How to procure charity auction items

From Wishlist to Winning Bids: How to Procure Auction Items

Imagine this—you’ve just kicked off your nonprofit’s exciting auction event. Bidding starts and the event rolls along. You’re busy mingling with guests, discussing your mission, and handling logistics. After the auction ends, you take a look at your fundraising results.

The numbers are disappointing, and something clearly went wrong with the event. Why?

There are all kinds of reasons why this might happen, and many of the most common have to do with the auction items up for grabs. Maybe there weren’t enough items, or the items that were available weren’t appealing enough to everyone to spur competitive bids. Maybe some lower-price items were highly appealing to large groups of donors, but your big-ticket items got little attention, causing your revenue strategy to fall apart.

Now imagine an auction that strikes the perfect balance between types, numbers, and values of items for its unique audience—this one will naturally do a better job at reaching its revenue goal.

Your auction item ideas and final catalog inherently play critical roles in your event’s success. Let’s walk through the essential steps and tips you’ll need to succeed with procurement.

Step 1: Lay out a procurement plan and timeline.

Start by laying out some guidelines for your procurement process. Collaborate with your event planning team to answer these questions:

  • When will the auction happen?
  • What is the auction’s revenue goal?
  • Does the auction have other goals related to the number or average value of bids?
  • Are we hosting a live auction, silent auction, or both?
  • What format will the auction be: in-person, virtual, or hybrid?
  • Do we have a specific target audience in mind, or is this event targeting a broad audience of our organization’s supporters?

Lay out a rough timeline for procurement, including specific deadlines for completing procurement, finalizing the catalog, and beginning to promote the items to attendees before event day. The time you’ll need might vary based on the scale of your event, but, generally speaking, you need a lot of time for effective procurement. Try to get started on this process as early as possible.

Next, recruit a procurement team. A mix of event staff, volunteers, and a board member or two will be helpful. Each individual will need to be comfortable reaching out to potential item donors, sponsors, and consignment companies, with one team member overseeing the effort to keep it on track and lead the catalog creation and pricing processes.

Step 2: Review your donor data.

Before you start brainstorming actual items to procure, it’s important to review your data. Insights about your target audience will be invaluable for guiding what can otherwise become an overwhelming or too open-ended process.

Review your nonprofit’s CRM or donor database to look more closely at your event’s target audience as a group. Note any trends or highlights related to information like:

  • Past event attendance—specifically auction events if possible
  • Average giving levels and/or lifetime value
  • Duration of relationship with your organization
  • Marital and parental status
  • Location, if hosting an in-person auction

If you’ve hosted auctions in the past, be sure to review event-specific data like:

  • Past auction performance and revenue KPIs
  • Items which received the most/least bids
  • Items which generated the most/least revenue compared to their market values
  • The donors or sponsors that provided items
  • The target audiences of past auctions

Look for connections between these points of data. Think through what they might mean for your current auction—what types of items have either a proven track record with your audience or would likely appeal to them based on their interests and budgets?

Step 3: Create an item wishlist.

Now comes the fun part! Sit down with your procurement team, review your data findings, and start brainstorming items and experiences that you think would make for a winning auction.

Don’t limit yourself too much here, but do try to identify items that span a range of price points. Most silent auctions lead with one or two big-ticket, ultra-desirable items or packages, then a spread of mid-level items, and a smaller set of more accessible items and packages to ensure that all bidders can feel involved. Live auctions typically feature 12-15 higher-quality items to drive maximum engagement from a target audience.

The goal is to create a robust list of “nice-to-have” items that you think would fit well with your audience and goals. You can put a few “must-haves” on your list, but keep in mind that during the actual procurement process, you most likely won’t be able to secure everything.

Once procurement is underway, you’ll get a better sense of how your catalog is shaping up and can direct more intense focus to specific items or price ranges as needed.

Step 4: Create an auction item procurement packet.

