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With summer and Labor Day in the rearview mirror, we are headed for the thick of fall fundraising season! One of the most popular types of fundraising events organizations can hold is the charity auction. Live and silent auctions are a great opportunity to reconnect with donors, raise money, spread awareness about your mission and have fun!

Whether you’ve held an auction for years or are considering trying one for the first time, you know procuring high quality items is key to fundraising success. Why? The better the items, the more bids you’ll attract!

Here are 8 simple tips to put together an auction catalog that gets donors eager to place bids.

1. Form a procurement committee
2. Host a procurement party
3. Create a wish list
4. Ask donors what they want to bid on
5. Review proven bestsellers
6. Cast a wide net
7. Track Replies

Let’s get started!

1. Form a procurement committee

Once you’ve decided to hold an auction, this is the first and arguably most important step: assembling a team of volunteers that will help procure donated or high-yield items for the auction. Find a handful of volunteers (at least 4) that are…

Available: Can meet every 1 to 2 weeks before your event to give progress updates
Go-getters: Need to contact local businesses and individuals for donated items
Persistent: Can follow up with said potential donors and track responses
Passionate: Convey enthusiasm for the cause and understanding of the organization

If you work with a nonprofit, avoid asking staff members and other event organizers to lead the way. While they can ask around and look for donation opportunities when possible, this job requires total focus on one goal—procuring amazing items.

2. Host a procurement party

Here comes the fun part! Kick the procurement process off on a fun note by gathering the committee together for a 1- to 2-hour party. Look for an environment that’s relaxed, casual, and quiet enough for everyone’s voices to be heard. (Note to the host or hostess: Serving refreshments is a must!)

See if one of the members would be willing to host the party at their house or in their backyard, or try meeting at a local restaurant or coffee shop.

Host a procurement part for your charity auction.

3. Create a “wish list”

At the procurement party, take 15 minutes or so to jot down every idea that comes to mind for silent and live auction items. This is your auction “wish list,” or items that you will pursue to get donated for the auction. Try brainstorming first individually, then coming together and sharing as a group.

Remember, no idea is too farfetched or impossible to procure. Just focus on items that would be desirable, high quality and not easily obtained. The more exclusive or unique the item, the more they stand out, and the more bidders feel your event is the one opportunity they’ll have to get this item (while supporting a great cause!).

This can be tough for any procurement team, and even more so for first-timers.

To the rescue: a list of over 400 incredible auction items. Categories range from home and garden items to art supplies, food and wine to travel experiences and more, so there will be something for every bidder.

Download the free list at you.winspireme.com/400-ideas, then print off and bring to the party. Problem solved!

Take your auction procurement to the next level.

4. Ask donors what they want to bid on

Your donor database is your target audience: the ones who will bid on and purchase items at the event. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know just what they would like to see at your auction?

Fortunately there’s a simple solution: to ask.SurveyMonkey can be used to understand donors for your charity auction procurement.

Send out a quick online survey using a free tool like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. If you’ve held the event in the past, ask what items they’ve liked most and which categories they want to see more of.

For example, travel is always a bestseller at auctions. Studies show we increasingly have enough “stuff,” and donors are willing to pay top dollar for unique experiences. By finding out what destinations or activities are on their “bucket lists” (think: NASCAR driving, skydiving, or a trip to Italy), you know those items are guaranteed to generate interest.

If this is your first auction, ask donors to rate their interest in an auction and identify types of items they’d be most interested in buying.

Be sure the survey has very few questions and takes under five minutes to complete.

5. Review proven bestsellers

If you have prior experience holding a live or silent auction, it’s critical to review past numbers with your auction committee before procuring. Hopefully much of your audience is repeat attenders, so looking at big sellers from previous years is a virtually foolproof indicator of what guests like buying at the event.

That said, it’s also important to mix things up by offering new and exciting items in your auction. Donors like to be surprised and delighted, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

If it’s your first silent and live auction, consider categories and items that are proven bestsellers according to fundraising professionals. These include travel, wine, cigars, gadgets, and more. For more, read “Fishing for Bids: Best and Worst Items to Bait Donors.

