By Kevin Spykerman, Winspire Senior Sales Consultant
A benefit auction is one of the most valuable fundraising tools available, not just because it provides a way to raise a lot of money in a short period of time, but also because it is the ideal vehicle for making personal and lasting connections with your supporters.
All too often, however, the auction committee views procurement for the auction as a daunting task, which makes them wonder if it is worth the time and energy. The short answer is, ‘yes.’
Here are a few tips for making auction procurement more efficient, more effective, and easier.
1. Make a plan
Before you reach out to potential donors, conduct a meeting with your procurement committee. Since your committee is a group of people who are behind your cause and have already stepped up to the plate to support the event, they are a great resource. What items will appeal to the guests? What items will be irresistible? What items are your attendees already out purchasing?
2. Make a list, but one that isn’t too long
Some auction chairs mistakenly think as long as they have a large number of items, the auction will be successful. But this is not the case. If it were, we all would send out thousands of support letters asking for anything to be donated.
Instead, have your committee members think about who the guests will be. What types of things do these people go out and buy?
Next, ask your committee members if they know anyone who may be able to donate these types of items.
Finally, make a list of very specific items that you’d like to feature at your event. Include who might be able to donate such an item and which of your committee members is in charge of asking that prospect.
3. Don’t forget to think big
Enticing, unique auction items, especially for the live auction, will add excitement to your event. Attendees are savvy buyers and they know where to find a deal. Try and present items at your event that are hard to find or ones that can’t be purchased by the public.
Offering the opportunity to drive five exotic cars in one afternoon is a great idea. The more unique the experience, the more people will get excited and the more money they will spend.
4. Remember to include travel packages
One area that almost every household spends money on each year is travel. Every day people are visiting travel websites to book their yearly vacations. Wouldn’t it be nice if some or not all of the proceeds from these trips went to your organization rather than the travel site? This is one area nonprofits can easily tap into if they have the right products in front of the donors.
5. Think of your auction as a shopping experience
If you head to the mall on Saturday afternoon, you will see hundreds, maybe thousands, of people roaming the stores. Malls appeal to the masses by offering stores stocked with highly desirable items displayed in ways that encourage people to open their wallets. Whereas some shoppers will be purchasing items they have been saving for, the majority will be purchasing items they are seeing for the first time.
People have money to spend if the right products are in front of them. So take a lesson from the retail industry: make sure you have the right products available at your auction and feature them in ways that appeal to the guests.
This is especially true when it comes to gift certificates. Don’t just place a bid sheet for a gift certificate on a table and expect that to grab the attention of your guests. If, for example, the item is a gift certificate for yoga lessons, pair it with a yoga mat and silk eye pillow. If it’s a gift certificate for a ski package in Colorado, include photos of the resort and maybe even a plastic snowman.
And for the biggest, most coveted items, we suggest hiring a professional benefit auctioneer. Having the right auctioneer can increase your revenue far beyond what you will pay for their services. Live auctions are about momentum, and if you don’t have the right person driving the auction, momentum will be lost and dollars won’t be spent.
If you have a committee member who auctioneers the event, consider having a professional auctioneer sell the items while the committee member has a second microphone and interacts with the audience, trying to get people he or she knows to bid.
Take a new approach to your auction this year and create a shopping experience for your attendees. Go after items your donors can’t say no to, or even better have items they can’t find anywhere else.
If you need reassurance that donors have money to spend, take an afternoon and walk the long stretch of stores at your local mall. If the right products are presented, your guests will spend the money.