6 Secrets For Getting Amazing Items For Your Next Fundraising Auction

Posted by Dr. Darren Robison, D.C. on June 01, 2017
Dr. Darren Robison, D.C.

6 secrets for getting amazing items for your next fundraising auction

A charity auction is a wonderful way to raise funds for a Christian school.  Our school holds an annual dinner auction fundraiser each fall. Amazing items, donated by our generous community, are auctioned off with a silent auction and a live auction all while our families and guests enjoy a beautiful evening of food and friendship. We've learned a few things over the years and we'd like to share our 6 secrets for getting amazing items for your next fundraising auction.  The best items create an exciting experience for bidders.  A wonderful evening in support of a worthy cause begins with planning now to bring in those amazing items! 

1. Ask early and follow up.

Many corporations love giving a tax deductible donation to charity events. However, most of those gifts take time to get approval. Some may take up to 3-4 months. For Example, Williams-Sonoma likes to donate cookware to charities and schools, but the process to get the donation may take 2-3 moths for the corporate office to approve it.  

If you do not receive a response, continue to ask. There may be a reason you did not receive a response on the first try. Unless you receive a resounding,”Our company does not give to charity or to private schools, " be sure to follow up.  Larger, locally owned companies probably will not have the wait time since the owners are usually readily available.

2. Ask big.

Many people are reluctant to ask for big ticket items from companies. Keep in mind that for companies, donations are a tax deduction. So they may be happy to donate plane tickets, vacations, Disneyland tickets or even furniture. You will probably want to stick to larger corporations for this, but sometimes even a small business may want to donate a big item, too.

Since you never know what someone may be willing to donate, don’t discount the idea of a large donation. You never know what someone may have in their garage that may have a large dollar value. Many people have donated valuable antiques or even automobiles and motorcycles to charitable auctions.   

3. Ask small.

Small, local businesses may not be able to donate high dollar items. However, items like movie tickets, restaurant gift certificates, beauty gift certificates, health gift certificates (gyms, chiropractors, massage), and even car washes are popular auction attractions. These small dollar items often create some good bidding wars!

4. Bundle up.

Try bundling up a lot of small items to create an amazing grouping or basket. For example, gift certificates from a massage therapist and a chiropractor bundled together may be more attractive than either one by itself.  You might come across a nice serving tray and then ask a local business to donate some gourmet cheeses. Maybe someone has donated a coffee pot and someone else is willing to donate a selection of gourmet coffees. These types of items can be a big draw at an auction. Presentation is everything!

5. Keep your eyes open.

Always keep your eyes open for sales. Not everything has to be donated. You may find something that is heavily discounted or even a dollar store item that can really add to a package or basket. 

For example, a selection of garden supplies and tools along with a good collection of seeds could really pique a gardener's interest. Once again, you will be bundling a large number of things together that you picked up on sale all year long. 

In addition, stores will often have close out or floor items. Many times they will either donate or offer a substantial discount on these fully functioning items that have been on display in the store.

6. Appeal to special interests.

If you go on vacation, you may find unique gift ideas from wherever you are traveling.  These unique gifts can make great baskets. A gourmet maple syrup combined with a pancake mix could appeal to many people. A basket of chocolate from Hershey, Pennsylvania could also be a draw. Just keep your eyes open for the unique that people might bid on.

Here are some things that many people are interested in.

  1. Holiday themed items- No matter the holiday, somebody collects it.
  2. Cooking – This can range from utensils to cookware to cookbooks to unique items.
  3. Gardening- Anything that goes with gardening from tools and supplies to seeds and nursery gift certificates will be welcomed by gardeners. 
  4. Unique hobby ideas- This varies greatly. Some of the common ones in this area are horses, butterflies, birds and flowers, but it can also include American Indian, or collectible items from Coca Cola, sporting goods or even Starbucks.
  5. Foods – Unique assortments of candies or foods from all over can have a big draw. Some people donate gourmet cooked meals. The sky’s the limit in this category.
  6. Drinks – Coffee is always popular (think Starbucks or gourmet coffees), but don’t underestimate tea. A nice tea set with a collection of gourmet teas could really draw some good bids.  The more unique the collection, the higher the bidding will go.


There you have it, our 6 secrets for getting amazing auction items! By keeping your eyes open and asking early, you can do a lot to help raise funds for your school. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the school raised all the funds it needed at the auction? You can help this happen by starting early.

We're looking forward to having a great auction in the fall and we hope your event is successful, too!Affording_a_Private_School_Ed_Blog_CTA_560x315



Topics: Fundraising