Gift baskets are a staple of silent auctions. It’s generally easier to procure smaller, lower-value auction items than big-ticket ones, and bundling several of the smaller donations you receive into one basket gives the items a higher starting value. Plus, well-designed baskets are more unique than physical items or gift certificates alone.
To appeal to every participant in your auction, try putting together a variety of baskets, each based on a different theme. In this guide, we’ll help you get started by providing creative ideas for basket themes in the following categories:
- Food and Beverage Silent Auction Basket Ideas
- Home and Garden Silent Auction Gift Baskets
- Community Spotlight Silent Auction Baskets
- Rec and Leisure Silent Auction Basket Ideas
- Travel-Related Silent Auction Baskets
Food and Beverage Silent Auction Basket Ideas
High-quality or locally produced food and beverages are some of the easiest items to coordinate within a gift basket. Since each of your supporters will likely have different taste preferences, make sure to vary the types of food and beverages you offer in your baskets, such as:
- Tea Time. Curate an assortment of bagged and loose leaf teas in a variety of flavors, such as black, green, white, and herbal. Include accessories as well, such as a teapot or kettle, tea steeper, honey, and a tea towel.
- Coffee Lovers. For every tea drinker in your supporter base, you probably have a coffee connoisseur as well. Put together a variety of whole and ground coffee beans in different roasts and flavors, along with mugs and sweet treats.
- Chocolate Celebration. Chocolate comes in so many varieties that it’s easy to fill a basket with gourmet chocolates, hot cocoa supplies, and chocolate-covered snacks like fruit, nuts, pretzels, and espresso beans. To add an activity to the basket, consider including a chocolate fondue set or tickets to a chocolate-tasting event.
- Wine and Cheese. This classic pairing makes for an indulgent basket. Include bottles of quality red and white wine, an assortment of cheeses, crackers, and other charcuterie-board supplies. You could even increase the basket’s value by including a vineyard tour with the package.
- Craft Beer Sampler. Like with tea and coffee, for every one of your supporters who prefers a nice glass of wine, you probably have one who enjoys a good beer. Curate an assortment of bottled craft beer and hard cider—from local breweries if possible—and add in some salty snacks to go with the drinks.
- Home Chef Starter Kit. Appeal to the amateur chef or cooking show enthusiast in your supporter base with a basket containing small kitchen appliances (like a hand mixer or mini food processor), utensils, spices, and cooking oils. To add value to the basket, include a gift card to a high-end kitchenware retailer or a certificate for a cooking class.
- Kids’ Baking Party. Families often enjoy spending time together in the kitchen, so create a kid-friendly version of your home chef basket to appeal to supporters with young children or grandchildren. Include brownie mix, premade cookie dough, cookie cutters, shaped baking pans, frosting, sprinkles, and child-size aprons.
While some supporters come to silent auctions in search of permanent physical items, many would rather look for experiences or consumables that won’t clutter up their homes. Baskets themed around food and beverages are perfect for this second audience.
For silent auction participants who are looking for more permanent items or gifts for friends and family, baskets with a home-and-garden-related theme are perfect. Have several options available for this audience, including:
- New Baby Essentials. Chances are, someone in your supporter base either knows a new parent or is expecting a baby. To engage this segment of your audience, pack a basket full of blankets, wet wipes, pacifiers, bibs, picture books, baby-safe toys, and a baby monitor. If you include clothing, remember that babies outgrow clothes quickly, so opt for 3-month or 6-month sizes rather than newborn clothes.
- Garden in a Box. For the plant lovers who attend your auction, include gardening gloves, pots, seeds, succulents, a spade, and other tools in one basket. You could also throw in a gift card to a garden center to add value to the basket.
- Gift-Giving Workshop. This workstation is perfect for supporters who love giving the perfect gift. Fill this basket with rolls of wrapping paper in different patterns and textures, ribbon, gift bags, gift tags, tissue paper, colorful tape, and supplies to make homemade cards for an extra personal touch.
- Make Your Own Candles. Put together a candle-making kit for supporters who enjoy crafts. Include wax, a wax warmer or pouring pot, mason jars, wicks, color chips, an instruction book, matches or lighters, and a set of essential oils for fragrance.