6. Cast a wide net

Now that you have your wish list of high quality, distinctive items to procure, it’s time for your committee to divide and conquer.

Have procurers list out any and every person they know, from their sister to the mailman and more, then select a few dozen to ask before the event. You’ll want to make the most of your time by focusing on those with realistic possible connections to these items.

Then, arm your committee with a quick one-sheet or promotional flyer on the organization and event (date, time, venue, ticket price and so forth) to share with potential donors. Committee members also need to provide a procurement letter and donation form.

7. Track replies

As the committee begins contacting potential donors and receiving responses, track “Yes”es and “No”s in a group spreadsheet.

Expert Tip: Click here to view a sample spreadsheet tracking donation acquisition requests.

You don’t want to waste time doubling up on an ask, forget to follow up with an ask, or worse, let a potential donor fall through the cracks completely. So it’s important to carefully document every request made and the final outcome.

How does your auction procurement work?

We hope this post gave you plenty of practical ideas for the procurement process. Whether you’ve been holding an auction for years or are considering one for the first time, procuring an incredible auction catalog is well within reach. When done right, auctions can be a very lucrative endeavor and a true game changer for your organization or cause.


This post was created in collaboration with Summy Lau of Winspire. For a thorough step-by-step explanation of the procurement process and even more resources on auction item procurement, check out this free resource from the Winspire team: http://you.winspireme.com/procuring-quality-charity-auction-items

For more information on creating the best charity auction, check out our silent auction tips.

Author Bio: Summy Lau

Summy Lau provides expert auction procurement tips!

Winspire provides incredible travel packages and hotel stays with no upfront cost for charities to use in fundraising auctions and raffles. As Fundraising Editor, Summy brings extensive experience in nonprofit development, event fundraising and publishing to the blog, Winspire News. Click here to sign up for weekly articles, time-saving templates and other resources designed to help nonprofits meet and exceed their event revenue goals.

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Just in time for fall fundraising season, we’ve put together an educational graphic that details 5 different types of fundraisers designed with schools in mind.

The fundraising types include:

  1. Custom Clothing Sales
  2. Product Drives
  3. School Day Fundraising Activities
  4. After School Events
  5. Parent-Targeted Events

So, scroll down and learn about the various ways your school can raise more money this fall.

And if you’d like to learn more, check out our in-depth fundraising resources that inspired this post: 77+ Awesome School Fundraising Ideas (That Work!) and 70+ Awesome Product Fundraising Ideas (That Work!).

Here’s what the graphic has to say:

When it comes to school fundraising, the options are endless! Looking to narrow the list? Below you’ll find 5 top fundraising ideas to help you ace your efforts this fall. 

School Fundraiser #1: Custom Clothing Sales

Raise school spirit and funds by selling t-shirts, baseball caps, and other clothing items to your eager supporters to reach your fundraising goals in no time.

Examples: T-shirts, baseball caps, sunglasses

How it works: Partner with a company (Booster for T-shirts, for example) that provides custom clothing and the platform to customize and sell your apparel, create a design that’s sure to attract buyers, and promote, promote, promote.

School Fundraiser #2: Product Drives

By getting the whole school to join forces and collect one type of item, from gently-used clothing to aluminum cans, you’ll raise money and instill team spirit.

Examples: Clothing and shoes, cell phones, bottles and cans

How it works: Decide the type of item you’ll collect, find a local company that will pay your school for what you gather, get the word out about your fundraiser, and watch the items roll in via collections bins throughout the school.

School Fundraiser #3: School Day Fundraising Activities

Planning a fundraiser during the school day is a win-win, because you’ll have an automatic list of participants ready and eager to take a break from the standard school day.

Examples: Bake sale, hat day, pajama day

How it works: Pick out the fundraiser you want to host, and promote it to your students well in advance. Give them the opportunity to pay for a special privilege for the day, like wearing hats in class, or the chance to volunteer and get out of the classroom, like joining in on a bake sale.

School Fundraiser #4: After School Events

Pick out the kind of event that will resonate well with your school’s community, and you’ll be able to bring in funds through ticket sales and activities during the event such as auctions.

