Pep up your next fundraising auction

The concept of an auction as a fundraiser sounds great! And when the idea was new, some groups had great ones! But don’t rely on an old standby event when it’s no longer having a positive impact on your audience. Beware the pitfalls of a less-than-stellar auction!

No dud prizes. While that $25 gift certificate to have your oil changed may have generated some excitement in the past, it probably doesn’t anymore. In addition, the vendors you solicit annually for these ho-hum items are probably tired of giving and haven’t seen any great surges in their businesses as a result of the auction item.

The early bidding on these routine items quickly produces boredom in your audience and does anything but set an exciting pace.

Your auction-attendee probably comes in intending to bid on something in support of your organization, but if there’s nothing of interest, it’s a real downer for the attendee—and that negative feeling may transfer to your organization or your future events.

If someone donates something, and then finds out that no one bid on it, or the minimum bid wasn’t met, now that person has a bad taste in their mouth—and you’re the person who made that happen.

There are plenty of creative ideas to assure your auction success. I recently attended one where the (professional and engaging) auctioneer began the bidding by auctioning off a glass of water. People got excited and bid up to $300—for the benefit of the sponsoring agency.

Another idea is to auction off services your agency provides. As an auction item, offer “buy 10 meals for the homeless for $25,” “send 3 campers to camp for $300,” etc. This type of auction item brings your mission front and center. Multiple bidders can sign up and buy one or five of the item. Many of your auction-attendees really don’t need to buy another bottle of wine or tickets to a baseball game, or picnic basket with all the take-alongs; a mission-oriented opportunity offers them something they’re already interested in and can get enthusiastic about bidding-up.

Get your creative juices going and set up something exciting for your next event!

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