- Electronic Gadgets. Tech-savvy and younger auction participants will love being able to bid on a package of top-of-the-line devices. Center the basket around one large item like a new smartphone, laptop, or tablet; then add smaller accessories like a smartwatch or fitness tracker, Bluetooth speaker, headphones, and an extra-long charging cord.
- Pet Paradise. Create two versions of this basket: one for dog owners and one for cat owners. Gather a wide selection of toys, treats, essential supplies, and certificates for pet-sitting or grooming services, all geared specifically toward each type of pet. For instance, you might include a leash and tennis balls in the dog basket, and a scratching post and catnip in the cat basket.
Depending on the time of year, you could also create home and garden baskets with seasonal themes, such as a pumpkin-carving kit or supplies for a summer cookout. Consider which holidays or events are a month or two out from your auction so supporters can consider how the basket would fit into their upcoming plans.
Local businesses are often willing to donate items for silent auctions to promote their brand, so take the opportunity to spotlight them by creating a basket of item donations you requested from a specific business. For example, you could try:
- Aspiring Artist Supplies. Partner with an art supply retailer to secure canvases, paintbrushes, paints, sketchbooks, colored pencils, pottery-making tools, and other high-quality artist’s essentials. If they offer art classes or paint-and-sip party packages, include a gift certificate to encourage the winner to visit the store.
- Auto Enthusiast. Ask an auto body shop or mechanic to donate car care supplies like glass windshield wipes, microfiber towels, spot sprays, car wax, and air fresheners. Increase the basket’s value by putting in a certificate for a service the partner provides, like oil changes, detailing, or new tires.
- Family Photo Session. Have a professional photographer in your area donate their services as the focal point of a basket, then include accessories like photo albums, picture frames, and a waterproof or polaroid camera.
- DIY Home Improvement. If you have a locally owned hardware store in your area, ask them to donate a tool kit, nails, screws, wood varnish, and instructions for DIY building projects. You could also partner with a contractor, interior designer, or electrician to add a gift certificate for a home improvement project that goes beyond DIY abilities to the basket.
The community spotlight baskets you create will depend on what businesses are most invested in supporting nonprofit causes in your community. In any case, these baskets benefit not only your organization through the revenue you generate, but also the businesses because the baskets provide publicity for them.
Rec and Leisure Silent Auction Basket Ideas
There are countless ways your supporters could choose to spend their time outside of their job, school, or other responsibilities. So, there are just as many possibilities for recreation-themed baskets that you could sell at a silent auction, including:
- Date Night. Arguably the most commonly used basket in silent auctions, you can easily put together a gift card to a fancy restaurant, tickets to a movie or live show, and transportation vouchers for your date night bundle. To enhance the display, include a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine, chocolates, and flowers in the basket.
- Spa Day. Help your supporters unwind after a long day or week with facial masks, bath bombs, fluffy slippers, candles, scented lotions, at-home pedicure supplies, and a gift certificate for a massage.
- Makeup Essentials. High-quality makeup can be expensive if you buy it one product at a time, so supporters who enjoy it will likely want to stock up on many supplies at once. Include a variety of lipsticks, eye shadow palettes, eyeliners, mascara, and makeup brushes, plus a gift card to a beauty supply store so the winning bidder can choose the face makeup products that work best for them.
- Game Night. Bring families or friend groups together for a night of fun with a basket of board games, cards, puzzles, and snack foods. Alternatively, if you can procure a popular video game system, make it the centerpiece of a basket that includes controllers, headphones, and a variety of games.
- Movie Night. In a similar vein to the game night basket, combine popcorn, boxed candy, cozy blankets, a 6-month subscription to any popular streaming service, and a gift card to a local movie theater in your movie night bundle.
- Camping Starter Kit. For your more adventurous auction participants, use a tent or cooler as a basket and fill it with a sleeping bag, solar flashlight, tabletop charcoal grill, and s’mores supplies. If you want to include weatherproof clothing or shoes in the package, put in vouchers or gift certificates so winners can visit a sporting goods store to find their size.
- All-Access City Pass. To highlight attractions in or around your city, create a bundle of tickets for two or four people each to different museums, zoos, nature centers, sporting events, or theme parks. Include a guidebook and some city-specific merchandise like t-shirts or refrigerator magnets in the basket to enhance the visual display.
