HOW TO GET, PRICE, & PROMOTE ITEMS

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1 HOW TO GET, PRICE, & PROMOTE ITEMS +35 Awe-Inspiring Item Ideas

2 How to Get, Price, and Promote Items Auctions are all about the items. Fundraisers of all types, from large national organizations to small town public schools, use auctions in support of their causes. But what makes an auction stand out from the crowd? It s the items, of course. No matter how great an event you throw, if you don t have the right items, priced right, and promoted to your supporters, you can t meet your goals. If you happen to be having an online auction, great items are even more important for creating buzz and word of mouth on social media. Initial item brainstorming The first thing to do is call an all-hands-on-deck committee meeting to brainstorm items for your auction and create a master list. In this first meeting, the sky is the limit. What are the biggest, best items you desire for your auction? Are you hoping that Toyota dealership in town is going to donate a Prius? Would you like the best restaurant in town to donate a romantic dinner for two? Put it on the list. Dream up items unique to your community Equally important is getting a start on the priceless unique experiences that only your organization and community can contribute. It s never too soon to start thinking about what you can offer that will really get your supporters excited and engaged with your cause. 2

3 Relationships count For instance, maybe someone on your committee happens to have a brother-in-law who works at that Toyota dealership. Think about every relationship your organization has. Take advantage of contacts on your committee whenever you can. The most persuasive petitioner is someone with a connection, be it business or personal. If you want a spa package, have the person who regularly goes for massages make the ask. Don t hesitate to ask for high value donations. It never hurts and you might just get it. Your organization s bank, accountant, insurance agency, or attorney, are potential sponsors or could donate an hour or more of their professional time. See if a printer will print posters in exchange for a sponsorship, or if your caterer will donate a catered dinner for six. Do your supporters come from multiple towns in your area or distinct neighborhoods in your city? Build area teams to solicit for items within their home communities. Make all your personal and business relationships count on behalf of your auction. The ABCs of asking for items The culture of every organization is unique and it s the job of the auction committee to be sensitive to their organization s preferences. Here are some basics for how to ask for and acknowledge item donations for your auction. The earlier you start, the more items you can gather. It s not unheard of to start asking for item donations six months before your event. It is certainly acceptable, today, to send requests for donations. If you are using , make sure to keep it short and to the point. Come out and state that you are looking for support. Tell them the date of your auction and give them a choice about how to help: donate items or services, become a sponsor, or make a cash donation. When you send s it s important to follow up with a phone call, if you haven t heard back in a week or so. Remind them that you ed asking for their support, and reiterate how important it is to your organization. 3

4 The personal touch When it comes to asking for really large items, the power of the personal touch cannot be overestimated. In person is great, but a meeting isn t always possible. A phone call or a personal note are appreciated and will stand out. If you have it, send a letter on your organization s letterhead. Thank you very much It almost goes without saying that a proper thank you is always called for. A shout out at the event, a listing in a program, and visibility on an electronic leaderboard are all ways you can show your appreciation for items, cash donations, and sponsorships. But nothing beats a handwritten personal note of thanks. Make sure that every person or organization that makes a contribution gets one. This is another place where you can share the work by having a team of thankers who will pen the notes. Everyone can use the same note text, and maybe add a personal touch where appropriate. Descriptions that sell See if you can get a volunteer to write all the item descriptions. Chances are anyone who volunteers for a writing assignment is a decent writer. The better the descriptions are the easier it will be to sell the items. It s smart to follow a format for all the descriptions to make it easy for bidders to get the information they need. The old standby, who, what, when, where, why, is a good starting place. 4