To prepare for the procurement process, create helpful resources for your team. Winspire’s auction item procurement guide recommends creating “item procurement packets” of go-to- resources that your team will need out in the field. These resources include:

  • Item procurement letters that clearly detail information about your nonprofit, its mission, the auction, the in-kind donation process, and tax deduction instructions.
  • In-kind donation forms to standardize the collection of donor/sponsor names, addresses, contact information, items, estimated values, descriptions, and other details. Copies of these forms can easily double as receipts or gift substantiations if needed.
  • A copy of your wishlist for team members to easily discuss other potential donations should a prospect say no to the first ask or express interest in helping further.

These resources should cover your bases for procurement team members to hit the ground running but don’t forget backend logistics, too. Create a central spreadsheet to input prospect information, associated items, and data collected from the donation forms as in-kind gifts are secured. This sheet should be accessible to everyone to avoid inadvertently double-asking a prospect or forgetting to procure “must-have” items.

Step 5: Review your donor, sponsor, and community contacts.

Take a look back at your list of previous auction item donors. Screen your nonprofit’s list of contacts—including individuals, large companies, local companies, and other nonprofits.

Review this list of prospects against your item wishlist and make some connections. Try answering these questions:

  • Which donors or organizations would likely want or be able to donate which items?
  • Do we have any close but informal relationships with companies that we could tap into? For instance, do we receive many matching gifts from a local company that hasn’t yet sponsored an event?
  • For items that we can’t easily procure all in one go (like themed baskets), would any prospects be willing to donate money for us to purchase those bundled items instead?
  • Do other nonprofits in the community (like zoos, theaters, or museums) have unique experiences or packages to offer?
  • If there are big-ticket item ideas or experiences on our wishlist that we aren’t likely to receive as donations, do auction item consignment companies offer them?

From here, you may wish to divide your prospect among different team members to take a more organized approach. If anyone has an existing personal or business connection with a prospect, make sure that they own the procurement process for that prospect.

Step 6: Stay organized as you solicit items.

Start working down your list of auction items and prospects. With their item procurement packets in hand, your team should be well-equipped, but make sure to provide some guidance for non-fundraisers and volunteers if needed.

Stay organized by asking all team members to immediately report the results of their conversations with prospects and the information from their in-kind donation forms. Your central procurement spreadsheet should be the source of truth for the process, and this info will be essential for:

  • Completing your procurement process and well-rounded catalog
  • Donation collection logistics
  • Item pricing
  • Donor stewardship and gift substantiation

Remember, when it comes to item procurement, time is your friend. Try to begin the outreach process as early as possible before your auction so that you have plenty of breathing room to contact prospects multiple times, find new prospects, or come up with alternate item ideas if needed.

Step 7: Begin the item pricing process.

As the auction items begin arriving, dedicate a member of your procurement team to get a headstart on the pricing process.

Striking the right mix of starting bids is a delicate process but extremely important for the ultimate engagement and revenue that your auction will generate.

Item pricing is complex and warrants its own in-depth explanation. To recap the fundamentals you’ll need to understand, take a look at this graphic:

A diagram that explains auction item pricing best practices, detailed in the text below

For each item, start by determining its fair market value (FMV), or what a person would reasonably expect to pay for it on the open market. For bundled items and experiences, roughly estimate and add up the FMVs of the component parts. For consignment travel packages, the vendor will likely provide pricing guidance, but most of the time, any amount you raise over the item’s list price goes back to your nonprofit.

Next, determine which items will have buy-now options. For many auctions, this option is ideal for your most valuable items to maximize earnings, but be careful not to discourage engagement by using it on too many items. It’s recommended to set these options at 150-200% of the item’s FMV so that the barrier is high enough to be profitable for your organization but not so high as to completely discourage bidding.

All items should receive a starting bid amount, which should be 30-50% of their FMVs. You can play around with this range based on each item’s rarity and desirability, aiming higher for high-competition items and a bit lower for common or lower-price items. For consignment packages, set this starting bid at 100-120% of its list price to ensure your nonprofit will generate revenue.

From here, set a minimum bid increase for each item. This should be high enough to ensure new bids are substantial, but not so high that it deflates the total number of bids the item receives. This requires careful strategy—another reason why it’s a good idea to get started on procurement early! A reliable rule of thumb is to set the minimum increase at roughly 10% of each item’s FMV.

