One of the most important—and arguably, most complicated—parts of planning any charity auction is the item procurement process. Because your team will collect most of your fundraising revenue in the form of bids on auction items, you must invest enough time and effort to collect high-demand, valuable items before the big day.
Here at Snowball, we work with nonprofits, schools, and faith-based organizations of all shapes and sizes to raise more funds in the most effective ways possible. That said, we know a thing or two about auction items that sell!
Whether you’ve planned and hosted several charity auctions in the past or you’re currently prepping for your first, we’ve put together this handy list to speed up the process. Here, we’ll cover the following:
- Auction Items: Frequently Asked Questions
- Our Favorite Auction Items That Drive Bids
- Top Tips for Procuring High-Demand Auction Items
Ready to jump in? Let’s get started!
Auction Items: Frequently Asked Questions
What items sell best at live auctions?
Live auctions are highly interactive events that include an auctioneer announcing bid amounts as people shout out their offers. Items that work well at these events can range from experiences, gift cards, memorabilia, to specialty accessories for the home.
When choosing items for your live auction consider, what prizes would your audience want to bid competitively over? For example, if your organization consists of community-oriented parents, consider partnering with a local family eatery for gift cards to feed the whole family. Alternatively, if your attendees tend to be older, perhaps they’d enjoy fine jewelry or memorabilia.
What items sell best at silent auctions?
Silent auctions are events where bidders submit their amounts in paper or digital form, versus shouting them out to the auctioneer.
When choosing silent auction items, also knowing your constituents is crucial in the decision process. Organizations that have historically hosted auctions can refer to their previous experience in what was successful in bringing in tons of bids.
If this is one of your first auctions, consider sending a pre-auction survey or sticking to known highly coveted silent auction items such as:
- Autographed memorabilia
- Gift cards or baskets related to your local area
- Lottery ticket boards
When you have a variety of exciting items, you’re able to attract numerous bids and get your attendees excited to participate.
How do you ask for auction items?
Once you’ve determined what kinds of prizes will pique your participants’ interest, your team must gather these items from willing establishments. Here are a few best practices to consider:
- Set up a group of volunteers to research and solicit in-kind donations. This method is a great way to have a wide network of possible connections to businesses that could be willing to contribute to your auction items. The more people you enlist to help, the higher the chances of securing some valuable things.
- Provide talking points for your item procurement team. Give your volunteers the tools they need to make a polite, effective ask. Make sure they understand and can communicate your auction details and your organization’s mission well. When businesses interact with passionate volunteers, they may be more inclined to give. If you’re searching for the right words to include in your ask, check out this resource outlining an excellent donation request letter.
- Assign specific tasks to your team. Give subsections of volunteers specific goals to accomplish when asking for donations. You don’t want to end up with only gift cards or memorabilia when you need a full array of options! This will ensure a variety of items for your auction and no repeat visits to the same business.
- Be gracious to your donors. Be sure to recognize and show your appreciation for businesses that have given valuable items to your auction. Send a thank-you note and include their name in your program or your auction website. Thanking them will also build a relationship between you and the donor and can lead to future contributions.
When you take tactful preliminary steps, your team will secure valuable auction items from local establishments and constituents.
How many items are in a successful auction?
When it comes to choosing gifts for participants to compete for, less is more. Choose a few valuable auction items to create excitement surrounding your auction. When choosing the number of gifts you want to include, pay attention to your event’s size. Don’t include too few items or too many. After a few auctions, you’ll have a better idea of a happy medium for how many you should include. Your auction is a competition for items, after all!
Should you put a value on auction items?
A lot of factors go into pricing your items, making it a challenging task. Here are a few considerations for how to go about this task:
- Know your donors’ capabilities. Based on your donor data of previous gifts and involvement, you’ll determine how much your audience is willing to pay for an item. If your items are too expensive, you’ll lose out on bidders. Your auction always comes down to what your donors are willing and able to pay.
- Determine the fair market value (FMV) of your items. Determine the fair market value (FMV) of your items. The FMV is determined from the value of existing similar products. A physical product or actual service has a set average value. For example, a massage that is offered for $20 has an FMV of $20. When you auction off intangible items or exclusive experiences, the price is a bit more ambiguous. With some research of both the prize as well as an educated guess of your participant’s financial capabilities, you’ll be able to settle on a value.
- Don’t hesitate to ask around. Determining price can be hard. If your team is struggling to come up with a value, reach out to top donors. They’ll have a good idea of what they’d be willing to contribute, and involving them in the planning process helps promote your auction.
