Auction Item Procurement for School Parents: 4 Quick Tips

It’s your annual school auction! Your school community is eager to see what items will be auction prizes. However, when it comes to procuring items, you may not be not quite sure where to start.  If your school has thrown different fundraising events in the past, on the other hand, you might have an idea of what items would interest your community. However, knowing exactly what items to ask for, who to ask them from, and how to make the ask can be intimidating.

You also may be juggling a tight schedule with other school and life activities. So, how can you effectively procure auction items that will entice attendees? By following these quick tips to make sure you gather the right items from the right sources:

NXUnite’s event planning guide suggests giving your team plenty of time to make sure everyone is on the same page, determine goals, and nail down an event timeline so you can experience maximal fundraising results. Let’s jump in!

Get to Know Your Top Bidders

When procuring items for your auction, keep in mind that the items you really want to procure are the ones your bidders want to buy!  In a silent auction, people may be more inclined to bid on items they don’t really care for, just to support the school. However, for live auctions, you’ll need to procure enticing items that excite your audience.

That said, take a look at your anticipated guest list, and, using any data you may have on their behavior at previous fundraisers, put together a list of 6-18 people who you think would be able to bid enthusiastically in your live auction. Then invite those people to a brainstorming meeting (complete with snacks and drinks!) and ask them the following questions:

  • At any of the fundraising auctions you attended recently, were there any standout auction items you thought were fun or unusual?
  • If given the choice between popular item A or popular item B, which item would interest you the most?
  • Are there any auction items you would never consider bidding on?

Without directly asking, your team will discover which items somewhat matter to bidders and which items are make or break. Although you may or may not be able to procure every item that comes up, you certainly will know more about the types of items that get your community excited. Keep this valuable intel on hand for future auctions and consider hosting brainstorming sessions regularly to update this list.

Review Your Previous Auction Data

If your school has hosted auctions in the past, take the time to review how various items performed. If this is your first auction, consider other events you’ve hosted and how your community has responded to activities, merchandise, and products for sale. For example, was your walk-a-thon more successful than your cookie-dough fundraiser? If so, that could be a sign to focus on items for outdoor activities.

Review your previous auction data to determine which items were:

  • Previous top performers. Which auction items earned the most bids at previous auctions? Did a well-known local restaurant certificate or set of sports tickets cause a bidding storm? Take note of the types of items that performed well and start there when putting your wishlist together.
  • Previous weak links. Did any items perform poorer than expected? If you’re selecting similar items this year, consider acquiring less of them or decreasing starting bid amounts to better align with audience expectations.
  • Top item donors. Review a list of item donors from last year to start this year’s outreach process. If you don’t have access to a full list, consider attending other school auctions to get an idea of what businesses and organizations in your community have a history of donating high-quality items.

By reviewing past auction data, you can nail down information specific to your audience, like spending levels, item preferences, and interests. For instance, your target audience might have more athletic interests than artistic interests. In that case, you might opt for a gym class certificate instead of another piece of custom art.

As a general tip, recommends keeping all of your auction data in an accessible software platform. That way, for years to come, your team can reference accessible reports on your auction performance.

Recruit a Procurement Team

Don’t go it alone! A procurement team can help you find the best items quickly. Plus, they can bring in auction item ideas that you might not have initially considered. Recruit members of your PTA, school board, or booster club to join your procurement team.

Scout for dedicated individuals who are:

  • Confident to make the ask. Team members who not only can make the ask but are willing to do so will help you secure items as quickly as possible. Give examples of successful asks and talk through donation request best practices as a team to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Have an expansive network. Invite members who are active in your school community or have a large social media following to join your item procurement team. Their connections are likely to help you score last-minute or unique items.
  • Available. Some seasons are busier than others for everyone. If a previous auction planner cannot commit to preparing for this year’s auction, ask for their notes from last year and if they have any tips or suggestions for new team members.

Remember that your procurement team’s purpose is to locate and procure top-notch items. Other auction planning members may be in charge of venue selection or marketing to spread awareness for your upcoming event. Define roles early on to make sure your team is clear on their objectives and no one gets overscheduled.

Gather Prospects for Your Wishlist

Now that you have reviewed previous data and gathered your team, narrow down your top auction item choices into a referenceable wishlist. Rank these items based on previous performance, audience budget, and audience preference for best bidding results.

Some examples of items you might include on your school auction wishlist are:

  • High-end goods. Luxury wines are a great example of a high-end good for bidders to consider. You can even host a wine wall as a part of your auction by procuring multiple bottles of varying prices, covering their labels, and instructing bidders to pay a fixed price to select a covered wine of their choice.
  • Community-related items. Is there a local festival or restaurant that’s all the rage? Perhaps there are talented community artists willing to donate their work. Items that represent your community’s unique offerings are a great addition to your wishlist.
  • Experiences. Many guests might prefer bidding on experiences that will create lasting memories rather than physical goods. Items like date night certificates, weekend getaways, and concerts make for stellar intangible auction additions.
  • Gift basket ideas. A favorite among auctions, gift baskets are known for their flexibility. You can tailor your gift baskets to align with your audience’s interests. For instance, you might collect supplies for a cooking basket, complete with recipe books, new cooking utensils, and a gift card for a local cooking class.

If you are unsure how to narrow down your list, consider choosing themed items for your auction. For example, you might go with a seasonal theme and choose fall favorites like tickets to a haunted house. You can then incorporate this theme into your fundraising marketing materials by creating fall-themed flyers, social media posts, and even giving guests a sneak peek at your most prized items.

As you plan your next school auction fundraiser remember to get started early, review previous auction data, and delegate tasks between your auction procurement team and planning committee. Send compelling donation requests by explaining your fundraiser’s purpose in a simple and impactful way. To your fundraising success!

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