Silent auctions have become a valuable revenue stream for most mid- and large-sized fundraising events. (If you’re not yet using a silent auction, it makes a great — though often time-consuming – addition to events).
Of course, as auctions have become de rigueur at fundraising events, attendees have come to expect bigger, better, and bolder items at every event they attend. Below, we present some creative silent auction ideas to spice up your next event and keep your donors bidding and buying.
But First, Remember the Basics
Before adding new or different items to your silent auction, be sure that you have all the “basics” covered. Guests who attend your event will expect you to have certain items available, including gift certificates, gift baskets, perhaps some sports or theatre tickets available, and any items that you “normally” have at your event. Before launching some of these more creative silent auction ideas, be sure you have these basics ready for your event.
When you’re ready to take your auction to the next level, one category of big-ticket item you can add is “experiences.” People love to bid on things they can’t find anywhere else… things they consider priceless. And auction supporters will often donate items to a non-profit that they wouldn’t offer for sale elsewhere.
Examples of good experiences to offer include: a backstage pass to a ballet performance, a chance to ride in the local news helicopter during a traffic report, the opportunity for you and a friend to play basketball with two members of the local professional team, etc.
Services performed by your staff, your board, or a group of your supporters are great silent auction ideas. For example, your board could host a party for the winner and 10 of their friends at the board president’s house where the board cooks the food, waits on tables, and plays bartender. Or, a group of supporters could offer to clean the winner’s house. Likewise, your staff could take the winner’s car to get oil changes every three months for a year. Be creative!
Adding a mission-related component to your event auction is my favorite outside the box silent auction idea. At every silent auction I have ever attended, I have seen people who bid on and lost items walk out the door with money in their pocket that they were expecting to spend… and that they would be more than happy to donate to the school, church, or charity in a creative way. Cue the mission-related sale. There are two ways to add this component to your auction.
First, set up a table where you offer services to your clients to be sponsored in an auction-like setting. For example, if you serve the homeless meals and it costs $10 per meal, but out a bid sheet letting people bid on how many meals they will buy for your clients. The winner may be 23, 45, or 200 meals, depending on your donor base.
Only the winner has to pay –he or she writes a check for the total amount (in the case of 200 meals, that would be $2,000 at $10 per meal) which your organization then uses to provide the service. You could set up several of these types of auctions on the same table.
Second, set up a “Buy a Service” table right by the exit door. As people leave, ask them to buy a service for one of your clients. Offer numerous levels of services that the donor can “purchase” on a client’s behalf. This isn’t done in an auction setting, but is designed to allow people who have money to spend, but who lost their bids, to donate the money to your non-profit in a creative way.
For example, if you are running a sports program for underprivileged youth, you could offer donors the chance to “buy” a set of baseballs for you for $10, a uniform for a child for $20, or cover the fees you have to pay to use the field for one day for $50.
Be resourceful with your event, and use these creative silent auction ideas to make sure your donors stay engaged with your auction, your event, and your organization.
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