So you need to raise money for your nonprofit. You’ve already updated your GuideStar Nonprofit Profile to the Gold participation level, demonstrating your commitment to transparency to your funders. And now, you’ve decided that the next step towards reaching your goal is to use a silent auction at your fundraiser. You may have even identified a mobile fundraising platform to expand your reach and raise more money.
But before finalizing plans for your fundraiser, you will first need to collect amazing silent auction items! A great first step here is identifying the best kinds of items to pursue. With your silent auction items, you will want to attract a large donor base and create some extra excitement around your fundraiser. With so many options for items out there, prioritizing the best items for your audience can quickly become overwhelming.
Once collected, enticing silent auction items will create additional buzz and awareness around your cause, and will also provide another channel through which your audience can donate. Great silent auction items also create a halo effect for your fundraiser and cause. When someone wins an amazing silent auction item at your fundraiser, they will associate the positive memories from using that item with your fundraiser, and will be likely to return again next year! This is a great way to establish a loyal donor base.
To save you some time in your busy fundraiser planning schedule, we’ve put together a quick list of the best silent auction items for you to focus on before soliciting items.
We broke these down into 5 essential categories in order to keep things simple:
Travel-related silent auction items are always a huge hit. Whether you are able to collect an all-inclusive trip to the Caribbean, or even just a weekend getaway in New England, fundraiser guests love having the chance to win an amazing trip. Travel items are experiential in nature, and provide your guests with the chance to create new memories. Some great places to start include:
- All-Inclusive Trips
- Weekend Getaways
- Hotel Stays
- Airline Tickets or Miles
- Outings / Experiences
Continuing on the experiential theme, unique outings or experiences often create a ton of excitement at silent auctions. Guests love bidding on unique experiences, because these items typically present an activity that the bidder has never tried before.
Outings/experiences can include a wide range of items, but some of our favorite include:
- Spa days
- Local brewery tours
- Sunset or harbor cruises
- Museum tickets
- Comedy night
- Hot air balloon rides
- Outdoor activities (hiking, kayaking, bungee jumping)
- Theme park tickets
- Sports Tickets / Memorabilia
Anything sports-related will always be a huge hit at your fundraiser. Be sure to pay special attention to where your audience lives - you will want most of your sports items to relate to your audience’s home team:
- Signed memorabilia
- Chance to meet local celebrity athletes
- Golf Outings
- Ski Passes
- Yoga Classes
- Spin Classes
Everybody enjoys music of some type. Whether your audience trends more towards country music, pop, or rock n’ roll, including music-related items will always garner high bidding traffic. When thinking of music items, try not to limit yourself to concert tickets only!
- Concert Tickets
- Backstage passes / chance to meet the musician
- Signed instruments / albums from famous musicians
- Music Lessons
Making an appearance at almost every silent auction, food-related items have become a staple of most fundraisers. People love going out to dinner, trying new restaurants, or even trying a new kind of food for the first time. From a collection standpoint, you shouldn’t have trouble collecting many food-related items, as there are hundreds of restaurants in every city, and most are willing to promote their restaurant. Some great ideas include:
- Restaurant gift certificates
- Catering service certificates
- Dinner & wine pairing
- Cooking Classes
- Food gift baskets
After reviewing our list above, you probably noticed an underlying theme across the five categories; most of these amazing items are experiential, not material.
In general, we have found that experiential items outperform material items again and again. Experiential items create memories and journeys for your guests that start during your fundraiser and continue throughout the duration of the item. Such great experiences will form lasting connections between your donors and fundraiser, as donors will quickly begin to associate their fun memories with the moment that they won the item at your event.
Even better is that your donors will tell their friends and family about the great experiences they have had, and will certainly connect the prize to your fundraiser. This sharing creates amazing word-of-mouth recommendations for your fundraiser, resulting in an even larger donor base for your next fundraiser!
One final tip here - do not be selfish with this list! This guide should be shared with each member of your committee or volunteer staff, so that they can also have success in soliciting the best possible items for your silent auction!
The preceding is a guest post by Zach Hagopian, co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding. An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.