Are you tired of the same old auction items year after year? Do you want to really make a splash at your next fundraising event? Then it's time to consider adding some one-of-a-kind items that donors can't get anywhere else! Custom curated experiences that match your mission are the key to getting those bid cards soaring and raising more money for your nonprofit.
Some examples of one of a kind custom curated items I have seen do well:
Special Dinners and experiences with organizational leadership
A recent arts organization I worked with had a live auction package that featured a four course french cuisine dinner and wine pairing prepared by the ED and the 2023-24 Guest Artistic Curator. This item was a hit and was relatively easy for the organization to put together.
Another organization I worked with who also had a well loved ED put together a package that included a piano concert in your home performed by the ED along with a champagne tasting with a sommelier. The ED offered to play any request for music that the winner wanted. This was one of the top selling items of the night.
An Opera Program at a University I worked with featured a dinner with the Dean. This was a 5 course dinner with wine pairing cooked by the Dean and the opera students also were in attendance to provide a performance during dessert. This was a huge hit and one that was featured year after year at this event. This same school also offered another dinner at a patron’s house also with a custom concert with the opera students. Both packages sold well.
A dance company I worked with had a special box seat they called the "cloud room' as it oversaw the performance space. It was one of the best seats in the house and it was private. Each year they would sell a private dinner for 6 in this space and time this with an opening night of one of their premier performances. This was a top seller every year (often the same donor would purchase it as she loved it so much).
Walk on roles and custom experiences for arts organizations
One of the more exciting items offered at the Opera program I worked with was a walk on role for one of the operas that season. This opportunity provided a behind the scenes experience where the winner could attend rehearsals and on the opening night dress up in costume and have a non-singing role in the performance.
A symphony event I helped out with had a very popular Maestro for a day package where the winner could conduct the opening overture for a performance. They were able to sell this experience twice!
I have seen walk-on roles work well for dance companies, ballet, and theater groups. You can sell experiences for different performances. I wouldn’t recommend doing more than 2 as the novelty of it can wear off at the event - however these walk-on experiences can be sold year after year as they become more popular and people have fun and positive experiences with them. Ask your donors what types of walk on roles and experiences would excite them!
Spokes pet for the year- One animal shelter I worked with always sold a Spokes Pet (cat and dog) of the year package. The lucky winners received their pet on promotional materials for the next year's event including being listed on the website as the official SpokeDog and SpokesCat. They also received a professional photo shoot, as well as a bunch of swag and pampering packages. Lots of bidding wars over this package each year!
Calendar Models - Another popular item at animal shelters and rescues is calendar models. There are 12 spots you can fill and the winner's pet will be featured in the organization's 12 month calendar which is often used as an additional fundraising tool for the organization, or one that they give to donors and supporters as a thank you gift. This item is always a hit!
One of my favorite experiences was an organization that hosted a bike excursion and wine tasting event. They had 20 spots available to sell. The experience started with coffee and pastries and then they biked to four different wineries for tastings and snacks and the last one ended with dinner. Bikers were transported back to the original destination to pick up their cars. This took some logistical planning - but well worth it for the org who was able to sell each spot for several hundred dollars. Imagine an experience with 20-30 spots that you can sell for $200-$500 each!
One of the most successful packages I have sold at a school event was a A “Dad” band party. A local school put this together with a band composed of dads from the school. The party was hosted outdoors at one of the parent’s homes and tickets included food from a local popular food truck, beer and wine, and of course a rockin good time. Tickets were $75 a seat and we sold more than 100 spots to this party. In later years as word grew about this event the price went up and sales continued to soar for this event.
Schools also have some great opportunities for one of a kind teacher experiences like Principal for a day, PE teacher for the day, fire marshal for the day, etc. The possibilities are endless as long as the teachers are open to it!
If you want to explore how you can craft one of a kind experiences for your next auction, reach out and let’s make a plan to wow your supporters and make even more money at your event!
Michael Faith Benefit Auctioneer and fundraising professional