Many nonprofits find a live auction to be one of the most lucrative fundraising events they run. Participants have the opportunity to meet other passionate supporters and get caught up in a fun, competitive atmosphere as bidding wars ensue. This entertainment value combined with the opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind items creates a positive attendee experience while bringing in revenue to fund your organization’s mission.
The key to a successful live auction is procuring the right items. Your fundraising event team needs to focus on finding items that interest supporters, bring in bids of various sizes, and are reasonably simple for your organization to secure.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the best live auction items, organized into four popular categories:
- Travel-Related Live Auction Items
- Arts and Leisure Live Auction Item Ideas
- Food and Beverage Live Auction Item Ideas
- Family-Friendly Live Auction Items
At Winspire, we understand the challenges that come with finding the right live auction items—and how essential it is to put together a fundraising event that excites your supporters. Our years of experience in event planning and auction item procurement have prepared our team to help your nonprofit pull off a successful live auction. Let’s get started!
Travel-Related Live Auction Items
Travel-related items are best sellers at nonprofit auctions for several reasons. Putting together a few experiential vacation packages adds unique big-ticket items to your auction, allowing you to bring in some of your live auction’s largest bids. Plus, travel appeals to a wide range of supporters.
Some of our favorite ideas for live auction items themed around experiential travel include:
- Stays at luxury beach resorts and lessons in water sports like surfing and sailing
- Flights and hotel stays for a domestic destination of the winner’s choice
- Holiday-season trip to New York City for VIP viewing of either the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square
- Trip to Washington D.C. with private tours of the U.S. Capitol, White House, national monuments, and Smithsonian museums
- Sightseeing tour of a popular international tourist destination, like Paris, London, or Tokyo
- Trip to the Kennedy Space Center and meeting with an astronaut
- Ski chalet stay, mountain passes, and top-of-the-line skiing or snowboarding equipment
While these travel-related items are popular and lucrative, they’re often the most challenging type of auction item to procure. Fortunately, there’s a way to make this process easier for your nonprofit: partnering with a consignment travel provider like Winspire.
Explore Travel Auction Items With Winspire
Winspire builds unique charity vacation packages that nonprofits across North America can use to bring in more revenue at auction fundraisers. Your organization can get started with Winspire in four easy steps:
- Browse Winspire’s vacation packages, or Experiences, and choose the ones that would appeal most to your supporters.
- Promote your chosen Experiences to your supporters—Winspire will provide photos of each vacation that you can use in your event marketing materials.
- Offer the vacation packages at your event risk-free, because you only pay for the Experiences that sell at your event.
- Provide a voucher to each winning bidder so they can work with Winspire to book their vacation—there’s no additional work required for your organization!
When you sell Winspire’s Experiences at your live auction, every dollar you raise above the Nonprofit Cost (listed price for each Experience) goes directly to your organization, helping you maximize your event revenue and fund your mission.
Your supporters likely spend their free time in a wide variety of ways. Whether they enjoy sports, performing arts, or simply relaxing outside of work, the right exclusive items or unique activities can bring in big bids. For example, you could offer:
- Tickets to an upcoming Super Bowl, World Series, World Cup, or Olympic Games
- Opportunities to throw out the first pitch or do a coin toss at a professional game
- Packages of signed memorabilia from a specific sports team (such as jerseys, balls, and baseball cards)
- Seats at a live taping of a popular talk show or game show
- Behind-the-scenes tours of film or TV sets
- Tickets to a movie premiere, including professional photos on the red carpet
- Front-row seats and backstage passes for a popular concert or Broadway show
- Signed instruments formerly owned by famous musicians
- Tickets to a major entertainment awards show like the Oscars or Grammys
- All-inclusive spa packages with vouchers for massages, facials, mani-pedis, and other treatments
To find items that your supporters want to win, consider sending out a survey about their preferences in sports and entertainment, especially what their dream experiences in those areas would be. It’s also useful to research what concerts, award shows, and sporting events are coming up to ensure your offerings align with current trends.
Like with arts and leisure, live auction items that involve food and beverages need to appeal to supporters’ different tastes. Some of the top options include:
- Four-course dinner at a high-end restaurant and tickets to a show afterwards
- Behind-the-scenes tour of a brewery, Q&A session with the owner, and beer sampler
- Vineyard tour, wine tasting experience, and bottles to take home
- Winner’s choice of meal prepared at their home by a celebrity chef or the winner of a cooking show
- Dinner with a city councilor, mayor, or governor
- Private cooking lessons with a professional chef
- Have a menu item named after the winner at a local restaurant or bakery
While some auction participants might be looking for permanent physical items, many prefer to win either experiences or consumable items that don’t clutter up their homes. Offering live auction items themed around food and beverages covers the categories of experiences and consumables at the same time!
Chances are, some of your auction participants will be parents or grandparents looking for kid-friendly items. If they see one-of-a-kind activities for children and families in your auction catalog, they’ll be excited to bid. Cater to this segment of your nonprofit’s audience with items such as:
- Day-in-the-life experiences for different careers, like firefighter or pilot
- Opportunities to meet famous people from the surrounding communities, such as athletes or children’s book authors
- Behind-the-scenes tour of a zoo
- Overnight with friends at an aquarium or children’s museum
- After-hours access at an amusement park or arcade
- Birthday party packages including an activity like mini golf or laser tag, a custom cake from a local bakery, and a visit from a performer dressed as an animated character
Family-friendly auction items are often just as popular with the kids who benefit from them as they are with the adults who bid on them. You’ll not only engage your current supporters who have children or grandchildren, but also introduce your organization and its mission to the youngest members of your community.
The ideas in this guide are just a few of the many possibilities you could consider for your nonprofit’s live auction. Remember to communicate effectively with supporters to understand their preferences, then take those into consideration as you finalize your catalog. Additionally, when you procure each item, ensure quality and minimize risk by working with the right providers—such as Winspire for travel and experience-based items!
For more information on items for nonprofit auctions, check out these resources:
- How to Procure Auction Items: The Complete Nonprofit Guide. Discover tips for procuring different categories of live auction items in the easiest and most professional way.
- Design Your Own Charity Auction Catalog [Template]. Learn more about showcasing your live auction items in a well-designed auction catalog.
- The Ultimate List of 100+ Silent Auction Item Ideas. If you’re hosting a silent auction alongside (or instead of) a live one, explore the types of items that sell well at those events.