Fundraiser Auctions Ideas and Items

Auctions have long been a way for organizations to raise money. However until recently, the “fundraiser auction” was something for the elite and socialite crowds. Doctors and lawyers have, for many years, been found attending silent and celebrity auctions for glamorous Save the Rainforests and Feed the Children types of causes. But that isn’t the case any more.

Today, the auction format is being utilized not only by these high profile organizations but by scout troops, sororities, fraternities, student activities organizations on college and high school campuses. One reason for the success of auctions as fundraisers is that the possibilities for what to include are almost limitless. Here are just a few ideas and some tips for how to get each of them together, as well precautions to keep things running smoothly.

Celebrity auction.
In a celebrity auction, groups solicit celebrities, either on the local level or global level if the connections to do so are available, to donate items of a personal nature. A celebrity, in this case, is not necessarily an actor or musician, although these are not exempt. Local business owners, teachers, political figures can all be included.

Examples of items to solicit might be tickets to a play from a prominent figure in the community theater, dinner for two from a local restaurant owner, a copy of a book from a local author. Each “celebrity” attends the auction and presents their donation to the attendees as part of the celebrity gimmick. The base price is generally slightly lower than the cost of the item (bidding on a $50 gift certificate for dinner may begin at $40, for example, although bidders should not be told they are bidding on a $50 certificate, rather on a “dinner for two,” so as to not influence bidding).

Silent auction.
This is orchestrated much the same way except that the items for auction are not “celebrity” items. The same kinds of items can be solicited: paintings, dinners at local establishments, books, and can come from local “celebrities,” they simply are not marketed as such. Another difference is that attendees have a chance to view items for, generally, a week prior to the event. It is at the preliminary viewing that they place their bids, complete with name and contact information, and the winning bids are then announced at a banquet.

Because a dinner will most likely be catered, both the celebrity auction and silent auction are going to produce some initial overhead cost but a good deal of that cost can be absorbed with a per-plate ticket price for attendees. For example, if your catering is going to cost your organization $11 per plate, charge your guests $15 or even $20. That way you still render a small profit from ticket sales. Another way to absorb costs is to hold your event in the banquet facilities of a restaurant. The reservation fee for this is likely to be lower than a large hotel ballroom or convention center.

“Date” auction
A date auction can be held on all scales, from the small to the grand. If a grander scale of auction, and subsequently revenue, is what you are looking for, you may want to employ the assistance of the celebrities mentioned in the celebrity auction section. On a smaller scale, however, anyone who is willing to participate is fair game. This event can get sticky, if not carried out properly, so be sure that all dates are set, in terms of activities. We don’t want any prostitution or slave trading scandals to result. Instruct your auctioneer to present the dates similarly: “This is Mr. John Reynolds, editor of the Daily News. Your evening with John will include dinner and an evening of theater at the Metro Playhouse. John’s interests includeâÂ?¦” This will alleviate any confusion as to what the attendees are paying for. It also allows potential bidders to avoid dates they would not enjoy and bid higher for activities that are more suited to their tastes, allowing everyone to have a good time and get their “money’s worth.”

Humiliation auction
There really is no better way to define this category. It encompasses a range of selfless and often, yes, humiliating activities. The Residence Hall Association of my college orchestrated a “Pie Your R(esident) A(dvisor)” auction once each semester. A “pie” made of whipped cream was auctioned off, one pie per resident advisor, and the highest bidder was given the opportunity to “hit their RA in the face with a pie.” This can be done with any public figure with a jovial sense of humor who doesn’t mind getting a little dirty. It is not necessarily a tremendous moneymaker (the average take for our event was between $200 and $300) but the amusement makes it well worth the time.

The pie auction is not the only type of “humiliation auction.” Other ideas include housekeeper-for-a-day (which has the potential to run the auctionee ragged, a word of warning to all participants) and celebrity waiters in which restaurant owners “hire” local celebrities to work as servers in their establishment for a night.

As you can see, there are several various types of auctions to choose from as fundraisers for your cause or group. These suggestions represent only a small portion of what can be done. While they are the more common types of auctions, anything is possible, if marketed properly. Your imagination really is your only obstacle when it comes to holding a fundraiser auction.

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