6 Types of Auction Items That Drive Fun and Successful Online Silent Auctions

Between finding the perfect hosting site, recruiting potential bidders, and building an inventory of exciting items, planning an online or virtual auction for your nonprofit can be daunting. However, procuring unique and exciting auction items can prime your auction for success!

It’s important to keep in mind that people bid more for items they cannot simply buy on their own, so make sure your nonprofit identifies items that offer a truly unique experience. Check out how Collision Repair Education Foundation works with corporate partners to procure one-of-a-kind experiences to increase bids and entice new donors.

Read expert tips below on fun, exclusive and exciting items that will make your online silent auction stand out!

Dining & Alcoholic Beverage Experiences

Dining experiences are always a big hit, so consider reaching out to local restaurants gift cards, chef tasting, and private dining experiences. Reach out to local vineyards and breweries for donation of product, tasting experiences or tours.

Keep in mind that most businesses donate to auctions in order to convert new customers. Make sure that your donation request letter or email includes demographic information about your usual supporters. Businesses love to see that your bidders include individuals with high household incomes and individuals that support local restaurants and shops.

Some great food or drink experiences that’ll breathe new life into your online auction include:

  • For beverage connoisseurs: a behind-the-scenes virtual tour of a local brewery, winery or distillery and a case(s) of wine or beer than can be shipped to their home
  • For fine-dining fanatics: a virtual Q&A with the chef asking how they come up with their menu
  • For homebodies: gift certificates for popular food delivery services like Postmates or GrubHub or gift cards from a restaurant that features contactless delivery or a subscription to a wine (or beer) of the month club
  • For chocolate lovers: home delivery or sweet treats from a local favorite chocolatier

These items energize your bidding community and help a local business expand its customer base. It’s a win-win!

Themed Gift Baskets 

Themed gift baskets are easy to put together and can fit any theme. They’re also great for a family stay-at-home evening.

Use your imagination! Put together a collection of items that will wow your bidders and pay off big.

Some baskets that will be huge hits are:

  • Camping supplies: flashlight, tent, sleeping bags, s’mores kit and fishing gear
  • Game night: Monopoly, Jenga, playing cards, Dance Dance Revolution gear and mini air hockey table
  • Beauty kit: nail polish, makeup palette, face masks, bathrobe and hair scrunchies
  • Movie kit: Netflix or Disney Plus gift card, popcorn, candy and cozy blankets
  • Mission related: include items made or donated by ambassadors or families your organization serves

Include a thank you note in the basket, with information on your nonprofit. If the basket was made or donated by a supporter, ask them to write a thank you card and include a photo.

Home Services

Home service items are essential. Chances are your bidding community is jam packed with busy people that might light a break from cleaning and yard work!

A plus for the service donor is the bidder may be introduced to a new gardening company or cleaning service and become a regular customer.

Here are some home service items to consider for your auction:

  • Landscaping
  • Full-service cleaning
  • Fall yard cleanup
  • Home theater installation
  • Car detailing
  • Snow removal
  • Painting (interior or exterior)
Unique Self-Investment or Relaxation Experiences

To show your bidding community that your nonprofit cares about their personal growth and wellbeing, select some items centered on self-investment and relaxation for your online auction. Feel free to get creative with these – the more unique the experience, the more bids.

Great examples of self-investment or relaxation experiences include:

  • Virtual art lessons: painting, drawing or pottery lessons
  • Virtual music lessons: singing, piano or guitar
  • Virtual cooking or baking lesson (this works for kids too!)
  • Spa day or yoga retreat
  • Adventurous lessons: sailing or rock climbing
  • Cooking or bartending class for two
  • Vacation packages or a beach trip to Florida or skiing trip to Aspen, complete with gift certificates to local attractions

Focus on experiences that your supporters may never consider buying for themselves. Unique experiences generate more bids and excitement- so be sure to include a few exclusive items that no one can buy- like tickets to an invitation only event or one on one time with a celebrity chef.

Get Excited to Launch the Online Auction of the Year! 

Your bidding community is eager to see what will be on the auction block this year! Start reaching out to local businesses for donations and compile a wish list of items. Once it’s ready, don’t forget to consider some other important steps that are vital to drive a profitable online silent auction.

If you need more support or inspiration to get you off to a great start for your online silent auction, check out this resource that unpacks more creative item options: 101 Charity Auction Ideas


Get inspired by recent auctions set up with Panorama and promoted on BiddingforGood:


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