- Set a tactful starting bid amount. Define a happy medium price for your items. Make all choices based on the value of your items. This includes the FMV, your donors’ financial capability, and your past auction experiences. Keep in mind that if your starting bid is too low, you’ll miss out on earning more proceeds. If priced too high, you may lose the interest of participants. Tip: it’s recommended to set minimum bids at 40-50% of the FMV. For example, if looking for a starting bid for the aforementioned massage with an FMV of $20, it would be best to set it around $8-10.
Once you have secured your items, be sure to prioritize inputting your listings into your auction software. Posting them on time will give participants ample time to browse through their selections and choose which they want to bid on.
Our Favorite Auction Items That Drive Bids
The best types of auction items are those that your supporters will be willing to spend a good amount of money on, whether it’s a physical gift or a memorable experience. In other words, items should be worth significantly more to your supporters than their typical retail value. After all, that is how you turn a profit from your event!
Here, we’ve divided our favorite auction items by category (such as type of auction or type of organization). However, it’s important to note that if a particular item catches your eye, it can very well be used for whichever type of auction you’re hosting.
Items for Live Auctions
Live auctions are likely the most popular form of a charity auction, and for a good reason. These high-energy, interactive events are among the most effective ways to truly engage with your donors while simultaneously raising a ton of money for your cause. Let’s walk through a few of our favorite items for live charity auctions:
This is one of the most popular choices for auctions of all shapes and sizes. That’s because many individuals are willing to shell out thousands of dollars for a fantastic vacation. Still, you can usually obtain these packages for much less by forming partnerships with businesses working with a consignment service. Be sure to include plane tickets, hotel gift certificates, and a fun adventure to partake in at the destination. If social distancing guidelines and travel restrictions are in place, be sure to offer a package that offers flexible scheduling options.
Bidding on artwork at a charity auction is very common. This idea, however, brings the experience a few notches further! Invite a well-known and talented artist to create a unique piece of art at your event while guests watch in real-time. Not only will the winner receive a beautiful piece of artwork, but it’s also a powerful memento of an extraordinary night.
Everyone deserves a relaxing night in. Encourage your event attendees to spoil themselves by bidding on your pamper basket. A basket like this might include moisturizing face masks, bath bombs, fancy soaps and body washes, and candles. In other words, everything you might need to host a fancy spa day in the comfort of your own home! Be sure to contact your local spas and beauty retailers to solicit donations in the form of relevant products.
For this popular auction item idea, a few top considerations include sports gear (like a ball or jersey) signed by a famous athlete or music equipment (like a guitar or record) signed by a world-renowned singer or band. The more famous the individual signing the memorabilia, the more your dedicated supporters will be willing to pay!
A personal chef for an evening
Sometimes you just want to sit back and relax while someone else does the cooking for you. Because your supporters likely don’t have their own personal chefs on staff, you can auction off that exclusive experience for a night. This way, the winner (and their family and/or friends) can get a taste of luxury while also supporting a mission they care about.
Lottery ticket basket
A lottery basket is a great idea for an auction item and one that can be put together without investing a ton of money on your part. Be sure to include a range of tickets, with a few pricier ones supplemented by several single-dollar tickets. Guests will be intrigued by the sense of mystery to see how much they’ll collect! Plus, it gives the recipient the chance to win over and over again, even after placing the winning bid on your basket.
Homemade baked goods
Everyone knows that goodies that are baked with love taste better than their store-bought counterparts. That, plus knowing that proceeds go toward a good cause, is what makes supporters willing to pay big bucks for homemade baked goods. Perhaps you even have some aspiring pastry chefs in your midst who are looking for an opportunity to show off their skills. You can encourage team members to make their best and prettiest cakes and pies to auction off at your charity event!
Season sports tickets
By partnering with your local professional sports teams, you can likely receive season tickets at a discounted rate to then auction off to the highest bidder. For even more fun, see if you can access some VIP seats at the stadium and provide coupons or gift certificates for concessions. After all, what’s a baseball game without a hot dog?
This is an intriguing auction item for guests looking to expand their tastes in wine by testing out various choices! Be sure to collect many different types of wine and include a brief description of each. You might even ask each member of your fundraising team to share their personal preference of wine to include a range of team favorites.
Private plane flight
Most of us don’t have our own private jets as a means of transportation, but many are curious to give it a try! Auctioning off exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime type experiences like this is a great way to raise money for your cause, especially if you know someone (or know someone who knows someone) with a private plane to donate for an evening.
Romantic gondola ride
Looking for a prize that offers a unique and exciting date night? If your area is capable, look into gondola tours to offer as an item. If your area doesn’t offer this option, you can look into plane tickets and accommodations for an area that does. This unforgettable experience brings the experience of being in Italy to your highest bidder.
