The best things to sell in a fundraising auction aren’t things at all, but experiences. Unique, one-of-a-kind packages that offer “insider’s access” always outsell any item that has a clear-cut retail value. And the truly most desirable type of access we can sell is access to a relationship.
Access to celebrity always sells well in a fundraising auction. But the definition of celebrity varies from event to event. Sure, it would be nice if everyone could get access to A-list Hollywood movie stars, but the truth is you probably don’t need it.
There are people in your community or event who have their own celebrity, who can be tapped to help make your auction more successful. You simply need to identify them, and find a way that they can help out.
For years I conducted both of the fundraising auctions for the National Pain Foundation. We did one event in San Francisco and one event in Philadelphia each year. At each auction every year the highest selling auction lot was dinner with Dr. Elliott Krames and his wife at their San Francisco home. The package consisted of a 3-course meal prepared by Mrs. Krames, paired with wines from Dr. Krames’ extensive cellar, all served in their lovely Victorian home.
And at this point you are thinking, “Who the heck is Dr. Elliott Krames?” along with everyone else who’s ever heard this story. Dr. Krames was the founder of the National Pain Foundation. At those events he was a celebrity. Outside of those events, he’s “just some doctor from San Francisco.” But in that room, he’s a best-seller.
We see examples of this crowd-specific type of celebrity at a variety of events, crossing all types of organizations. At schools there is almost always the “principal for a day” auction lot, but we also see lots of buy-in parties leveraging the popularity of a few key parents. Other organizations utilize the celebrity of their leaders, be they the executive director or a well-known board member. Some people simply have a popular or well-liked home, that is its own sort of celebrity.
The key is to take a step back and look over your organization’s closest supporters with an objective eye. Ask yourself, “who could I sell in my auction?” (in the most loving of ways, of course). I guarantee that you have an extremely potential-filled auction lot within a degree of separation. All you have to do is identify the celebrity in your crowd and ask.