By focusing on the people you know, you’ll avoid cold-calling!
Don’t forget about your own organization!
An overlooked area to source items is your own organization, where you can auction cause-related privileges, or fun perks that your organization awards the winning bidder.
Here are some examples:
Name next year’s gala theme
Street, park or other space named after you
Principal for a day
Premier parking space
Serenade by the executive director
These privileges are easy to procure and can’t be acquired elsewhere by the winning bidder. They often grab attention due to their humorous nature and spur competitive bidding.
Step 2: Make the ask
Now that you have your procurement targets, it is time to make the ask.
If you have many targets, start with an email blast to build awareness about your event and auction needs.
Then, follow up with personal appeals via phone or in-person, minding the following guidelines:
Be Specific: Don’t ask for “something,” ask for something specific (see step 1).
Be Thorough: Ask everyone on your list. You’ll be surprised who donates!
Remove Barriers: Pre-fill any forms. All they should need to do is sign.
Don’t Apologize: It is never an imposition to help a friend.
Ask for multiples
If someone (particularly a business) donates a particularly desirable item, ask them if they have multiples you can auction to the top two or three bidders.
Embrace the silence
When asking over the phone, embrace the silence after asking your question. It will be awkward, but make the person on the other end speak first. You’ll get more “Yes”s.
Quality over quantity
You should accept, however, only quality items because displaying undesirable items will diminish the perceived value of your desirable ones.
For example, if a power washing business offers you a 25% coupon for their services, politely say, “We appreciate your generosity but our committee has decided to not offer any items that require further purchase. Would you contribute a driveway cleaning?”
Then hold the silence.
Step 3: Decide what makes the cut
Promote competitive bidding with fewer items
The person who makes you the most money at your auction is not the winning bidder…it’s the second place bidder who drives up the bids!
To promote competitive bidding, the maximum number of items you should include in your auction is one item for every two bidding units. A bidding unit can be a single person or, say, a married couple who coordinates on bidding.
Again, this is the maximum number of items to include so you may include fewer. Around 24 items display nicely on a computer screen without too much scrolling, so that’s a popular number of items in online auctions.
What if I’ve procured too many items?
If you procured more items than you plan to include, you’ll have to pare down your items.
The first thing to do is to see if any of your lesser items can be bundled with other items you’ve procured to make a single auction item. For example, if you’ve procured a restaurant gift card and a movie theater gift card, bundle them as “Dinner and a Movie”.
For items that won’t bundle, consider not only item quality but also differentiation to finalize your inclusions. You want items that appeal to each of your likely bidders, both in terms of the item and the price point.
With the items that don’t make the cut, see if you can save them for a later fundraiser. You can also keep them invisible in ClickBid and make them active for bidding if you’re seeing the bidding stall on items you’ve included from the beginning.
Procuring items for your online auction can seem overwhelming. A targeted approach to the people you know, however, can increase your success rate and quality of your items. Round out your auction with cause-related privileges and fun experiences from TravelPledge.
Special thanks to The Big Book of Benefit Auctions for some ideas presented in this post.
Alex McDonald is the Director of Customer Experience for TravelPledge, your benefit auction’s connection to generous business owners. Alex manages TravelPledge’s content strategy and customer onboarding. He is passionate about helping nonprofits exceed their auction goals.
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