Whitewater rafting excursion
For areas with ample outdoor recreation, research packages for whitewater rafting experiences. This prize is perfect for families with older children or groups of friends. Be sure to include provisions for shuttling your winners to the rafting site so they can enjoy the ride without worrying about transportation!
For your 21+ attendees, bar crawls are a great way for your organization to partner with local establishments to provide an exciting experience. Consider contacting local bars and pubs in a concentrated area for a gift card to each place, letting your winners hop from one location to the next.
Exclusive movie showing
If there is an exciting movie coming out soon, contact your local movie theater to arrange a private showing. Consider taking a survey of a few upcoming films to gauge your attendees’ interest and pick the best movie for your audience.
Bungee jumping experience
If your area offers a bungee jumping experience, be sure to take advantage of this unique prize! This is perfect for organizations that have a lot of outdoorsy, thrill-seeking constituents. Be sure to provide compensation for transportation if your base site is a distance away.
For anyone looking for great makeup tips or wants their face done for a special event, a makeover package is an excellent option. Contact a local makeup artist or store to arrange a pre-paid appointment for your winner.
Silent Auction Items
A silent auction is a type of event where guests are invited to browse items on display and bid anonymously for the ones that grab their attention. This alternative auction form is typically popular for more upscale events and tends to pair well with galas and dinners. Silent auction items should essentially sell themselves, as there will be no live auctioneer to position them in a certain favorable light. Here are a few examples of fantastic silent auction items:
For those who want to explore the world of yoga but aren’t entirely sure where to start, bidding on yoga lessons at a charity auction is a great first step. Choose a local yoga studio and see if they’re willing to give you free or discounted lessons for your auction. If all goes well, you might even be bringing them their next long-term customer!
A cooking class provides attendees with an exciting experience paired with the opportunity to learn and practice relevant life skills. When you auction off a private cooking class, you give the winner that opportunity to share with their friends and/or family. For a unique touch, see if you can strike a deal with a local chef at a favorite restaurant who would be willing to share their own tips and tricks for a successful meal.
A wine tour is a popular silent auction item because it pairs a fun experience with a tasty one. Between sightseeing and exploring beautiful locations, trying new drinks, and learning more about favorite wines, the winner of this auction item will have a brilliant memory that lasts. Be sure to reach out to local tour companies and see if you can get a discounted ticket package for your fundraiser.
Tablet or computer
Who doesn’t want a new tablet or computer? When auctioning off technology, it’s a good idea to get the latest and greatest versions of any tablet or computer you want to offer. That way, guests will be more inclined to bid high! When looking for technology to put up for bid at an auction, consider reaching out to local tech retailers near you. Sometimes, these businesses are willing to sell to nonprofits at a discounted price or even donate items altogether.
Hot air balloon ride
A hot air balloon ride is another one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that most people don’t choose to purchase for themselves. However, when proceeds are going to charity, that’s a whole other story! See if you can partner with a local tour agency willing to donate a balloon ride (or even provide a discounted rate) and encourage the winner to share their breathtaking photos with you on social media.
Spa gift certificate
Encourage your supporters to treat themselves by auctioning gift certificates to your local spa or salon. You can choose between a single-person offering or opt for a couples’ spa day and include services such as facials, massages, and mud baths. Who wouldn’t want to spend a relaxing day while also knowing they’re supporting charity?
For more upscale audiences, nice jewelry can be a big hit at any charity auction. To ensure you choose the most valuable pieces, keep an eye out for names like Buccellati, Cartier, and Harry Winston. Additionally, you might want to hit up some local designers who might have a more affordable price point. As far as choosing the types of jewelry, you’ll probably want to stay on the more practical side and collect items like necklaces, earrings, and watches.
Similar to the jewelry mentioned above, the right kind of upscale audience will jump at the chance to bid on your precious, designer handbags. Be sure to look for brands such as Birkin, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and more. This can be a great opportunity for your supporters to purchase a high-end accessory they might otherwise not have.
Limo ride to a nice restaurant
A limo ride is an experience to remember. Consider auctioning off a ride for a group of 6-8 guests, who will then be dropped off and picked up from an upscale eatery. Be sure to include a gift card to the restaurant of choice so that the guests can simply sit back and enjoy their evening.
This is a trendy auction item for events nearing the holiday season, although it can be quite successful year-round. Auctioning a catering crew for a specific-sized party (such as 20-30 guests) is an exciting offering for many of your party-planning supporters. Therefore, they’ll be able to plan and host their own event without nearly as much stress!
Lakeside cabin stay
A lakeside cabin stay would be excellent for a family or couple in the vein of enticing vacation packages. Help your winner arrange the best weekend dates for them, and put together a guidebook of local attractions around the area they’re staying in.
