12 Must-Have Items for Your Next Benefit Auction

Photo by USFWS Mountain Prairie
01.24.2013By

Photo by USFWS Mountain Prairie

Benefit auctions, both live and silent, have always played a big role in the success of my fundraisers. I bet this is true for you, too. In addition to raising a lot of money, benefit auctions are a very visible part of the event. I’ve learned the hard way, regardless of how many sponsorships I sold or how many people attended, if the auction stunk, so did the event.

That’s why I was glad to meet Larry Snyder. He’s a Seattle-based professional fundraising auctioneer who’s been helping nonprofits raise money since 1990. Larry is even a graduate of Western College of Auctioneering.

He’s seen the good and bad of benefit auctions, and is happy to share his insights. To start, here are Larry’s list of the 12 must-have items for your next live auction.

1. Wine country trips

Whether wine country is right around the corner or half a world away, people love trips . . . and alcohol.

2. Island getaways

Bidding on an island getaway has strong, universal appeal. It always sells.

3. Destination lunch

People love to feel like celebrities. And flying somewhere for a special lunch makes them feel like they just won an Oscar.

4. Paid parking for a year

Parking is expensive in every major city. If you offer people a prime parking location, they’ll bid on it like it’s the last space in town.

5. Auto-detailing for a year

Speaking of cars, people love to bid on auto-detailing services. It’s something they wouldn’t buy for themselves, but for charity, anything!

6. Private in-home dinner with chef for eight

Many people at auctions have beautiful homes and love to entertain. But cooking is a hassle. Bidding on this item isn’t.

7. 20 hours of legal advice from a top lawyer

Do you know what lawyers are charging these days? Your guests will plead guilty to wanting this.

8. Home Depot shopping spree

People get most of their home stuff there anyway. It has broad appeal.

9. Anything from Starbucks

(E.g., gift cards, Verismo latte maker, barista for a day, etc.) Every day, millions of people pay five dollars or more for a Starbucks drink. You’ll have fans in the audience who will overbid for this like they overpay for their coffee.

10. Dinner at a top restaurant

Who doesn’t like to eat out at someplace nice?

11. Tickets to sporting events

If your nonprofit is in Kansas City, for example, tickets to a Royals or Chiefs game may not be a home run. But if you’re in a major market like Boston, New York, Chicago, or any market with a winning team, these are hot sellers. Combine these with something above–like dinner before the game–and you really will have a home run!

12. Spa packages

People love to pamper themselves, and when they can do it while supporting a good cause, it feels even better!

What are your must-have auction items? What things do bidders LOVE?

  • Those are all great ideas – another one is if a local package isn’t selling very well anymore – perhaps you can do a package trade with another group who might find your auction item very different and have one that would be attractive to your group. I see schools in the NE do this quite a bit and reach out to groups on the west coast to trade theater tickets for a Sonoma Valley Wine tasting etc.