- Fitness Fans. Appeal to your more active supporters with a basket containing hand weights, gym towels, a yoga mat, a reusable water bottle, and Bluetooth earbuds that will stay in place during a workout. Add a gift card for a popular activewear brand or an exercise class pass at a local gym to increase the basket’s value.
- Music Enthusiasts. Try creating several baskets based on this theme for different genres of music, such as country, pop, or classic rock. In each basket, include a gift card for a music streaming service, Bluetooth headphones, a record player with a popular vinyl record that matches the genre, relevant artists’ merchandise, and maybe even tickets to an upcoming concert.
Consider surveying your supporters ahead of time to see which leisure activities appeal most to them, and do some research into what events are coming up in your city. This way, you can be confident that you’re curating baskets your supporters will enjoy bidding on.
Travel-Related Silent Auction Baskets
Travel-related items are a top seller at silent auctions because of their broad appeal and unique qualities. Whether you create baskets themed around popular tourist destinations or fill them with travel supplies, here are our top ideas for travel-related gift baskets:
- Air Travel Essentials. Both first-time travelers and frequent flyers looking to replace their supplies will enjoy a basket containing a neck pillow, earbuds, small paperback books, a portable phone charger, TSA-approved containers for travel toiletries, and an airline gift certificate. To add both value and visual appeal, consider packaging this basket in a carry-on suitcase.
- New York Minute. Give auction participants a taste of the Big Apple with items unique to New York City. Include gift certificates for authentic NY style pizza and cheesecake, art prints of the skyline, Yankees memorabilia, Statue of Liberty figurines, subway maps, and tickets to see a touring production of a Broadway show. If you wanted to expand on this idea, you could create more baskets themed around other U.S. cities that are popular with tourists, like Chicago, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles.
- An American (or Canadian) in Paris. Transport bidders to the City of Lights with a Parisian-themed basket containing French beauty brands, cheese, croissants, macarons, vintage journals, Eiffel Tower decor, and a gift card to a French restaurant or bakery.You could also adapt this idea to spotlight any popular international city, like London, Rome, or Tokyo.
- Beach Day. Especially if your organization is located within a few hours’ drive of a beach, supporters will get a lot of use out of a basket filled with beach towels, good-quality sunscreen, a beach ball, sand toys, a boogie board or skimboard, and tropical beverages. If you’re closer to a lake or a mountain range, adapt the contents of your basket to items that could be used for those getaways.
- Road Trip. Bundle together gas station gift cards, reusable water bottles, travel snacks, sunglasses, car games, and car phone chargers to supplement your supporters’ next road trip. A trunk organizer or cooler that fits well in the backseat of a car would make a perfect container for this basket.
To turn any of these basket ideas into one of your big-ticket auction items, offer it alongside a related vacation. Experiential travel packages are often seen as the most challenging auction item to procure, but fortunately, there’s a way to make the process easier: going through a consignment travel provider like Winspire.
When your organization partners with Winspire, our Event Fundraising Consultants will help you choose the travel auction items, or Experiences, that coordinate best with your basket ideas. During your event, you can sell each package multiple times (for instance, once in combination with a basket and once on its own) to maximize your revenue. Afterwards, you’ll give a voucher to each winning bidder so they can book their trip through Winspire—there’s no additional work required for your nonprofit after the event. It’s that simple!
Winspire’s Experiences are risk-free to use because you only pay for what you sell at your event. Plus, every dollar you raise above the Nonprofit Cost (list price) goes directly to your organization!
The ideas on this list are just a few of the many possible gift baskets you could create for your nonprofit’s silent auction. Once you’ve chosen baskets that align with your supporters’ preferences, include detailed information explaining each basket’s contents and theme in your auction catalog and on the table to boost excitement and prompt higher bids. Happy fundraising!
For more information on silent auctions, check out these additional resources:
- The Ultimate List of 100+ Silent Auction Item Ideas. Make sure to supplement your baskets with a variety of other silent auction items, such as the ones on this list.
- How to Procure Auction Items: The Complete Nonprofit Guide. Discover strategies and best practices for procuring a variety of items for your nonprofit’s silent auction.
- Build Your Own Charity Auction Catalog [Template]. Learn how to showcase your silent auction baskets in a catalog so participants come to your event excited to bid on them.