What’s more exciting than a ticket to a musical on Broadway? Buy a few tickets to a popular show, and provide some compensation for travel and lodging options depending on the location of your constituents.
Musical instrument with lessons
Encourage your constituents to take advantage of learning a new skill by auctioning off an instrument with music lessons for learning how to play. Consider the following:
- Acoustic guitar
- Drum kit
Then, reach out to your local music store to arrange lessons for your winner.
Horseback riding excursion
This popular excursion is excellent for areas with lots of local farmland, fantastic for groups and families alike. Be sure to highlight what scenery they’ll see and give the farm some publicity, too. Be sure to have your winner take pictures on their ride for lasting memories.
Oil changes for a year
No one likes to sit and pay for their oil change a few times a year. Take this seemingly simple but annoying task out of a lucky winner’s to-do list. Aim to set up about 3-5 appointments over the span of a year for your prize.
Assemble a hobby kit for a prize. This inclusive basket can involve the following popular themes:
- Recipes and ingredients
- Charcuterie assembly kit
The options for hobbies are endless, so take what you know about your target audience and create a worthwhile gift.
Slow cooker and recipe book
Slow cookers are excellent appliances for at-home chefs who have to feed many with little time to cook. Be sure to promote the fact that these recipes can be left to cook all day, and will be ready by the end of the day. Include a recipe book for optimal use.
Virtual Auction Items
Recently, virtual auctions have become a hugely popular alternative to traditional live and silent, in-person auction events. Thanks to top-notch auction technology, virtual auctions are easy for supporters to participate in even from the comfort of their own homes. These are some of our favorite auction items for virtual charity auctions:
It only makes sense to offer top technology as auction items at your virtual event, and Smartwatches are very high in demand. The most popular brand is definitely the Apple Watch, although Fitbit is a big name as well. It may be a good idea to include both Apple and Android-based watches to let everyone in on the fun.
There are tons of subscription boxes available on the internet. For this auction item, simply choose one that will attract your audience, and encourage bids at your event! You can either go through a subscription service or opt for DIY-style boxes on your own. Popular types of subscription boxes include weekly meal kits, monthly pamper baskets, and entertainment packages.
The length of time is up to you (longer time frames equal higher bids!), although we recommend going for 6- or 12-month cycles. However, something to keep in mind is that whoever purchases the subscription should be sure to go back and cancel at the end of the winner’s subscription.
SkyMiles is a Delta program that offers points to be used as flight miles. The best thing about offering SkyMiles as an auction item is that many can quite easily be transferred from one person to another. That means if someone in your organization has some miles saved up with no use for them, they can easily be transferred to the winner, meaning a very low-cost (but high-impact) auction item!
Did you know that more than 150 million Americans drink coffee every day? As such, a coffee package is an appealing auction item for many. Be sure to include a high-tech coffee maker, like a Keurig, along with fresh, quality coffee beans, grounds, or individual cups, along with a set of beautifully designed coffee mugs. This way, the recipient will have everything they need to get an elevated coffee shop experience right in their own home.
Home gym set-up
This is perfect for those who have always wanted to get in shape but have a hard time making it out to the gym regularly. You can include weights, a yoga mat, and even a modest-sized workout machine for this auction item. Then, don’t forget to provide instructional videos and share your support!
Date night package
Every couple needs a nice date night every once in a while, but many find themselves too busy or stuck in the same old routine. That’s where this auction item comes in. Be sure to include a gift card to a favorite local restaurant, along with movie tickets and some snacks to sneak in. You might even reignite some sparks with your charity fundraiser!
An opportunity to have one’s car detailed can be very worthwhile, especially for a family with kids. This can either be done with a gift certificate to a local professional or perhaps a team member within your support network. Either way, the winner ends up with a car that looks so good, they might not even recognize it as their own!
Auctioning off a paid seat to a local photography class is a great way to raise money for your cause while inspiring creativity as well. Be sure to include photos taken by the instructor or previous students so that bidders can really imagine the type of work they’ll be learning to do.
Anyone with a pet knows how difficult it can be to keep on top of their furry friend’s grooming habits. Perhaps Fido needs a bath, a haircut, or a nail trim! You can either auction off a gift card for the winner to take their pet to a local groomer or have someone from your team do the pampering themselves. Then, the pet is returned to the owner looking squeaky clean and cuter than ever.
Ballroom dance lessons
Many untrained dancers wish they had the knowledge and skills to prosper in the area, although few actually take the steps toward learning. That’s why offering ballroom dance lessons as an auction item can be a unique and creative idea! This works especially well for couples who might be approaching an anniversary or another special date. After all, who doesn’t want to feel like a prince or princess?