Item procurement is certainly a high-stakes process, but it’s completely learnable. Its best practices are likely already familiar to you as an event planner or fundraiser, so lean into that experience to ensure your approach is organized and strategic. In no time, you’ll be promoting your items and preparing for your most successful auction yet. Best of luck!

The title of the article next to an illustration of two hands holding coins representing cryptocurrency

How to Empower Your Donors to Give Stocks & Cryptocurrency

The fundraising landscape is constantly changing and evolving, responding to new technologies, giving trends, and global developments. For your nonprofit to keep up and tap into the future of fundraising, you need to stay open to new opportunities. 

While much of the world’s attention is on artificial intelligence (AI), we’d like to bring your attention to another growing trend: the fundraising potential of appreciated assets

More and more donors want to give non-cash appreciated assets like stocks and cryptocurrency, and your nonprofit can boost its fundraising revenue by empowering them to do so. Let’s explore four steps you can take to start taking advantage of this impactful giving method.

Make it easy for them to give non-cash donations.

Donating stocks and cryptocurrency isn’t as straightforward as giving with cash or a debit card, but it doesn’t have to be difficult! You can simplify the non-cash giving process by using a tool that allows you to accept these gifts right from your online donation page, with no transaction fees required.

With an intuitive crypto or stock donation platform, donors can give non-cash gifts in just a few steps:

  1. On your donation page, the donor scans your crypto wallet QR code or clicks a button to donate stocks.
  2. The donor sends cryptocurrency to your account or inputs their stock and brokerage firm information to initiate a stock transfer.
  3. Once the transfer is complete, the platform automatically converts the non-cash gift into cash and deposits it in your nonprofit’s bank account.

Emphasize how easy this process is on both your donation page and your nonprofit’s Ways to Give page to encourage donors to consider non-cash giving. Also, add information about how much additional impact donors can make with these types of donations. For instance, take a look at how the Hoffman Institute discusses stocks and cryptocurrency on its Ways to Give page:

Screenshot of The Hoffman Institute’s Ways to Give page, which discusses cryptocurrency donations

Once you have the process set up and multiple pages on your website that promote non-cash giving, you can incorporate stock and crypto giving into all of your fundraising campaigns and easily accept non-cash gifts at any time.

Understand the benefits and potential concerns.

Next, make sure your team has a thorough understanding of both the benefits of non-cash giving and any concerns your donors may have. You’ll be able to promote these giving methods much more successfully if you can put yourself in the donor’s shoes and speak directly to their motivations, preferences, and fears.

Beyond the benefits to your nonprofit (such as earning larger donations and more sustainable funding), crypto and stock donations offer plenty of exciting benefits for your donors. These include:

  • Tax benefits: Infinite Giving’s crypto donation page explains that in addition to receiving charitable tax deductions, cryptocurrency donors don’t have to pay capital gains taxes on their gifts. While individuals normally have to pay a tax on their crypto and stocks’ appreciation, they are not required to pay it if they donate the asset.
  • Ability to give in larger amounts: If a donor’s cryptocurrency or stock appreciates in value after they buy it, they can end up donating more money to your nonprofit than they originally spent on the asset. Plus, since they bought the asset previously, the money won’t come directly out of their pocket and impact their day-to-day finances.

These are enticing benefits for donors, but be mindful that they may have concerns, too. For instance, donors might worry about their crypto gift losing value after they donate it, or they may think that the stock donation process is too lengthy to make a timely impact on your work.

If you run into these concerns, reassure donors that your organization will convert their gifts to cash immediately to preserve their value. Let them know that your non-cash giving platform streamlines the giving process for both stock and cryptocurrency donations, allowing your organization to receive donations as quickly as possible.

Launch a strategic marketing campaign.

With benefits and concerns for donors in mind, develop a multi-channel marketing campaign to promote non-cash giving. Plan to create content for all the channels your audience prefers, including email, social media, text messages, or direct mail. 

Design promotional materials that explain:

  • What cryptocurrency and stock donations are
  • The tax benefits of crypto and stock giving
  • How to donate stocks and cryptocurrency on your donation page
  • Reasons to give non-cash gifts instead of (or in addition to) traditional donations
  • How fast and secure your nonprofit’s donation process is

Vary the format of your marketing content and don’t be afraid to get creative. You might design how-to infographics, write a blog post about the impact of crypto donations, or record a video walkthrough of the non-cash giving process. 

