If your nonprofit is planning a charity auction, the most involved part of the process will likely be procuring items. You’ll need to approach businesses and providers that are willing to support your mission and offer products or services that your supporters will be excited to bid on, all in time to build out and release your auction catalog prior to the event date.
Although finding the best auction items is your team’s top priority, how you solicit item donations is just as important in ensuring you secure those items. Businesses will be impressed by a professional approach, and your organization is looking to maximize the value you gain from items while minimizing risk in procuring them.
To set your nonprofit up for success at your charity auction, this guide will cover the following aspects of how to procure auction items:
- Build an Auction Item Procurement Packet
- Procure Items That Sell Well at Auction
- Explore Item Procurement for Auctions With Winspire
At Winspire, we believe that nothing is more important than a people-centered approach. Our commitment, passion, and creativity has allowed us to produce highly sought-after travel packages for a wide variety of charity auctions. Our approach to helping organizations procure auction items is designed to benefit real people, like our nonprofit partners, their supporters, and their beneficiaries.
Build an Auction Item Procurement Packet
Developing a procurement packet will benefit both your nonprofit’s fundraising team and the businesses they request auction item donations from. For your team, procurement packets provide a way to stay organized and focused throughout the process. Prospective auction item donors will appreciate being presented with professional documents containing clear information and therefore may be more receptive to your solicitation.
Your auction item procurement packet should include three main documents: the auction item procurement letter, the in-kind donation form, and the auction wish list. Let’s explore each of these materials in more detail.
1. Auction Item Procurement Letter
In your auction item procurement letter, provide clear information about your nonprofit and how the items you’re requesting will further your mission. The letter should include:
- A story and photo related to your mission to help prospective donors connect emotionally to your cause and inspire them to contribute.
- Instructions for how to donate a product or service.
- Opportunities for donors to be recognized for their contributions.
- The specific purpose of your auction as it relates to supporting your mission.
- Your federal tax ID number so donors can receive a deduction for their contribution.
- Your organization’s logo and mission statement to reinforce your identity and message.
Create a letter template using these elements, then customize your solicitation for each donor by adding the business’s name and the item you’re requesting from them. You’ll likely conduct most of your solicitations in in-person or virtual meetings with prospective donors, so this letter can serve as a reference during those meetings. If you can’t set up a meeting, email or deliver the letter to the business to make your initial connection and then follow up by sharing the donation form if the donor agrees to contribute.
2. In-Kind Donation Form
The in-kind donation form in your packet helps your team members gather all of the information you need for each auction item they bring in. To reduce the amount of paperwork for donors, have your team fill out as much of the form as they can while communicating with each business.
Make sure your donation form includes fields to collect the following information:
- Donor’s name, business address, phone number, and email address.
- Team member’s name and contact information.
- Item name and estimated dollar value.
- Item description including quantity, size, and restrictions.
- Donor’s signature and date.
- If the donor provided the item immediately or if the team member needs to follow up to receive it.
Once each donor has reviewed and signed the donation form, have your team enter the information into a spreadsheet to ensure all of the items you’ve secured are organized. Then, send a scanned copy of the donation form to the donor’s email address as a record of their contribution and a reminder to follow up on the item’s status after the auction.
3. Auction Wish List
Additionally, include a reference for all of the auction items on your organization’s wish list. This way, team members can make their solicitations more concrete and find backup ideas if the business doesn’t agree to provide the item they requested first.
Along with these three essential documents, it can be helpful to include other informational and promotional materials in your packets, such as brochures about your nonprofit’s initiatives or flyers advertising your auction. Both new and existing supporters might be interested in learning more about your organization and the goals you’re working toward, so provide them with the resources to do so as they consider contributing to your fundraising event.
As you meet with prospective donors and walk through your auction procurement packets with them, make sure you’re asking for unique items that interest your supporters. Some of the items that sell best at auction include:
- Gift baskets. Give smaller items a higher starting value by auctioning them off together in an eye-catching themed basket. For example, you could create a “Movie Night” basket containing popcorn, boxed candy, a throw blanket, and a movie theater gift card; or a “Spa Day” basket including bath bombs, facial masks, scented lotion, and a gift certificate for a massage.
- High-end goods. Many auction participants will jump at the chance to buy jewelry, designer bags, paintings, or top-of-the-line kitchen appliances at a lower cost than their retail price. Younger supporters may also be interested in purchasing technological devices at auction, like smart watches, Bluetooth headphones, or tablets.
- Community spotlight items. Highlight the activities and people in the community your nonprofit serves by requesting items specific to that community. For example, you could auction off services from a small business like a mechanic or dry cleaner, cooking lessons taught by a chef at a local restaurant, or memorabilia from a nearby professional sports team.
- Travel and experiences. Procure a few experience-based, big-ticket items like popular entertainment tickets, behind-the-scenes tours, and immersive travel packages to serve as centerpieces of your auction. When you design promotional materials for your event, feature these experiences to catch supporters’ attention and boost attendance.
It’s important to balance quantity and quality of auction items as you work toward your event fundraising goal. Keeping track of the value of each item you procure will allow you to determine how many items you need to sell to reach that goal, and pursuing these popular types of items through trusted sources helps ensure the items’ quality.
Of the items that sell well at auction, the most challenging to procure are often the big-ticket experiences. Fortunately, there’s an easy, risk-free way to get these items for your nonprofit: partnering with a consignment travel provider like Winspire.
Winspire builds and fulfills a variety of bucket-list Experiences that auction participants are excited to bid on and will pay top dollar for to grow your event fundraising revenue. Your nonprofit can get started with Winspire in four easy steps:
- Select the Experiences you want. Add the unique travel packages that would appeal most to your supporters to your Suitcase (cart). If you have any questions about which Experiences to choose, Winspire’s Event Fundraising Consultants are happy to help.
- Promote them to your supporters. Winspire will provide images and descriptions of each package to include in your nonprofit’s marketing materials. This way, auction participants will come to the event excited to bid on your big-ticket items.
- Offer them at your event. You can sell Winspire’s Experiences more than once, and every dollar you raise above the Nonprofit Cost goes directly to your mission.
- Winners redeem their packages. Once you report which Experiences sold at your auction and provide the winners’ contact information, the winners will receive travel vouchers to book their travels through Winspire with no additional work on your organization’s end.
Your Event Fundraising Consultant will also work with you to set a minimum bid amount for each Experience. If you don’t reach that minimum bid during your auction, no transaction will take place with Winspire. Because your nonprofit only pays for the items that sell after your fundraising event, Winspire’s solutions are 100% no-risk.
How to Procure Auction Items: The Bottom Line
Procuring the right charity auction items in a professional, strategic way is critical to your event’s success. Compile an auction item procurement packet that gives your team all of the resources they need to solicit donations, make sure you’re requesting high-quality items that will sell well at auction, and consider procuring the big-ticket experiences through a no-risk nonprofit fundraising solution like Winspire.
For more information on auction items, check out these additional resources:
- The Ultimate List of 100+ Silent Auction Items. Discover more of the top-selling auction items to help you brainstorm for your nonprofit’s next event.
- 3 Quick Tips for Procuring Quality Auction Items. Fine-tune your organization’s strategy for soliciting the best possible auction item donations.
- Build Your Own Charity Auction Catalog. Once you’ve procured auction items, learn how to promote them effectively by creating a charity auction catalog.