• Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Procuring Standout Auction Items

If you’ve ever planned an auction for your nonprofit, you know that the process has many moving parts, from setting a fundraising goal to securing a venue to marketing the event. However, the most involved and impactful planning step is procuring a wide range of items for participants to bid on.

To maximize your auction’s fundraising potential, you’ll need to find the best quality items you can at the lowest possible price. That way, you’ll encourage more bids, and more of your event revenue will go toward your mission.

In this guide, we’ll help you develop a successful auction item procurement strategy by covering the following topics:

As you implement these tips, remember that the most important consideration with procurement is finding items that will engage your unique supporter base. Learn about your potential participants before you begin the procurement process to ensure you choose items that will appeal to their interests. Let’s dive in!

Where to Find Auction Items

In general, there are three main ways to secure auction prizes. Each method is best suited for procuring a different type of item, so you’ll likely need to use a combination of all of them to get the range of prizes you want for your event.

Here is a basic breakdown of the three procurement methods:

  1. In-kind contributionsThese occur when an individual or business freely gives an auction item to your organization. It’s easiest to collect physical goods and gift certificates this way. The main challenge with in-kind contributions is that a donor might give you an item that would be worthless or even harmful to sell. However, you can reduce the risk of this by communicating clear guidelines for what you can and can’t accept to your supporters.
  2. Nonprofit discounts. You’ll find these most often with venues selling tickets for concerts, plays, and athletic events, although they can also be helpful if you want a specific physical item that no one wants to give in-kind. While widely available, nonprofit discounts aren’t always well advertised, so you may need to call the provider directly and negotiate with them.
  3. Consignment auction item providers. For some big-ticket items like vacation packages, the most straightforward way to secure them is to go through a dedicated fundraising auction item provider. You’ll pay the full list price that the provider sets for each item (although it’s generally less expensive than buying each element of a vacation separately), so look for a partner with a no-risk arrangement that allows you to only pay for what you sell at your event.

At the beginning of the auction planning process, create an event budget so you know how much you can spend on discounted or consignment items while still being able to cover all of your other costs, such as fees for the venue, marketing materials, and event management software.

Top Types of Auction Items to Procure

Although many auction participants will attend your event with the primary objective of supporting your nonprofit’s mission, they’ll appreciate the added bonus of taking home a prize that suits their interests. You may also have some attendees whose main goal is to find one-of-a-kind items at a great price—for them, supporting a good cause is the added bonus.

To engage both of these groups, you’ll need to procure the right kinds of items. According to Winspire, the top 10 types of nonprofit auction items are as follows:

 A graphical list of the top 10 types of auction items to procure for your nonprofit’s event.

  1. Vacation packages, especially if they include unique activities or experiences
  2. Gift baskets, because bundling several items into a themed package makes them more valuable
  3. Event tickets to concerts, plays, athletic events, and more
  4. Signed celebrity memorabilia from athletes, actors, or musicians
  5. Artwork and antiques, particularly those made by local artists
  6. Certificates for services like dry cleaning, childcare, mechanic work, or massages
  7. Family-friendly activities such as birthday party packages or amusement park passes
  8. Fine food and beverages like high-quality chocolate, craft beer, or wine
  9. Popular technology such as video game consoles, fitness trackers, or Bluetooth headphones
  10. High-end goods like designer purses or brand-name kitchen appliances

Use what you know about your target audience to prioritize certain categories or choose which items to procure in each category. For example, if many of your supporters have young children or grandchildren, you’ll definitely want to include multiple family-friendly activities. Or, if you’re trying to attract younger participants to your auction, you’d likely choose tickets to the concert tour of the summer over a classical performance by your local symphony orchestra.

Essential Auction Item Procurement Materials

To make the procurement process go as smoothly as possible, NXUnite’s nonprofit event planning guide recommends forming an event committee of staff members, board members, and volunteers. Then, divide up sourcing duties based on everyone’s skills and connections. For instance, you might assign the responsibility of securing concert tickets to a staff member who is great at finding and negotiating discounts, or ask a volunteer who works at an antique shop to talk to their boss about contributing merchandise.

Provide each committee member with a procurement packet that includes:

  • A live or silent auction donation request template that they can personalize for each potential donor.
  • An in-kind donation form to collect the donor’s information and a description of the item for its auction catalog entry or bid sheet.
  • Your nonprofit’s auction item wish list so that if the donor doesn’t agree to provide the item the committee member originally asked for, they can offer alternative options.

The key to soliciting auction items is to be persistent but flexible. If the provider won’t give you a prize for free, see if you can negotiate a discounted price. If they don’t want to contribute an item at all but still seem interested in your cause, ask if they’d be willing to sponsor your event financially instead.

How to Thank Auction Item Providers

In addition to thanking participants and volunteers after your auction, it’s also important to show appreciation to your auction item providers. There are several ways to do this, including:

  • Sending personalized thank-you cards.
  • Posting shoutouts on your organization’s social media accounts.
  • Featuring their names on their item’s bid sheet or in your auction catalog.

No matter how you choose to acknowledge auction item providers, your goal should be to develop deeper relationships with them that will turn into long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships to further your mission.

The auction item procurement process may seem daunting at first, but it’ll become easier each time you go through it. After your first auction, take note of what went well and where you could continue to improve your strategy for future events.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter

And receive fundraising ideas, how-to articles, and tips for a successful campaign!

Enter your email address below and follow the confirmation prompts. You will be able to unsubscribe at any time through a link in any emails.