What’s Hot? What’s Not? High-Profit Benefit Auction Items

What Auction Items Sell Best Now?

What charity auction items bring the most profit at a fundraising auction? Let’s look at the top factors to procure hot auction items that get those bid cards flying high at your next benefit auction? This is one of the most frequently asked questions that I’m frequently asked. Here are some tips to raise more money at your benefit auction.

In this new economy, bidder behavior has changed. Have you? Auction guests are bidding much more intentionally and with a strong measure of pre-auction promotion of these auction items on your part. Let’s face it, not everyone wants or needs another silent or live auction item. So it’s vital for you and your benefit auction team to be quite strategic to only procure and offer items that maximize your fundraising and add excitement.
The number one factor for profitable benefit auction items might just surprise you.  Plus, read on and I’ll teach you how to make money out of thin air!

First, match auction items to your guests.
Who are your guests and what do they want? Here are some important tips.  Be sure to analyze the last few years auction results. What do your top bidders want? Ask them.

Second, ONLY solicit those auction items generate a high rate of return on the value of the auction item. Hint: think and act like a top marketer – a benefit auction is a one-day business.  Know the ROI of every single auction item.  What are the best items — the ones have the capacity to bring far over the value!  Focus on bestselling items that have a high yield or return on investment.  The goal is to get items that will get a hundred percent of their value and more. If any auction items receive fifty percent or less of their value historically, don’t use them any longer. It is not worth the time they take to sell in a live auction or it’s not worth the space they take up in a silent auction.

Third, just say NO!  Less is more. Reduce the number both your silent and live auction items.  Consider this ratio: 1 item per every 4 guests.

What auction items bring the most profit? Take a look and keep on reading for my ultimate favorite way to make auction money – out of THIN AIR!

What’s HOT?
Procure items that fulfill fantasies and have emotional value
Solicit items that are experiences, personal and unique items, once-in-a-fantasy experiences, exclusive, handmade gifts, one-of-a-kind, travel, trips, sold out, hard to get and unique group experiences. Hot VIP tickets and experiences to sold out sporting event, concerts and show are doing well now too. Wine is selling well, however check your state and local laws. Top selling items have limitless retail value. When there is a stated retail value, bidders tend to stop at that pre-set spending limit.

What’s NOT?  Avoid auction items that do not perform well.
Art, jewelry, professional and medical services typically sell far below retail value. They are considered personal choices, and typically do not sell well at general fundraising auctions. Unless you know you have several ready bidders prior to auction night, its best avoid these items. You may also wish to carefully weigh using consignment items with very high reserves. Take a look at your past auction performance results and bidding levels to help you with analyzing decisions for these types of potential auction items.

Solicit items that have been successful in the past
Waste no time and space on items that don’t bring high return. Study your results each year and only solicit items that are successful for you. Make a chart calculating item, retail value, high bid, percentage of value achieved. Study what your group loves to bid on.  Go get more of these top revenue producers!

Ask vendors and suppliers for premium items
Ask business associates of your non profit and board to assist you. Ask for high level introductions to their valuable contacts for marquis auction items. Examples: a walk-on part in an upcoming movie, sold out concert tickets, exotic travel, or extravagant dinner for 8, or a well-known chef preparing a magnificent dinner in home with paired wine, etc.

Kathy’s FAV! Make more money out of THIN AIR!
Another popular category is what I call: special experiential items. These unique experimental auction items can relate to the cause. For example, a great school auction item is front row seats at an upcoming graduation. Another unique one is the winning bidder’s name or dog’s name as a character in a famous author’s next book or even conducting the orchestra or playing the kettle drums during the 1812 Overture!  Procure auction items that are “very meaningful” to your audience — literally make money out of thin air.  It’s sentimental bidding. Here’s an example. Recently at a charity auction a simple sock monkey sold for one thousand dollars. Why?  Because the nonprofit’s beloved founder hand-made a new sock monkey every year for the auction. It was fun and an honor to own one of her sock monkeys.  At another auction, a twenty-pound kosher salami brought in hundreds of dollars each year as item number one in the auction.  How about the opportunity to name a new born baby calf at a dairy farm?  That item sold for one thousand dollars to support a local food bank.  How creative can you get!

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