Kathy’s Secret Recipe for High Profit Auction Items

Fundraising and giving has changed. More than ever it’s vital to be strategic with your auction item procurement. Here’s my golden recipe for item procurement. It’s the most lucrative way to boost bidding and make more money: select items that your guests really want.

First call your top donors, past bidders and sponsors. Ask them what they would love to bid on at your next auction. Then ask for their advice. Also study past auction data and list the top items and who bought them. Then first focus on procuring those specific items.

If your audience loves and supports the arts and culture, you’ve just got to procure sold-out Broadway or Vegas tickets with a VIP backstage meet and greet with a gourmet meal and luxury hotel in the Big Apple or LA. If you know the majority of your guests adore the Red Sox or even the Yankees, make sure you have tickets behind home plate for one of the biggest sports rivalries in history. School auctions afford really unique bidding opportunities as the best selling items include Head of the school for the day, your very own parking spot, favorite teacher experience, like cupcake making at Mrs. Smith’s home, AND of course the class gift from each grade level like the first grade cookie jar with each child’s thumbprint and initials all over it!

First procure your high-yield Live Auction items. These are the ones that sell for over the value. This is where we must focus our efforts in this economy. Why? Because these are unique items or experiences that have the capacity to bring very high profit and sometimes far exceed the retail value.

PICK SPECIAL EXPERIENCE ITEMS that are sometimes hard to value (such as dinner paired with wine at your home with a well-known chef, front-row seats at graduation, school projects hand-tiled garden stepping stones, your name (or your dog’s name) in the next book of a famous author) always belong in a LIVE auction.

Procure items that do not have a high dollar value but are very meaningful to your audience. They will fetch a lot because of sentimental bidding such as a handmade “sock-monkey” lovingly made each year by the founder of the organization (sold for hundreds of dollars after lively bidding), a 10 lb. salami (a yearly tradition at a different auction) These items have a big emotional connection to the particular organization; sometimes they take on a life of their own and it becomes an honor to be the winning bidder!


Many organizations ask me about adding consignment items to their fundraising auction. A consignment item is auction item that is provided by a consignment company for a fee. It is typically an upscale or experiential trip that can be customized to fit the needs of the organization or school. There are some reasons to consider consignment items. First, it’s vital to research and select the the right consignment company and always check out references from other nonprofits and winning bidders.

Consider these benefits. There is no financial risk, so that if the consignment trips do not sell the nonprofit does not pay. Many times you can net more on one consignment item than on several donated items. Nonprofits should not completely rely on consignment items to fill their auction.  Properly selected consignment trips can also raise your auction to a higher level especially when they complement items your donated items.

Should you choose to use consignment items, I highly recommend award-winning Mitch-Stuart Destinations of Excellence.  They offer over 250 trips for a tremendous choice where airfare is included.

Congratulations to Mitch-Stuart on receiving the prestigious national award by SCORE: Outstanding Small Business Award launched by an individual 50+. To receive their extensive catalog of trips and experiences for your fundraising auction. Visit their website at www.MitchStuart.com and register. A Mitch Stuart executive will contact you to more fully explain the program.

DOUBLE YOUR MONEY Always ask the donor if you can offer two packages on auction night. Be sure to let your auctioneer know when they can sell two!

Best Items: Add liberally to your auction

  • Experiential and Fantasy Items
  • Unique and hard to get experiences
  • Travel
  • Experiences with Celebrities
  • Wine (if it’s legal in your state)
  • Hot VIP tickets to sold out sports events and shows
  • Superb dining experiences with well-know chef in beloved person’s home with multiple courses paired with wine

Avoid these items…Don’t mix this in your batter

  • Art
  • Business and medical services
  • Jewelry
  • Consignment items with high reserves

It’s time to start thinking creatively about what YOU can add to your auction to make it even more fun-and profitable.

Bonus recipe: Drum up excitement for the items, look at past auction records to see who bought what. Pick up the phone, and on the call, be sure to tell them there are great items they would absolutely love.

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