Snow Sport Adventures
If your organization is based in an area where it snows, look into ways to assemble a winter sports gift. For example, consider offering packages with:
- Ice skating
Be sure to include a few people in the experience so your winner can bring family or friends along.
Five-Course Meal at a Five-Star Restaurant
Choose the fanciest restaurant in your area and set up a dinner for your winner and a few friends. Let the winner have a say in choosing some menu items for an exciting experience. As a bonus, ask the restaurant if the diners can meet the chef after the big meal.
After-Hours Museum Tour
Is there a history, science, or art museum in town? Arrange an after-hours guided tour for a lucky winner and their friends or family. They’ll love an up-close look at the exhibits led by a knowledgeable team member. Be sure to provide the winner with brochures and perhaps a membership for an added bonus after their tour.
Beachfront Resort Stay
If your area is near a beach, this can be a wonderful staycation option. If you live in a landlocked area, consider compensating for travel and transportation fees. Partner with a resort for a room package for a couple or family to auction off. Be sure to include perks like drink and meal tickets for their stay.
Dinner and a Movie for Two
Perfect for date night, a dinner and movie package for two can be hosted at a local theater. Arrange for their preferred meals to be delivered to the theater on time for the show. Let your winner pick an exciting movie from what’s hot now in theatres.
Drone with Camera
Drones are exciting gadgets for photographers and adventurers. The winner can capture some unforgettable aerial shots to upload to their computer or device. Then, encourage them to share their favorite shots with your team on social media. Be sure to include instructions for use with the drone!
Custom Coffee Mugs
Perfect for a coffee-loving constituent, a custom mug set is excellent for their morning beverage. Connect with a local arts and crafts store to provide options such as custom images, text, and colors for the personalized cups. Whenever your winner uses these special mugs, they’ll remember your organization and cause.
Perfect for any age, high-quality wireless headphones can be an expensive, yet essential item. Offer noise-canceling headphones perfect for working out, studying, and travel. When listing your item advertise how they can be beneficial in almost all types of lifestyles from working out to commuting. Be sure to include warranty information.
School Auction Items
School auctions are a fantastic school fundraising idea to raise money and provide an engaging experience for students, families, alumni, and other community members. Whether your items are directly related to your school can be an extremely worthwhile experience for all attendees. Effective and popular school auction items can include the following:
More than likely, you already have a set of school merchandise on sale, including t-shirts, hats, lanyards, and more. However, it’s a good idea for your dedicated auction items to roll out limited-time merchandise with new designs. The exclusivity and urgency will lead to more bids!
This can be a powerful money-maker for students of all ages, especially because a student artist’s own family members and friends will likely be willing to pay more for their special person’s artwork. Feel free to auction off items that students create in their school art classes or collect artwork created in a students’ own free time.
VIP graduation package
If you’re raising money for a high school, college, or university, a VIP graduation package can be a great idea for your auction. Include things like an optimal parking spot, front row seats, a photoshoot with the principal or dean, and a unique diploma frame!
This auction item can easily be adjusted to fit whichever audience you’re selling to. For high school or college fundraisers, auctioning off highly-coveted parking spaces in the student lot is a great way to raise money from students who are tired of walking so much. On the other hand, a middle or elementary school fundraiser can encourage parents to bid on their own parking spot, allowing them to skip the parent pickup line each day.
Principal for a day
Best for younger students like elementary and middle-schoolers, auctioning off the opportunity to be the “Principal for a Day” is a great way to ignite school spirit while raising money at the same time! To many students, the principal is almost like a superhero, so it’s definitely an exciting option. Consider adding a fast food meal of choice at lunchtime to sweeten the deal for an extra perk.
Whether you’re installing a new bench or restoring an old building, auctioning off naming rights is an exciting way for students to leave their legacy. This can be great for both parents to win for graduating students as they transition to alumni. Be sure to include a small plaque on the item being named, and allow the winning student a brief message of their choice.
Professional photos make nice mementos, but getting them done can be pricey. That’s why a photoshoot is a popular auction item for your school fundraiser. Choose a location with a nice background and scenery, and perhaps you even have a talented photographer in your midst who might volunteer to take photos for free! Then, be sure to get high-quality prints of the pictures and provide the winner with digital copies.
Theme park tickets
Is there an amusement or water park fairly close to your school? Auctioning off a four-pack of tickets is a great idea to raise money at your fundraising event. For a bonus, you might want to turn it into a basket, complete with branded t-shirts from that park! This way, the winners will be all set for their trip, and they’ll fit right in.
This is a great idea for younger students and parents who want to plan a family trip or older students who would like to experience the outdoors with their friends. Be sure to include several sleeping bags, a good-sized tent, firewood, s’mores ingredients (and other snacks!), and a reserved spot at a local campground.