Then, use the data in your nonprofit’s CRM to identify individual donors who may be interested in non-cash giving and send them personalized fundraising appeals. This might include mid-level and major donors, those who’ve expressed interest in non-traditional forms of giving, or supporters with high financial capacities. Consider donor demographics, too—57% of crypto owners are Millennials while only 20% are members of Gen Z.

Recognize donors who give stocks and crypto.

One of the best ways to encourage more donors to give non-cash donations is to recognize and appreciate the donors who already do. 

Public donor recognition can inspire others to learn more about non-cash giving and donate their own assets. At the same time, these efforts help you steward relationships with existing non-cash donors, boosting donor retention and encouraging them to give stocks or cryptocurrency again in the future.

Start with basic donation acknowledgment emails (which the best non-cash donation platforms can automatically send for you!), then think about additional ways to recognize those who give non-cash gifts. For instance, Kwala recommends sending gifts of branded merchandise, creating thank-you videos, or spotlighting donors in your newsletter or social media. 

When you recognize these donors publicly, whether with a social media shoutout or a page on your website, make sure to highlight their giving method and explain the gift’s impact. You might say, “Deborah donated $10,000 worth of stocks, enabling us to provide brand-new technology for our community center that serves hundreds of families in need.

Once you have experience with non-cash fundraising and accepting stock donations, consider tapping into other opportunities like investing your organization’s reserve funds to give them the potential to grow. While the process can seem daunting, a nonprofit investing advisor can help you through every step to make your organization more financially sustainable in the long term.

The title of the article, which is “Becoming Excellent at Post-Event Follow-Up: 5 Tested Tips.”

Becoming Excellent at Post-Event Follow-Up: 5 Tested Tips

It can take six months or longer to plan a nonprofit event and market it effectively. Then, the event itself requires careful management and will inevitably face a few challenges. When it’s all said and done, an event planning team may be (understandably) ready for a break, but one final step is always needed: post-event follow-up.

Follow-up is an indispensable aspect of donor engagement for solidifying supporter relationships after they’ve attended an event. Let’s explore five tested tips for mastering follow-up and securing long-term support.

1. Segment your audience.

71% of donors feel more engaged when they receive personalized content, meaning you can use what you know about your audience to divide them into groups related to their interests and send them meaningful and unique follow-ups.

Donor segmentation is the process of dividing donors into groups based on shared characteristics, which will, in this case, depend on the type of event you host. Here are some common segments you may create relevant to event follow-up:

  • First-time attendees: A follow-up message to first-time attendees might welcome recipients to your nonprofit’s community by providing brief background information about your organization and inviting them to learn more.
  • Repeat attendees: For attendees who’ve been to your nonprofit’s events before, your follow-up communications should recognize their continued support and thank them for their commitment to your organization. 
  • High-value donors: Follow-up for high-value donors should reflect the significance of their support, highlighting the direct impact their attendance and donation made. Offer exclusive insights, such as details about upcoming projects, that aren’t widely shared with other donors.
  • Non-donors: Use your follow-up to thank non-donors for their attendance and offer various ways they can continue to support your organization. For example, perhaps they’re unable to donate monetarily but can join your volunteer team. 

To make your follow-up even more individualized, create donor recognition tiers based on levels of engagement. eCardWidget’s donor recognition guide recommends assigning different types of recognition to each tier to keep your efforts organized. For example, an attendee who donated for the first time might receive a thank you card in the mail, while one who has been deeply involved with your organization for many years may receive a thank you card and a branded t-shirt.

2. Establish a detailed follow-up schedule.

Communication frequency is essential to engagement, as your nonprofit must find the balance between keeping donors informed and avoiding donor fatigue. This balance will vary greatly depending on your event attendees. For example, we know that Millenials prefer more frequent communication than other generations, and fundraising statistics show that email is the most preferred channel by 48% of donors. 

