Must Have Live Auction Item #5: Sports

This the post in my blog series on Must Have Auction Items for a Varied Live Auction. If you haven't caught the other posts, or aren't sure why it is so imporant to have a varied live auction, you can find all of those posts HERE or archived on my blog. Stay awhile and look around. I provide all of this information to help my clients or anyone else trying to plan their fundraiser. My goal is to help organizations be as successful as possible!  

The last type of item you should be looking for as you solicit items for your live auction is a Sports related item. 

Criteria for a successful Sports Item:

Exclusivity. Like with any live auction item, you will have more success if the item is not a dime a dozen. Signed swag is good if it is by a well-known, well-loved player who does not hand out their autograph liberally. 

Appeal. This should seem obvious, but for some people it is not. If you are receiving sports tickets, make sure it is to a GOOD game with GOOD seats. Example for all of my Minnesota friends: 50 yard line to the Vikings/Packers game.  

Open Availability. If someone in your association has great season tickets to some local professional team, ask them if they would be willing to donate tickets that the bidder can select the date. A few black-out dates are acceptable, but still not ideal. This takes a lot of sacrifice on the donors part, but it's worth asking.

Best way to get sports tickets: 

Ask your company to donate. So many companies have season tickets that they give out to clients or employees as incentives. It does not hurt them one bit to give a set to your organization to sell. If they are less than amazing tickets, sell them on the silent auction, but still ask and take those babies off their hands.

If you have questions about your sports related item or any of the other sports categories I've listed in this series, please contact me and I'd love to dialogue with you about your live auction line up. 

Must Have Live Auction Item #4: Alcohol

I will start by saying this item is not for all organizations. Any organization affiliated with addiction and recovery or even domestic violance as well as some religious affiliations may want to steer clear of this type of item out of respect for the attendees. 

With that being said, items including an experience related to alcohol usually has a broad appeal. 

Examples of Alcohol Related Live Auction Items

Wall of Wine.  This is where all of the board members or auction committee members donate a bottle of wine (some bottles will be higher quality than others) until you have a collection of anywhere from 10-50 bottles of wine, and you sell it as a package. You will want to print any higher end bottles in your program, and ideally would print all of the bottles in the program so people can see what they are bidding. It is unrealistic and much less effective to verbally list all the bottles when introducing the item.

Wine Tasting. A private and exclusive wine tasting in someone's home with a professional Sommelier. 

Private Brewery Party. Local microbreweries are popping up all over the place (especially here in Minneapolis), but a tour is not enough because really anyone can go tour a brewery. A private tasting party at the brewery for 10+ people with catering by a local food truck (or two) would be an item worth selling on live auction and would provide an exclusive appeal. 

Wheel barrel of Booze. This item is always a hit. It is similar to the Wall of Wine, except it is an actual wheel barrel filled with alcohol. Arrange the alcohol so the higher end items are showing. You could also include glasses and garnishes (olives, cherries, frilly toothpicks, etc) in with the alcohol to fully stock the bar. This is an easy item to fill because auction committee members or board members would all go together to in contributing to this item. The winning bidder gets to take home their new wheel barrel and all of its contents. 

If you have a question about any of these items or want to know if it would be appropriate for you to add one of these items to your organization's live auction, please reach out and I will give honest feedback on your live auction lineup. 

Must Have Live Auction Item #3: Unique Experience

A unique experience is the hardest item to come up with because you often need to think outside of the box and pull your personal connections in for this. There is really no real criteria here other than provide an experience or an item that people cannot access on their own. So, for this post, I will just be listing examples of things I have sold to get your creative juices flowing.

Examples of Unique Experiences

  • Character created about winning bidder in a well known author's next book
  • Trip to visit and tour Jay Leno's garage (with Jay Leno if the timing was right) 
  • Principal for a Day
  • Trip with a professional sport's team to an out of state game which included accommodations and riding with the team on their plane to and from the game as well as an after party post game.
  • Lock in sleepover at a museum with a roof top movie
  • Premier parking space for school pickup and drop off
  • Batboy (bat-kid) for local professional Baseball team
  • Box at a professional sports game hosted by a (well-known) retired player
  • Timed shopping spree at a local department store

The possibilities are endless for these types of items. What I would encourage you and your team to do is to plan an entire meeting that is set aside for brainstorming this type of item. Throw out ideas with the freedom of "no idea is a bad idea" and just go with it. Some of the best auction items sound "stupid" in your head before you say it outloud and realize that it could actually happen with the connections in the room. Eventually what will happen is one member will throw out an idea, another member will know someone with the right connections and you will find yourself with a very exclusive an unique idea. 

Selling Vacations at a Fundraising Auction – Things to avoid

 Vacations are popular items to sell at fundraising auctions! They can be very successful, but if done wrong they could be a complete disaster. Here are things to avoid:

  • Vacations with one specific week availability– remember, we want live auction items to have a broad appeal, and if the vacation is only available one week of the year (say November 3rd-10th), chances are you aren’t going to get much from it. There has to be more than 1 person available to go on this vacation. If someone donates a vacation with a one week availability, put it in the silent auction.
  • Surprising the crowd with a vacation– A vacation is quite a commitment. I have seen this work before, but more often than not, people are taken off guard and don’t have enough time to talk about this decision with their spouse and hesitate to bid when they would have probably purchased it if they knew about it in advance. If there is a truly last minute donation for two weeks to Italy including airfare – put it in the live auction. I’ll make it work, but if you know about any type of vacation in advance – advertise it! People will get excited about it and keep the bidding going up!
  • Lodging with only weeknight availability – this can just seem cheap on the donors part. I’ve seen donations from B&Bs that are only redeemable Monday through Thursday. Unless you can get a weekend, say "Thank you, but no." Trips to Disney and the like are okay, but for the most part, if people are going on vacation, they generally want to tag their weekend into it or only go over the weekend. Like many things this is case by case, but reach out to me if you are unsure. I’ll walk you through it.


How many live auction items should I have at my fundraising auction?

 Good Question. I’ve done auctions with as few as 2 items and others with as many as 80, but the best range is somewhere between 6-12.

 Don’t get so stuck on the number though, I’m more concerned about quality of items over the quantity. If you have 15 super unique items that all have a broad appeal, by all means I’m open to having 15. However, if you have 15 items and 2 of them are vacations in Mexico and 4 are tickets to local sports teams, that’s where I would step in and help you bring it down under 12 items.

 The reason it’s important not to have too many items is that the crowd gets bored. Honestly! I’d love to think that people are captivated by me for 3 hours straight, but after about 30 minutes, it all starts to sound the same no matter how funny my jokes are. Once we’ve lost their attention, we have lost their money. 12 awesome items is pretty much an audience’s limit. Let’s be honest, they’re all waiting for the bar to open back up and the band to start playing anyway.

 On the other hand, if you only have 4 stellar items, don’t stress! I’d rather have 4 great items alone than start adding in lots that won’t go for much. It’s important not to kill the momentum during the live auction by selling a dud item. It will affect the bidder’s willingness to bid on future items. If you only have 4 awesome items, I will also sit down with you and go over item suggestions and help you brainstorm where to solicit those items.