In the nonprofit world there can be a lot of competing ideas on how to come up with a solid charity auction item lineup for an upcoming event. There are two extremes that come about:

  1. Fundraising items are everything

In this school of thought, they believe that it is important to have big and exciting auction items ideas for your next event. It’s a “Go big or go home!” mentality. Flashy fundraising items will pay off in the end. Consequently, all event planning is focused around getting the flashiest auction items they can find.

  1. Fundraising items are a means to an end

Other people will say that it is important to attain auction items for your upcoming fundraiser and focus on more important aspects of the event. This school of thought believes that your guests already came to support your organization, so why break the bank or stretch your team thin looking for crazy and new auction items? This way of thinking lends an organization to be stuck year after year auctioning off gift baskets, local spa getaways, and gift cards to nice restaurants.

The first of these extremes overemphasizes auction items and the latter underappreciates them. But the solution is not somewhere in the middle.

The true solution is hiding in plain sight. It’s about knowing your audience

Your auction items have to be tailored to the interests of your guests. A good line up of auction items at an event is determined by whether or not the guests are excited to bid on them, not by how exciting the items may seem on face value.

What does that mean? It means that the price tag or the size of an auction item is not always the selling point. In fact, they are not even the biggest motivators! After all, a day spa getaway is not as expensive as goal line seats at the next super bowl. But if you were to ask a loving mother which one she would do anything to have, which would it be? Priceless items are the silent auction items that cause the most buzz and excitement. This can be as simple as a spa getaway or as fantastical as a signed poster of Star Wars. It takes time and intentional investment to get to know your donor base well. But in the end, knowing your audience pays dividends.