Private zoo tour
Zoos are exciting experiences for students of all ages, and a private tour with behind-the-scenes offerings can bring the intrigue up several notches. You might even want to work with the zoo management to see if you can offer tickets for an after-hours tour so that the winners get free reign of the area.
A class party can be a highlight of the school year. Let your winner decide which option to host, such as:
- Pizza parties
- Boardgame tournament
- Pajamas and a movie day
Whichever idea they choose, your organization can sponsor the party and gather the needed supplies for teachers to host.
No one likes to do homework. Consider auctioning off a few homework passes that can be used throughout the school year to lift the task of a worksheet or two. Be sure to get the go-ahead from teachers beforehand.
Sports coin toss
For middle and high schoolers, supporting their athletics teams is an exciting part of being a student. Auction off the chance to flip the coin for possession before a game of the student’s choice. Consider offering this perk before a big game like the homecoming football game, or a championship volleyball match.
Fire station tour
Fire station tours aren’t only an exciting field trip, they can be an excellent auction prize. Contact your local fire station to set up a tour of the building and a firetruck. Be sure to encourage your winner to take pictures of their experience and share them with their families and friends.
One month of after-school care
Working parents will appreciate the gift of a month of free after-school care provided by your school. Oftentimes, work runs later than their child’s dismissal, and after-school care is the only feasible option for this time. This gift can help alleviate the stress of working late and getting things done at home.
Children’s book reading
A children’s book reading can be an excellent prize for a younger student. Allow the student to pick the book they want to hear, and arrange a time to have it read aloud by the author at the school library. Be sure to provide snacks and a signed copy of the book for the child and their friends they invite to participate.
If your town has an aquarium, chances are, the kids in the area love it. Offer the chance for a student and their friends to stay overnight at the aquarium for an unforgettable slumber party with their favorite marine animals. Provide an after-hours tour of the facility, and perhaps a chance to feed a fish of their choice.
Church Auction Items
If you’re raising money for your church or religious organization, an auction can be a great idea. Not only can you bring in thousands of dollars in charitable support, but your congregants get an exciting event (and hopefully a fun auction item) out of the process! Here are some popular auction items among churchgoers for your auction:
Youth chore team for a day
Perhaps your congregation comprises elderly guests or working parents with young children who might have trouble keeping up with important tasks around their homes. In this case, a chore team is a great resource to auction off at your fundraiser. To do so, be sure you have a group of 6-8 hardworking individuals who are willing to donate their time for an entire day.
Gift cards are a fun yet straightforward item to auction off at any charity event. Plus, many local businesses and restaurants are willing to trade gift cards for some extra exposure for their company. To get started, find out if any of your church members have connections to the local businesses—whether they own them or know the management! Good ideas include popular restaurants, spas and salons, and other experiences.
Worship concert tickets
Is there an upcoming worship concert by a well-known Christian band or singer in your area? Try to secure some good seats and auction the tickets off for your church fundraiser. For best results, be sure to consider the music that your congregation is partial to—whether that’s traditional, contemporary, indie, or even Christian hip hop.
Vacation home usage
More than likely, someone in your congregation has access to a vacation home. For this auction item, see if they’ll donate that home for usage by another member or family for a week or so as a high-demand auction item. If you can’t find an available vacation home, see if you can get a good deal on a hotel or Airbnb. The best part about this is that it will likely go for high bids but be given to your church at a low (or no!) cost.
You’ve probably heard of a bar crawl—and a coffee crawl is just the same! Collect gift cards from several local coffee shops and draft a map of a suggested route that the winner can take. Even better, you might include reusable coffee mugs from each location so that the individual also has a set of mementos from the unique experience.
Hiring a babysitter can get pretty pricey, especially if there’s more than one kid to consider. That’s why for many churchgoers, childcare for an evening can be a popular auction item! Similar to a chore team, be sure to recruit responsible churchgoers (whether youth and/or adults) to volunteer their time to look after the winner’s child(ren) for a night. For a bonus, you might position this item as a “date night” package and include a gift certificate to a favorite romantic restaurant as well.
First pitch at a game
If you have a professional sports team or two in your area, this can be an exciting auction item for kids and adults alike. By partnering with a local sports team, you can provide an exclusive opportunity for your auction winner that will be a great memory for years to come. And, despite the name, a similar experience can even be offered for other sports as well—like football or basketball!
Who doesn’t want their front lawn landscaped nicely—especially when the money will support a good cause? More than likely, someone in your church has some experience (or at least a connection). If not, try reaching out to local landscaping businesses to see if you can work out a discount for your auction offering.
