire database) using free tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. This allows you to get a general idea of what types of packages they are most interested in. Even better: You might be able to snag a few extra donations—if you’re able to ask the right questions! For sample questions to ask before an event, see below.
In addition to understanding your audience, you want to offer packages that have broad appeal (to maximize the number of potential bidders in the room) and high perceived value (to garner high bids).
As providers of fundraising travel experiences since 2008, we have found top-selling trips share these 3 basic characteristics:
- They’re complete. A package with the highest perceived value is complete, meaning you’ve bundled the whole enchilada: airfare, lodging and a planned experience. Offering just one of these components as an item in your live or silent auction simply doesn’t get the same response as a cohesive package.
- They aren’t necessarily local. There is a misconception that local travel does well because of familiarity or convenience. In reality, bidders don’t think (or spend) that way. You want to create a luxury shopping experience at the eventraff, and traveling from one side of the country to another feels much more valuable and exclusive than a weekend trip to the next town over.
- The price point matches the audience. Consider the demographic and income level of the audience. How much are donors spending on vacations each year? If you don’t know, ask. This minimizes the chances of overestimating—or more commonly, underestimating—your audience’s giving potential.
To download a list of our top 10 best selling trips, click below. Could you send your donors to one of these destinations?
Offering a Winspire trip costs nothing upfront and requires no extra work to procure or fulfill. Plus, you’ll be assigned a dedicated Fundraising Specialist toi give valuable insight as to which packages are currently selling best in your area.
Nonprofits often don’t realize the different avenues they have to raise money with travel, so let’s cover the placement of items within your event.
This is generally the order in which travel items sell best:
- Live auction. This is always the best place to sell travel. Your energetic benefit auctioneer can paint a picture of the trip in donors’ minds, and build momentum needed for a bidding war.
- Super Silent Auction. There are people at your event that would love to support your cause but don’t want to raise their hands in a live auction. A super silent auction is a great way to get everyone involved. To do: Set aside a special table just for your very best silent auction items like travel. Distinguish the table from the rest of your offerings by using special lighting, a digital display or other presentation pieces. For more, see “Sshhh…Have You Heard About the Super Silent Auction?“.
- Silent Auction. This method is best suited for trips with a lower price point.
- Raffles. One really cool way you can use no-risk travel is hosting a “Winner’s Choice Raffle.” simply reserve 3-4 vacations, and let the winner choose their grand prize. Offering a variety of packages (say, one European destination, one family trip and one wine trip) appeals to a wider audience and sells more tickets. Check out our free raffle guide and ticket templates below.
- Online Auctions. Online auctions give supporters around the world the chance to support your event and don’t cost much to hold.
Nonprofits typically use 3-5 travel packages at their events. Depending on the makeup of your auction, you may be splitting up your no-risk packages throughout the live, super silent, silent, and so on.
One thing we don’t recommend: filling your entire auction with no-risk travel. Although the trips don’t take extra effort to procure, you don’t want to overload the auction and thus dilute bids. Keep travel unique and buzzworthy by limiting the selection.
To get every cent out of those valuable travel packages, pre-event promotion is key.
First, you want to give your bidders as much notice as possible that you will offer travel. While much of your auction’s success relies on “impulse buys,” undoubtedly some donors will hesitate to buy big-ticket items like trips on a whim. Get the word out to your entire supporter base by offering sneak peaks of your best items. Here’s a few simple ways to promote travel:
- Email campaigns. Pair sensory details describing the trip with exciting images or video of the destination.
- Print or direct mail flyers.
- Social media posts. Try creating a Pinterest board for your live auction items, posting weekly item highlights on Facebook, and tweeting event updates a couple times a week.
- Auction catalog preview. This can be hosted right on your event website and be shared on your social media sites and via email to all your donors.
- Preselling, or “priming the pump.” This means getting a verbal agreement from one or multiple donors that they will bid on a trip. Not only will you select better packages for your audience, you’ve already created competition for an item before the bidding even begins.
Think of your event as a one-night-only storefront. You’ve got just 3 to 4 hours between its grand opening and liquidation, so every item, every minute counts.
You need shelves flush with both high quality and appropriately-priced products.
1. Setting a minimum bid. If you offer no-risk consigned travel at your event (like Winspire Experiences), it’s important to establish the amount of profit you want to make prior to selling the package. Do you want to make $500? $1,000? (We typically recommend starting at least 20% above the package price.)
Set each trip’s minimum bid by adding your desired profit onto the Nonprofit cost. This guarantees a significant return from the first raised paddle.
2. Sell multiples. This is a major advantage of no-risk travel: Unlike donated items, nearly every Winspire package can be sold to more than one interested bidder.
Think of red-hot items like tickets to Broadway’s Hamilton (plus cast meet-and-greet!), or great group trips like the Napa Valley Wine Train. It’s entirely possible more than one donor will be interested in these items. Fortunately, our packages are quick and easy to sell multiple times. Here’s how.
Let’s say you have 3 bidders competing for that $3,000 trip to Napa Valley. When the bidding reaches $4,000, you can stop the bidding and sell it to all three and make $1,000 profit on each sale for $3,000 in total profit. That is twice as much money as you would make if bidding kept going to, say, $4,500 (netting you $1,500), but the other two bidders dropped out.
Selling multiples is a highly effective method for raising a lot of money very quickly. In a live auction setting, the key is having an informed, high quality benefit auctioneer at the helm.
3. Secure underwriters. Seek out underwriters to pay for trips in advance of your event.
Just as you might get sponsors for the band, the centerpieces, or the program, you can offer local businesses and individuals the chance to sponsor a travel package for your fundraiser. Not only is this an easy way for them to contribute, they’ll get extra public recognition in the auction catalog, other promotional materials and especially on stage during the live auction. You can picture the auctioneer saying, “And up next we have an absolutely incredible getaway to Bermuda that was graciously donated by Mr. & Mrs. Jones….”
Donors love to be recognized, and giving a supporter the opportunity to be cheered aloud for donating a once-in-a-lifetime trip can be a major motivating factor.
For help acquiring travel underwriters, download the free event sponsorship kit (with customizable letter and form templates!) below.
4. Having a great experience turns winning bidders into future donors. Lastly, consider profits in the long-term context of donors you can attract, identify or retain through travel.
Many times, donors return from their amazing trips talking about their trip and what destinations they hope are offered at next year’s event.
Utilizing a full-service travel agency not only reduces your cost and headache after the event—no trip fulfillment required on your end—it also ensures a positive winning bidder experience, which will reflect wonderfully on your organization and event.
At the end of the day, your winners won’t remember Winspire as much as the event where they won the trip of a lifetime while supporting an incredible cause.