5 ITEM DESCRIPTION EXAMPLES Example 1 Who: Dinner for 2 What: at Chez Panisse When: redeemable through Dec. 31, 2020 Where: in Berkley, CA. Why: Enjoy a fabulous meal at one of America s favorite restaurants. Example 2 Who: Headmaster Jay invites the 5 highest bidders What: for a cookout with their families, When: on Sunday, July 21, 2020 Where: at his beautiful Lake Michigan summer home. Why: No one grills a better hamburger than Headmaster Collins! Give Bidders a Reason to Buy. You don t have to follow the who, what, when, where, why, template, but whatever you do, give all the vital information. Make sure to include any restrictions for travel, dining, or gift cards. Most of all, give bidders a reason to buy. The price is right The price is part of the item description, too. But how do you price items? We ve learned that setting a price at half of retail value makes the most sense. Your entire catalog value should be two to two and a half times the total amount you hope to raise from the auction portion of your event. Make sure to set a reserve amount for higher priced items. It s even a good policy for those unique items like the cookout at Headmaster Jay s lake house. Nobody gets to have that much fun for less than $100 per family! Catalog Value = 2x Auction Goal 5

6 Showcase your best items Build excitement and participation for your auction by promoting your most tantalizing items. Choose a variety of fun items with price points from low to high. Promotion opportunities include: Display an item in your school s main lobby or office Send notices home with students highlighting great items Display an item in your town s library, if they ll allow it Ask local business sponsors to promote items and the auction at their business locations For community organizations, show off items at meetings leading up to the auction Put pictures and descriptions of your items on your organization s website homepage Send s to your list of supporters with images and descriptions of items and all the vital information about the time and place of your auction Ask committee members if they will post images of fun items on their social media accounts If your auction is online the URL of your auction homepage or item pages prior to opening your auction to bidding Send links to items of great interest or buy now links once the online auction is open for bidding Use social sharing tools to promote the auction to a personal or organization Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest account Remember that pictures will always garner more interest and more shares If you offer mobile bidding at your event, take advantage of the leaderboard to encourage bidding on high value items The more you can get people in your community of supporters interested in your items before your auction, the better you will do in reaching your fundraising goal 6

7 35 fun and creative item ideas Are you ready for an item brainstorming session? These great item ideas from auction committees we have worked with should help get your committee s creative juices flowing. 1. A murder mystery dinner put on by staff 2. A dinner made and served by the board of directors 3. A mom is on strike package : fast food/pizza gift certificates grouped with some Netflix coupons 4. A barbeque hosted by a staff member 5. A dinner and wine pairing prepared in your home by the CFO and CIO 6. One organization auctioned seats at a series of themed parties 7. A car detailing by the CEO 8. A picnic at the music teacher s house 9. A wine tasting at a parent s house 10. A personal chef experience 11. A movie night hosted by parents for a certain number of students 12. A sleepover at school hosted by several teachers 13. An all day fishing trip with an experienced local fisherman 14. One organization had a relationship with an Olympic gold medal sailor, who donated the opportunity for six people to go out with him on his sailboat, where his wife also made a gourmet meal for the group 15. Collective art projects made by each grade 16. A handmade quilt made by the youth beneficiaries of the organization 17. Furniture made by the school s students 18. A large piece of driftwood pulled from the edge of a river, cleaned up, and auctioned as garden art 19. Front row seats to a school function like graduation (front row parking can also be an added bonus!) 20. Front row seats to performances or opening night 21. Principal or head of school for a day 22. The naming rights to something, like a conference room 23. A prime parking spot 24. A spa package for couples 25. For a James Bond theme, an opportunity drawing for a Mini Cooper 26. For an art themed event, a Picasso impersonator painted a custom picture that was auctioned off 27. An opportunity to conduct the high school band at a concert 28. A helicopter ride along with the local police 29. A party hosted by a jewelry store, where 6 attendees leave with the jewelry of their choice 30. A chef-catered dinner for guests at a Frank Lloyd Wright house owned by a local business 31. A dinner at the fire house, cooked by the firemen 32. A news station tour, including watching a local newscast from the control room 33. A wine tasting party and tour from a local winery 34. A speed artist that creates pieces of art at the event to auction off 35. A blueberry picking party Get inspired and create some memorable experiences for your supporters. They ll be talking about your auction and your organization for years to come BiddingForGood, Inc. 100 CambridgePark Drive Cambridge, MA

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