Create a post-event follow-up schedule that details when a message should be sent and the content it should include. It might look something like this:

  • Immediate acknowledgment, 0-24 hours post-event: Prompt post-event recognition is essential for maintaining the momentum generated at your event. 
  • Feedback request, 1-3 days post-event: Give donors a chance to catch their breath after the event, but ask for their feedback while it’s fresh on their minds. Send out concise surveys that don’t require much of the attendee but are comprehensive enough to gather useful data, such as multiple choice surveys with only one or two short answer questions.
  • Impact sharing, 1-2 weeks post-event: Share the outcomes of the event, including real numbers, like the amount raised, and how those donations were used. 

Additionally, consider donor preferences such as preferred communication channels. For example, you might send a donor thank-you email immediately after the event and share the event’s impact in social media posts so that it reaches a wider audience.

3. Provide valuable content.

Vague, dull, and irrelevant content can cause nearly 75% of donors to stop giving to an organization. To keep event attendees engaged after your event ends, your follow-up must provide valuable content. 

Meaningful, authentic messages go a long way in thanking donors. Infuse your follow-up with valuable content, including:

  • A thorough event recap
  • Educational content about the cause
  • Numbers and statistics, including total revenue
  • Behind-the-scenes insights into your nonprofit’s work
  • Multimedia elements, like photos and video
  • Testimonials from beneficiaries
  • Upcoming opportunities and projects

To gather numbers-related data to share with attendees, use an event management tool with analytics and reporting features. These platforms can generate reports based on your event’s performance, making it easy for your nonprofit to share data-based insights with attendees.

4. Keep the conversation going.

Effective post-event follow-up results in committed and loyal donors who attend future events and support your organization long-term. This means sending follow-up messages that encourage donors to stay engaged and even join the conversation!

Invite attendees to share their experiences or respond to your nonprofit’s communications. This might include sharing their pictures and videos from the event on social media or commenting on your nonprofit’s posts. Social media is the top marketing tool for facilitating two-way communication since it inspires nearly one-third of donors to give and is widely regarded as highly interactive because of its commenting and sharing capabilities.

5. Plan ahead using data-backed insights.

In addition to thinking ahead about keeping donors engaged, your nonprofit must also use the follow-up period to prepare for its future campaigns. Gather data about donors’ readiness to support future initiatives, such as a capital campaign

This feedback can come not only from the post-event survey you send but from a variety of sources. NPOInfo recommends leveraging post-event data metrics, such as attendance records and lead generation. You can also gain insights by:

  • Monitoring social media activity
  • Hosting focus groups
  • Analyzing website traffic and interactions
  • Conducting follow-up interviews 

Gathering feedback and doing your research shows event attendees that your nonprofit values their opinions. When you implement their ideas and address their concerns, they won’t just attend future events—they’ll become committed supporters. 

Your nonprofit knows that donor recognition and appreciation are crucial aspects of follow-up for any event or campaign. Using the tips in this guide, you can take post-event follow-up a step further to convert event attendees into loyal supporters of your cause.

The title of the text next to an illustration of people putting money in a jar, representing sustainable fundraising.

Sustainable Fundraising: Strategies for Long-Term Viability

Your mission statement is the ultimate declaration of what your organization stands for and hopes to accomplish in the long run. For instance, the American Heart Association’s mission is to “be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. As we move into the second century of our work, we are advancing health and hope for everyone, everywhere.”

This statement demonstrates that this organization is not just trying to help people fight heart disease and stroke in the present moment but is instead committed to helping people stay in better health for the long term.

When your goals are focused on the future, you need sustainable fundraising strategies that help you consistently progress toward these objectives. We’ll provide fundraising tips for how your nonprofit can achieve long-term viability.

1. Create a fundraising plan.

Before you start a fundraiser, you need a clear plan to guide you. This plan should align your entire fundraising team so everyone’s aware of your top priorities and their individual responsibilities for achieving your goals. By making your campaigns more manageable and providing a framework for future fundraising initiatives, your fundraising plan will help you achieve long-term viability.

