There are many aspects of an event or gala that make it memorable and worth it for the attendees. Some include the menu, drink options, decor, location, guest speakers and overall vibe. If your event includes a silent and or live auction, the excitement around these can really leave a lasting impression. Imagine winning an auction item or gift basket that you have been eyeing online for a week. You are overcome with excitement and can’t wait to bring it home and share it with family and friends. Guests are more likely to share their experience with others, aka free marketing, if their night is enjoyable. I think it is important to have QUALITY over QUANTITY when it comes to auction items. No one wants junk they will never use or items they can easily purchase on their own. Aiming for high-end items will boost the overall buzz around the auction.

As a newcomer to the silent auction space, I have noticed a few tactics that have proven to be successful in bringing in these premier auction items. A proper timeline, categorizing ideas, themed packages for specific items, and having donation request letters or emailing materials ready on hand make for a successful and engaging auction.

Starting outreach for auction donations earlier than you think is crucial to building a strong roster of items. For example, I have a large 400-person gala taking place in September and I started reaching out to companies in early May. This gives companies plenty of time to get back to you and some larger organizations require a certain time in advance in order to process donation requests. Starting early makes this a less daunting task. By opening strong in the beginning with mass emails got the ball rolling, allowing for weeks with less frequent donor outreach due to scheduling conflicts.

Next is creating a document with specific items and package ideas that can be easily shared with other coworkers and especially board members of your specific organization. Keeping a studious track of your wish list makes selecting a theme and searching for local companies that have certain products or services that fit much easier. By incorporating as many local businesses as possible, you build camaraderie with the community and they are more likely to donate to reach more prospective customers in their target market. For example, I thought of a cabin-themed basket that could include beverages, a smores kit, a gas gift card, sunscreen, lake floats, and a dock mat. I then was efficiently able to find companies to ask for these specific items. I have noticed I had better luck asking companies for specific items instead of a general request. If you let them know how appreciative you would be if you got a certain item to use in your themed basket I think they are more inclined to assist. Additionally I found this organized list to be extremely helpful to distribute to the board members of the foundation putting on the September gala. They are able to read through the list and think of friends, family members, or businesses that they ask for to fill in the gaps for necessary items. Individuals who are members of the board typically work full-time jobs and do not have much time to designate for auction requests so this makes the process easier and more efficient for them.

Lastly, updating any donation letters and request forms regularly to attach to emails makes outreach a breeze. This makes the process quicker for companies so they have all the information needed like where to send the products, fill out the donation form when necessary, and get a general overview of what the donation will be used for. An added benefit is the reduction in email traffic, which I’m sure all of us appreciate. Additionally having a short boilerplate paragraph you can copy and paste in emails is a no-brainer and can make sending a large amount of requests in a short amount of time more feasible.

Simple tactics like these can lead to a fabulous auction experience for your guests. All your event attendees will be excited about the luxury items, driving up the prices and bringing more profits to your fundraiser.

Want K2 and Company to help you with your silent auction or fundraising event? Check out our brand new events website to learn more and get in touch with our expert team!

-Megan Linder, Fundraising & Events Account Executive