Examples: Carnival, comedy night, school dance

How it works: Save money by using your school auction as a venue, get parents and faculty to volunteer their time, reach out to local businesses for gifts-in-kind like food and drinks, and make sure to reach out to the media for coverage; once you have that down, it’s going to be all about your ticket sales and execution.

School Fundraiser #5: Parent-Targeted Fundraisers

Engage the parents and encourage as many donations as possible by selling items that they won’t be able to resist purchasing, like coupon books for stores within your community.

Examples: Discount cards, coupon books, engraved bricks

How it works: Parents will happily open their checkbooks to help support their children’s school and to get something to make their lives a little easier; that’s why practical items like discount cards and coupon books are so popular.

Sources

 

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Whether it’s tweaking an Organizer’s original hand-drawn concept, or creating a powerful original shirt design from scratch– Booster offers custom design services for your fundraising campaign to help take a design concept and upgrade it to the next level. Booster’s in house design team take requests from the Design Lab where campaign Organizers can choose between editing a pre-existing design, submitting a design form for the design team to modify, or creating a completely new shirt design.

The design request form is available for organizers who want to incorporate a compelling new shirt design, but lack the skills and resources that Booster’s design team offers. Our talented artists will take a picture or concept you submit and put together a design that they think best embodies your request. Each week we are going to feature a campaign that benefited from the creative assistance of our Booster designers.  

Keep reading to learn more about this week’s transformation!

Wreaths Across America – America Strong

Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to remembering and honoring America’s fallen heroes with wreath-laying ceremonies. Though these wreaths are important in showing America’s appreciation to veterans and their families, WAA receives no government funding and must rely on donations to continue honoring those who served our nation. WAA turned to Booster for help fundraising, and have now run several successful campaigns over the past few years.

WAA came to Booster with an idea for a July 4th campaign. With help from Designer Jess, their initial idea was transformed by incorporating WAA’s mission, “remember, honor, teach,” into a more patriotic design for the holiday. The hope was for Supporters to wear the shirt with pride on Independence Day as they help honor veterans in their communities. WAA pledged to place a wreath on a veteran’s headstone for every $15 raised.

design services for your fundraising campaign

Before

 

design services for your fundraising campaign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After

 

This campaign ended up raising over $1500, which was enough to generously sponsor 100 wreaths.

 

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How do you grow your following on Instagram? We sat down with one of our very own Booster Advisors, Alexis Tonkel, to get her insights on promoting on Instagram, and how it can be used to your advantage.

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In June of 2013, Alexis realized how many adorable pictures she had acquired of her cute pup, Maggie. Instead of filling her own Instagram page with the photos, she created a separate profile for her pup. Today, @MaggieTheCairn has over 13,000 followers!

During her free time, Alexis loves to take Maggie all around Boston and will “take plenty of pictures of whatever adventure [they] go on over the weekend.” That way, she always has plenty of content to choose from!

“I try to post a new picture everyday at about the same time, so people can look forward to Maggie’s posts and know when to look for them! Life can get a bit hectic and sometimes I forget to take new photos, so I try to take extra when I can for whenever I need them.”

To drive more people to Maggie’s page, Alexis will often “tag different locations or reach out to different groups or brands” on Instagram. If she takes Maggie to a park, she’ll tag the location in the photo so that anyone who looks through pictures from that location will see Maggie’s account. At the pet store she’ll “direct message the photo of Maggie to the brand’s Instagram page with a little message like ‘Thanks so much for the treats and my awesome new toy, I love it already!’ Sending the photo straight to them ensures that they see the image and makes them much more likely to repost it on their account.”

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Another great way to gain an Instagram following is by using hashtags! Since Alexis posts photos around a certain time everyday, she typically sees the same people liking her pictures at about the same time. “If I see a lot of likes coming in from accounts I don’t recognize, or a lot of new people follow me I know my hashtags are working.” She also likes to look at what hashtags similar accounts are using. “A lot of times I’ll see a hashtag I’ve never used before, and I’ll add it to the list of hashtags I include on every post!”

