Four Unique Auction Fundraisers

Auctions are an excellent fundraising method. They appeal to people's competitive nature, while still making them feel as if they're getting a bargain.

When someone feels like they're setting the price they pay for an item, rather than being told how much something costs, they're more apt to want to spend that money. Also, feeling like something they may not otherwise be able to afford is within their reach is a potent motivator.

An auction fundraiser doesn't have to be a fancy, formal event with priceless works of art or antique goods. You can hold a great event, and raise money for your cause, with any of these fun auctions.

Services Auction

This is probably the simplest auction to organize and hold. You won't be auctioning off any actual items, so you won't need storage space, or any transportation. All you need is a venue with enough space for your bidders, a microphone, and several donated services.

What kind of services? Anything, really. Any kind of service that someone would normally pay for is a potential addition to a services auction. Housecleaning, lawn care, babysitting, car washing, leaf raking – just about anything that might need to be done around the house can be auctioned off.

And don't forget about professional service providers like plumbers, lawyers, tax preparers, financial advisors, wedding planners, personal shoppers, and even administrative assistants. Anyone who can provide a valuable service can donate to your auction.

Before holding a services auction, contact members of your community to ask whether they'd be willing to donate their services to your cause. You might want to set a goal of how many services to include, and then try to secure a couple more, just in case anyone backs out for any reason.

Ask those who donate services for help determining a fair starting price. Chances are, they'll be providing their services for less than they would normally charge just by participating, so try to make sure you recognize that by starting the bidding at a reasonable level.

What's in the Box?

Who doesn't love a good mystery? Appeal to people's curiosity with a What's in the Box? auction.

Invite members of your community to participate. It's not a bad idea to put this auction on along with some kind of dinner or cocktail hour event. Ask everyone who attends to bring a package with them. There's no restriction on size.

They may put anything they like in a box, and then gift wrap it for the event. Set aside a table to hold all the boxes, and label each one with a number. Everyone in attendance is allowed to pick up, shake, or otherwise try to guess what's in each box, but they can't open them! Then let the bidding begin.

Bidders will have no idea of what they might win. Participants may have put some really great gifts in their boxes like scratch-off lottery tickets, free movie coupons, a book, or fun novelties. Or, they may have gotten a little mischievous and put something silly in the box like marbles, a whoopee cushion, or any kind of gag gift. The fun comes when people win their boxes and begin opening them to see what's inside.

Your group may want to ask local merchants to donate items be included in the auction. This will ensure some nice things are in the mix, and will encourage people to keep bidding when they see there really is some great stuff to win.

Gift Baskets

Putting on a gift basket auction gives you a lot of options for offering some really great items. Just about anything can be put into a basket and made into a gift. You can either choose a theme, like foods or beauty products, or just create a bunch of different baskets with all kinds of goodies in them.

There are a couple of ways to go about this. The first is to buy pre-made gift baskets. Many stores create baskets filled with their merchandise. You can even find gift baskets at grocery and club stores, especially near gift-giving holidays.

If you find some great baskets at a locally owned store, ask the owner if they're willing to give your group a bulk discount, or even donate a few baskets for your auction.

If buying pre-made baskets is cost-prohibitive, you can make your own. If you choose a theme, like foods, for example, you can create baskets with particular tastes in mind:

  • Coffee
  • Cheeses and crackers
  • Jams and jellies
  • Chocolates or other candies
  • Nuts or other snacks

Or you can create baskets of beauty products that include:

  • Shower gel
  • Bath salts
  • Bubble bath
  • Bath oils
  • Lotions
  • Beauty masks
  • Scented body splashes

You can even center a basket around a hobby, like scrap booking, and make a basket with:

  • A scrapbook
  • Photo holders
  • Stickers
  • Scissors that cut in patterns
  • Ribbon
  • Colored markers

The possibilities are endless.

Buy baskets at a crafts store, as well as basket lining and cellophane to wrap them in. Add some ribbon for a nice touch. Get a group of volunteers to put the baskets together. Make sure you have a place to store them until auction time, and a table or two large enough to hold them during the auction. Use clear cellophane so bidders can see what's inside the baskets they're bidding on. They'll sell themselves.

Local Celebrity Auction

Don't let the name fool you—you won't be auctioning off any actual celebrities. Every city and town has a few local celebrities, people who are well known for many reasons, whether they appear on a locally produced TV show, or are on the radio every day.

Maybe someone was featured in the newspaper for a heroic act. Or maybe a famous author is from your hometown. There's sure to be at least a few famous or semi-famous members of your community around which you can build a local celebrity auction.

Talk to your community's local celebrities and ask them to donate memorabilia, like autographed photos, or a signed first edition of their latest book. If they're willing to appear at the auction to encourage bidding on their items, all the better.

The auction doesn't even really need to be an auction. If your celebrities are willing to sign autographs, you can set up tables and charge flat fees for autographed photos and other memorabilia.

Just be aware that when offering more than just one autographed item, you may need to work out compensation for the celebrity in the form of a percentage of proceeds, especially if they're no longer in the spotlight. Some former celebrities go on to make a living that way, so be respectful of their situation.

Depending on who your local celebrities are, you can also auction off activities with them. If your hometown has a basketball team, maybe one of the players will be willing to offer an hour of shooting practice. Or if there's a popular local band, perhaps they can offer an hour's jam session.

No matter what type of auction you decide to hold, you can expand your fundraising efforts by selling concessions during the auction. Just a few simple things like cookies and punch, or hot dogs and soda will go a long way toward getting people to attend and participate. And it will help you raise even more money for your cause.

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