The structure and nature of buy-in parties often encourage much more creativity than your “standard” winner-take-all type of auction lots. This is partly because buy-in parties need to be enticing enough for people to be willing to do them with potential strangers.
But it is also because the cost of participation in a buy-in lot is typically lower than your standard auction lot, making buy-ins seem affordable in comparison. People are therefore more willing to spend a “little” on a party or idea that might be cost-prohibitive if they had to buy the whole thing. [If you need a primer on what a buy-in party is, read this previous post: “How to: Buy In Lots in Your Live Auction”]
We’ve seen buy-in parties created by hosts who had a great idea, and we’ve seen buy-in parties created by cobbling together disparate small components to make something appealing as a whole. Whether you are new to buy-in parties or a seasoned veteran, following are some of the creative buy-ins we’ve seen over the years. Feel free to try to replicate these, but feel even freer to use them as creative springboards for your own unique buy-in lots.
Sushi, Sake & Karaoke
I love this party because it tells you everything you need to know in the title. If you like eating sushi, drinking sake and making a fool out of yourself singing karaoke – this is the perfect lot for you! If any of those things are a turn off, you won’t go near it.
The first time I saw this lot was at a school event, and a well-known family was the host. They had a friend who had a sushi restaurant, and the chef was going to come do a sushi preparing demonstration/class for everyone as the beginning of the party. I’ve seen variations since that just involved eating and drinking. Oh, and singing. Probably poorly.
Other Themed Parties
The vast majority of buy-in parties I’ve seen have been…well…parties! And the themes have been as diverse as the hosts throwing them:
Second Chance Prom
Bust out your turquoise tuxedo and neon prom dress, it’s time to reclaim the prom.
Black Tie Bar-B-Q
Don your BBQ best (think JR in Dallas) for a day of live music, fine wines, bourbon cocktails, and a gourmet feast of Southern fixins.
Sinners and Saints
Mardi Gras. Need I say more?
1950’s themed party with Don Draper as the role model.
Moroccan Dinner Party
Mediterranean food, belly dancers, maybe a hookah or two.
All Aboard the Love Boat
Dress like your favorite character from the Love Boat, enjoy cruise themed food and drinks. Emphasis on the drinks.
The nature of buy-in parties also gives you a chance to add competition to the mix, and sell access on a per-team basis.
SCDS Grand Prix
Teams of four compete on a go-kart track to see who can record the fastest time. This lot was cobbled together from a few disparate elements: we had two races for 16 people at a local go-kart track; a mobile pizza oven that would do dinner for up to 20; and a few cases of beer and wine. We combined them all, along with a cheesy trophy for the winning team and a T-shirt for the person who had the slowest time, and sold it on a per-team basis.
Four teams of four people, opening bid of $250/team. It wound up selling for over $600/team – a great return on value.
Dip, Duck, Dive, Dodge!
Dodgeball! Eight Teams Enter, One Team Leaves!! Buy-In Tournament for 8 teams of 10 players each Held at a gymnasium that donated the space, with food, a keg of beer, and a round-robin tournament of dodgeball. For adults.
Balls of Fury
A bocce Ball Tournament, replete with food and beer.But I've also seen Beer Pong parties as well. These are obviously aimed at a crowd of people who know each other well and like to party together. Hard.
Pulled pork, lots of beverages and a night's worth of Texas Hold 'Em. It is good to have a grand prize of some sort for the person who wins the tournament. I hosted a poker tournament for my son's school and first place won a stack of EA games and a cheesy trophy made up; the person who lost all their money fastest got a T-shirt declaring such.
Amazing Race/Scavenger Hunt
These are sold on either a per-couple or per-team basis. These types of events really need a group of organizers who are deeply committed to setting up and running them; either extremely dedicated volunteers, or even professional scavenger hunt companies.
Not all of these ideas are appropriate for every event, obviously, but I believe that buy-ins of one type or another will work at almost every event. I’ve done plenty of high-end events that included buy-in parties that opened up at $1,000, $5,000 or even $10,000 per spot to attend them. The key is to create an event that is appropriate to your crowd and the culture of your event.
If you would like to implement buy-in parties in your auction, the best thing you can do is find some willing hosts and begin brainstorming ideas. If you ever have any questions, feel free to contact us directly. Otherwise, we’d love to hear about some of your creative buy-in parties in the comments below.