Alexis and Maggie have had amazing opportunities through the Instagram community. Not only have they been able to connect with other dog lovers from all over the world, but they’ve met some amazing dogs and their owners right here in Boston! 

“The most amazing part is seeing how many incredible people you can meet just by posting some cute puppy pictures on the internet! We love meeting new dog owners on Instagram that live right in the Boston area. Going to fun meetups and chatting with people you have so much in common with has turned into one of my favorite past times. There have also been so many incredible people around the world who I’ve gotten to know just by chatting with them in the comments of our photos and following their lives through their accounts!”

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Alexis has had so much success with her Instagram account, that we asked her to share some advice with us! She recommends, “using as many hashtags as Instagram allows in every category that your account covers. It can also be really helpful to follow a lot of similar accounts, since those are the ones that are most likely to be interested in your posts. Even following their followers and commenting on their photos can be a great way to get noticed.”

If you plan to promote your Booster campaign on your account, “start with a catchy hook. Instagram will only show the first 2-3 lines of your caption, so make sure you engage your followers. Your image should be fun and related to the campaign in some way so that people will notice your post and support! It can also be super helpful to reach out to related accounts to ask for their help. I just started a campaign for Cairn Terrier Rescue, and have already sent them information about it so that they can help to promote and drive sales!”

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Animal Rescue Leagues need donations to be able to save and support the pets that they take in. Shelters need to raise funds on a consistent basis in order to continue caring for needy animals. 

Dog Holding Money

Many shelters struggle to collect enough donations to accommodate the homeless and helpless pets they acquire. While crowdfunding is always a great way for ARL’s to raise extra funds, there are certainly plenty of other supplemental ways to obtain donations.

Everything is a worth a try when raising money, so don’t limit yourself! Need some inspiration for your own furry fundraiser? Here are 5 fun ideas to get you started:

  • Ask For Donations
  • Hold a Yard Sale or Bake Sale
  • Promote a Pet Photo Contest on Social Media
  • Hold an Animal Fashion Show
  • Hold a Dog Wash

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The most common way charities receive donations is simply by asking for them! The best way to keep past donors engaged is to ask for donations in a newsletter.

If money is especially tight, you can send an appeal letter to your mailing list with a call to action signifying more money is needed to provide resources for the pets in your shelter. In this case, it’s important to convey a sense of urgency so that your potential donors understand the situation. Likewise, it’s important to be positive and personable as it’s easier for the recipient of the note to understand and relate. Sometimes, requesting a specific amount of money is successful in sparking donor action. By suggesting $5 or $10 and explaining exactly what that money will pay for, a donor will understand how they are able to support your cause.

Setting up a booth at an event in your community can be a great way to not only raise awareness and collect donations, but also encourage interest in new volunteers who can help out the shelter in their free time. Any help, whether it is time or money, is greatly appreciated by an ARL.

Some donors may be more willing to donate if they receive something in return. Thus, selling yummy treats at a bake sale, or used home furnishings in a yard sale may be a good way to target that audience.

To tie in the pet theme, make some dog treats, or sell some cat toys at the yard sale!

Need even more product fundraising ideas? Look no further!

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Hold a pet photo contest on social media! In order to qualify, participants must post the picture and tag your shelter’s handle, but also make a specific donation to the shelter. Winner can get a prize for their pet using some of the funds collected.

Another way to take advantage of technology is to have participants pay to submit funny videos of their pets to your website!

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A fun, fresh idea to spice up a typical auction or raffle event is to hold an animal fashion show! Pets can dress up in silly outfits and they can be auctioned off to guests. During the auction, people can also put their name in different raffles for other pet accessories or toys.

Once you’ve decided what you’ll be hosting, you can start planning your event!

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Our favorite idea for Animal Rescue Leagues to raise money for their shelter is to have a dog wash! Similar to a car wash, people can bring their pets over for a quick cleaning in exchange for a small fee. Professional groomers are expensive and may require appointments weeks in advance, so a cheap, quick, and convenient option is always desirable for pet owners to keep their furry friends smelling and looking great!

 

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