The first important step is to gather an effective Auction Acquisitions Committee – a group of volunteers who are responsible for acquiring your live and silent auction items, verifying the details of the items, and promoting the items. People who are outgoing and have a lot of connections and friends, and who are not afraid to ask for donations are great for this job. They will need to understand what type of items are more likely to sell. It is good to have a brain-storming meeting early in the planning stages where they can come up with types of items they would like and where to get them, possible package ideas, connections they may have to donors, and divide up the list for everyone to work on. Usually, there will be several personal connections uncovered when you get your group thinking about it. Someone may know a chef that might donate a catered dinner or someone on the committee may own a condo in a vacation town that could be donated for a week. Some of the best items I’ve seen have come through personal connections of the volunteers.
Some items that sell great in silent auctions are vacations, restaurants, entertainment, services, and fun experiences. There are usually physical items as well that can be attractive to your bidders. It is best to determine ahead of time what types of items you want. You will have a limited amount of space on your silent auction tables and you don’t want to have items that won’t be bid on taking up real estate. It might take a while for a donor to peruse through all of your items and you don’t want them to lose interest. Your silent auction should not feel “cluttered”, especially with physical items that would just fall under the “stuff” category. Limit the “stuff” in your auction to things that you feel would spark excitement in some of your donors.
Other items that might be difficult to sell at your silent auction are jewelry, artwork, and certain services. Artwork and jewelry are very personal choices. Tastes differ, colors must match; and these are just some of the reasons that your bidders may be limited. Keep in mind that it can be an embarrassing situation for an artist who donates their work. Some services also limit buyers. More personal services are less likely to be bid on — hair salons or personal trainers. Services might also be limited to certain locations that are not convenient to all. Exceptions to all of the above are name brand or well known companies. If the jewelry is Tiffany, the artist is famous, or the hair salon is prestigious your donors will bid on them.
The main idea is for your Auction Acquisition Committee to have a plan. Don’t just walk into a business and say, “Would you donate to our fundraising auction?”. Know what you would like to sell, go to certain places, and ask for a specific donation. Ask BIG, remember that the donating business will be featured at your grand event supporting a worthy cause. It is a great opportunity for them to market their business and show their generosity to the community.
Having a solid Auction Acquisition Committee is key. The more volunteers you have the more personal connections you will find. The list of items to acquire is much more manageable when there are more people to get them. Congratulate your team when a big-ticket item is donated. Keep regular communications to share the goals for the week and report progress. The most successful auction events have a great team that works hard and works together.