Many of our clients ask for the good 'ole 'Silent Auction' because they have some friends who will donate a restaurant gift certificate or signed drum sticks by a well known musician. The thing is, even though it's technically free, it may be crap. You really have to think about who is attending your event and what THEY want to bid on, not what you have to present.
In general, we’ve found that experiences always outperform any hard goods on a table. Chances are that most of your guests can pretty much buy a new hand bag or go out to dinner, but they may not be able to go to the movies with their favorite basketball player. Think this way, create memories and journeys for your guests that start before your fundraiser (early online Silent Auction) and continue that hype throughout the event. If you can make this connection once, you will have a return guest at future events, and they WILL share with their friends and colleagues.
These are our favorite categories and what we like to suggest to our clients.
1. All-Inclusive trips, Weekend getaways, Hotel stays, Airline tickets (cash in those miles!). I bet that you have a lot of friends and colleagues who have vacation homes, ask for a week or two from each.
2. What do you give someone who has everything? A Memory. Dinner with a celebrity Chef, anything on a yacht, front row seats to concerts and games, a year at a wine club?
3. Sports always works but make sure you are offering your guests the signed sports and entertainment merch that they like!
4. Music, this will get people's attention. Plus package with a limo, dinner, makeover/stylist and VOLIA! You have a night to remember!
Now for the annoying part - who do you ask?
Start with your friends and family, post on your social media that you are looking for items for your event. Post when you've secured something to remind them that you are still looking!
Once you get those feelers out then it's super important to start a simple database of who you have talked to, when, accept/decline, why and put that in a shared spot for all to update - like DropBox or Google Docs.
You will also need to create (and store in that folder) a solicitation letter, a form for the auction item, their contact information for tax purposes, the donors logo (for any print or online promotion), a 'why our event' pitch and of course - a place to store the items.
The days of the clipboard and pen with writing your name down and a bid are gone. We love using services like 501 Auctions and Silent Auction Pro. Trust us, you need mobile bidding. It's time.
We can help you through this process, actually, it's kinda what we do.