Follow these steps to create a fundraising plan that will set you up for continued success:

  1. Identify SMART goals. Provide focus to your campaigns with both short-term and long-term objectives that follow the SMART goal framework, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, a cheerleading team may aim to raise $1500 with its three-month peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to supplement national competition fees based on its earnings of $1200 the previous year.
  2. Establish a timeline. Break down each stage of your campaign into manageable tasks with deadlines. At a minimum, include steps for planning your fundraiser, soliciting donations, and following up with donors.
  3. Develop a budget. Identify how much you expect to raise and spend on your campaign based on past fundraising data. These figures will allow you to determine your expected net revenue and better project your fundraising results.
  4. Delegate tasks. Distribute tasks needed to make your fundraiser a success to different members of your fundraising team. Responsibilities may include preparing fundraising and marketing materials, securing a venue for your fundraising event, or securing sponsors.

To ensure your plan includes all necessary information, use a dedicated fundraising plan template to keep everything organized. Once you find a template that works for your team, you can reuse it for all future fundraising initiatives to build consistency.

2. Diversify your revenue streams.

When you have multiple revenue streams, you can be more confident in your organization’s ability to reach its fundraising goals and provide for its beneficiaries, even if one funding source dries up. Examples of potential revenue streams include:

  • Individual donations, whether those come from peer-to-peer fundraising, online campaigns, product fundraisers, or regular submissions on your donation page
  • Grants from foundations, businesses, or government agencies to fund specific projects or programs
  • Corporate partnerships that result in corporate giving revenue and sponsorship opportunities
  • Events, such as walkathons, galas, and auctions
  • Earned income from merchandise sales, program fees, and membership fees

Maximize these revenue opportunities by combining them as your organization sees fit. For example, you may host your annual spring festival fundraiser where you also sell flower bulbs to earn extra funds.

3. Focus on donor retention.

According to Double the Donation’s donor retention guide, the average donor retention rate for nonprofits is 45%, meaning that the majority of donors don’t make repeat donations. The cost of acquiring donors who only give once makes it significantly more cost-effective to keep current donors around instead.

Plus, the more donors you retain, the better you’ll facilitate a community around your cause instead of a group of disparate one-time givers. Some ways you might increase donor retention include:

  • Providing multiple ways to give. Encourage donors to continue contributing to your cause by giving them a choice in the way they give. Select a payment processor that accepts a variety of payment methods, such as credit, debit, ACH check, PayPal, Apple Pay, and Venmo.
  • Offering recurring gifts. One of the easiest ways to secure steady revenue is to automate the giving process for repeat donors. When you offer recurring giving, you make it simple for those who are passionate about your cause to contribute on a monthly basis after filling out your donation form just once.
  • Showing appreciation. Thanking donors for their support goes a long way in showing them that they’re valued and entices them to continue giving back. Test a variety of donor recognition strategies, including eCards, thank-you notes, social media shoutouts, and appreciation events.

Get a sense of how successful your donor retention efforts are by asking supporters directly. Consider surveying them once a quarter to see whether they feel inclined to keep contributing to your organization, and question if there is anything else your nonprofit could do to provide them with a better experience.

4. Involve a variety of stakeholders.

When you engage a variety of stakeholders in the fundraising process, you take the pressure off your staff to facilitate all fundraising activities, making it easier to run campaigns efficiently. For instance, you may train board members and volunteers to lead donor cultivation and solicitation activities so you can better distribute your fundraising team’s work.

Reaching out to local businesses can also alleviate concerns about reaching your fundraising goals or hitting your targets in a timely manner. Many companies are willing to sponsor events, contribute in-kind donations, or promote your organization online. Look for businesses with similar values to your organization so the partnership is mutually beneficial. For example, an environmental conservation organization may work with an upcycled clothing brand.

Lastly, if your fundraiser involves kids, teach them how to fundraise on behalf of your organization. Not only can schools and student groups raise more for their causes with more helping hands, but they can also teach kids the importance of giving back. As ABC Fundraising’s fundraising ideas for kids guide states, 80% of parents who model philanthropic behavior see it reflected in their children. Set a good example for the kids in your organization, and reach your fundraising goals more quickly at the same time.

Continue supporting your beneficiaries and upholding your mission for the long haul with sustainable fundraising ideas and practices. That way, you can rest assured you’ll see a regular inflow of donations to your organization that enable you to carry out your important work for years to come.