Many people are willing to pay big bucks for voice lessons. When it’s the music pastor or another member of the worship team offering, it can be an even more exciting experience for everyone involved. Perhaps the winner can even showcase their new skills by singing in the choir on a Sunday morning!
Learn to craft lesson
A DIY class for the winning bidder and their friends or family is a wonderful way to bring your church’s community even closer. Seek out a crafty member of your church to help facilitate the lesson, and provide options for crafts to make.
Does your area have a golf course? If so, reach out to your local club and ask about golf lessons for a lucky winner. Be sure to make the lesson eligible for two new learners so your constituent can bring a friend along.
Family-Friendly Comedy Show Tickets
If there is a comedy club in your area, look into obtaining a few tickets for a family in your congregation. Be sure the humor is kid-appropriate, and they’ll be in for an unforgettable night of laughs.
Staycation packages are excellent, especially during the COVID-19 era. Your package can include the following to entice bidders:
- Gift cards to local establishments
- Board games
This way, your church is able to support local businesses and provide a worthwhile gift.
Holiday decorating or takedown
Often, the task of putting up or taking down holiday decorations is a pain point on a to-do list. Locate a group of willing volunteers from your congregation to commit a few hours to help out the winner with such tasks.
Christmas card photoshoot
Around the holidays, many couples and families send out Christmas cards. Winning a professional photoshoot would be excellent for making their card the best one yet! Be sure to choose a picturesque backdrop and provide holiday-related props.
In your congregation, you may have members completing short or longer-term mission trips. Consider making an auction item the chance to sponsor this person, and cover their travel fees in their religious endeavors. Costs can add up for transportation, accommodations, and necessary items, so this gift is an excellent solution to help out.
House painting or renovations
If one of your congregants is looking for a home refresh, this is the perfect opportunity for getting help with updating the exterior of the home! Rally a group of willing volunteers to put in work over a weekend to make the winner’s house look brand-new.
Items for Any Auction
These items are tried-and-true when it comes to stirring up excitement and competition at auctions. From nail-bitingly fun activities such as skydiving to relaxing on a cruise in the tropics, the opportunities are endless! Here are a few of our favorites:
Luxury resort stay
Do you have a luxury resort in your area or neighboring town? If so, look into packages for a weekend stay for your item. This cuts out transportation costs and stress that may come with taking time off of work to travel. Be sure to promote the amenities offered by the resort of your choice!
A tour of your city from the sky is a memory that will last a lifetime for your highest bidder. This experience can be an adventurous date idea or great for thrill-seekers overall. If your town doesn’t offer helicopter tours, arrange one with a nearby city, and provide a method of transportation for your winners.
Cruise packages are exciting and typically the hottest vacation items as people look to escape to tropical weather. Promote the idea that traveling is an excellent way to take a break from spending their weekend at home!
This option gives a lot of opportunities for creativity. Plan this event depending on the interests of your participants. Would they be interested in a kitchen tour of a popular restaurant, or would they rather see what goes behind backstage at a local theater? Regardless, this exclusive experience is sure to be a hit.
VIP Concert Tickets/Backstage Pass
Is a popular artist coming to your town soon? If so, look into securing VIP or backstage passes for your auction. Perhaps one of your board members has a connection to a ticket holder looking to donate their pass. This is a one-in-a-lifetime type of gift!
Stationary bike and classes
Spinning bikes are all the rage in 2021. Why not offer a gift that keeps your winners active in the comfort of their own home? Consider a stationary bike with an included subscription to their online training classes. This is perfect for areas with social distancing orders, as gyms may be closed!
Another adventurous gift option is a skydiving experience if offered in your local area. Consider this item for active and daredevil participants. This could be popular with younger crowds looking for an unforgettable time!
Fitness class/Personal trainer
What’s better than a package that promotes healthy living and self-improvement? If your demographic is an active group, be sure to look into local gyms and trainers that would be willing to help offer their services to a lucky bidder.
Movie theater subscription
Spinning bikes are all the rage in 2021. Why not offer a gift that keeps your winners active in the comfort of their own home? Consider a stationary bike with an included subscription to their online training classes. This is perfect for areas with social distancing orders, as gyms may be closed!
Celebrity meet and greet
This is truly an extraordinary experience for your participants. Consider who they would be interested in meeting and if any celebrities live or are touring the area at any point in the future. This could take a lot of planning and connections, but it is not impossible!
With a wide array of enticing experiences and items, your auction is sure to ignite competition and spark excitement. Be sure to advertise all of the wonderful features and values of each item to attract bids further.
