Creating desirable packages for your live auction

Procuring enticing packages is one of the most challenging aspects of organizing a fundraising auction. Solicitation committees often get hung up on comparisons to other events and focus on the lots they see doing well at other fundraising auctions.

And while there is value in learning from one’s peers, we never encourage our clients to focus on specific auction lots. It can be frustrating, and it seldom yields results.

Relationships are the biggest selling auction lots.

Relationships are the biggest selling auction lots.

For example: I’ve sold “Breakfast with Bo Derek the morning after the auction” for over $20,000. This was wonderful for the event that had Bo as a supporter, but it is useless to the rest of you reading this right now (unless you are good friends with Bo as well).

Instead, we encourage our clients to focus on the types of lots that sell best and then work to find the most desirable packages in each of those types. There are three levels of desirability across all types of auction lots: Retail, Access, and Relationship:

  • Retail is the ground floor of desirability in an auction lot. If your attendees can find a price for it online, they’ll bid accordingly. There are types of auction lots that do fine when sold as straight retail, such as trips. Generally speaking, however, it is the least desirable.
  • Access denotes an experience bidders could not enjoy otherwise, something that is not available through retail channels. Lots that offer access engage your crowd to spend more, and make your auction more memorable. 
  • Relationships are the hottest selling lots in any auction we do. “People support people” is one of the oldest adages in fundraising, and nowhere does this prove more true than onstage. Relationship lots offer access to a “celebrity,” and the definition of celebrity varies.

Creating attractive packages for the live auction is one of the most crucial elements of the pre-event planning we consult on, and one of the areas upon which we focus the majority of our consulting. As such, we’ll be discussing this and brainstorming desirable auction lots in person at our upcoming workshop: “Raise More, Right Now: Advanced Fundraising Auction Strategies.”