Pet sitting and boarding
Finding a place to leave a beloved cat or dog over vacation is a huge task for many. Take the guesswork out of setting up this arrangement by partnering with a pet watching company. Be sure to include a few toys and treats with this gift!
Everyone can benefit from a high-quality kitchen appliance in their life. They’ll be able to cook better meals, and it’ll last for years. Here are some popular appliance options:
Ask your local appliance shop what they’d be willing to donate, and consider including a pertinent recipe book to go along with it.
This gift is one of the most useful prizes. Video doorbells are excellent options for home and property security. Promote this item to constituents with families, as they’re popular items to keep the home safe. Look into options with mobile and email alerts for optimized safety for the homeowners.
How do I get auction items?
Now that you know which items you’d like for your upcoming fundraiser, you may have a few questions about acquiring them. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick list of tried-and-true item procurement tips as well!
1. Share key details about your cause.
Prospective donors are much more likely to give to a cause that they’re well-informed about, especially if there’s any sort of personal connection. One of the most powerful ways to leverage this knowledge is by sharing true stories about constituents who have been positively impacted by your organization (with their permission, of course). This way, potential supporters can better visualize themselves as a part of the solution you’re offering.
2. Reach out to friends and family.
Sometimes your best resources are already within your close networks of team members’ own friends and families. That’s why it’s a great idea to begin the procurement process close to home. Perhaps a team member has a connection to a major donor who may be willing to provide either auction items or financial support for your upcoming event. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
3. Create a procurement team.
If you rely on a single team member to reach out to potential donors and collect items on their own, the results will likely be less than desired. That’s because it’s a big task that ideally should be delegated among a good-sized team of staff and volunteers (typically 5-6 individuals). Then, once you have your team in place, be sure to divide projects up into smaller checklist items so that each person knows exactly what they’re responsible for.
4. Provide suggested donations.
When reaching out to potential item donors, it’s a good idea to include a list of 10-20 suggested items to donate. This can remove significant stress from both the team member soliciting donations and the potential donors themselves. For best results, craft each list to match the prospective donor from whom you’re requesting a gift.
5. Form partnerships with local businesses.
When charitable organizations work together with for-profit businesses, they can often form powerful corporate partnerships that strategically benefit both parties involved. Charity auctions are no different! Fundraising events like these provide businesses with exclusive marketing and promotional opportunities, while they can donate unique goods and services for your auction in return.
6. Make sure your asks are big and often.
One of the biggest mistakes that fundraisers make when planning a charity auction is limiting the number and scope of their fundraising asks. This is, understandably, often due to a fear of rejection. However, it’s important to get into the mindset that you should ask as many potential donors for support as possible and understand that the worst they can do is say no!
Along the same lines, be sure to make your asks worthwhile. If you only ask for items in the $20 range, you’ll likely only receive items worth $20. The bigger you ask, the bigger you’ll receive—even if it doesn’t quite match the amount you requested.
7. Accept cash gifts as well.
Be sure to provide an option for accepting cash gifts at your auction. This just extends the possibility of receiving more funding from your constituents over the course of your event. Offer envelopes and a box for such donations at your information table.
8. Consider consignment items.
Offering consignment items is a great way to raise more with big-ticket items without as much risk. That’s because, with consignment items, you don’t pay the company offering the item or experience until after an auction attendee has made their purchase. This way, you don’t have to worry about shelling out tons of money pre-auction on your main attraction items with the worry that they might not sell.
9. Don’t wait until the last minute.
Like any aspect of your auction planning, you want to get the ball rolling on the item procurement process as early as possible. Otherwise, you risk coming up empty-handed as your event approaches, which won’t work out well for anyone. Instead, be sure to stick to a well-thought-out fundraising calendar to keep your whole team on track, and you’ll be able to receive top items right on schedule.
It’s a good idea to begin brainstorming item procurement at least 3-6 months in advance of your auction and then continue the process from there.
Having the best auction items possible will set your event up for success. Not only will your array of items draw in more attendees ahead of time, but you’ll also encourage guests to spend more while they’re there. You can thank us later!
For more information, take a look at our other informational guides and top fundraising resources:
- Text-to-Give | Complete Guide for Nonprofits and Fundraisers. Mobile giving is popular among both fundraising teams and their supporters. Even better, you can integrate this easy-to-use giving method as a bonus source of revenue at your charity auction!
- Virtual Fundraising: The Complete Guide for 2021 & Beyond. Virtual fundraising is a continuously growing tactic for nonprofits. If you’re looking for new tips and tricks to raise more for your organization, be sure to read our powerful guide.
- Fundraising Software for Nonprofits: Top Providers. The most effective fundraisers utilize effective tools. Take a look at our list of favorite free and low-cost fundraising software perfect for nonprofits like yours.