Fundraising Auction Ideas Tips For Selling Art in Your Charity Gala, Part 1

I have written about how dining at the Chef’s Table can be a popular live or silent fundraising auction item to sell and a relatively easy item to procure. If you’re already asking for a donation, why not see if the chef has a table in the kitchen and ask if *that* could be the special table for your winning bidders?

A while back on Twitter, I caught a link unique silent auction ideas to the Chicago Business Journal. Shia Kapos wrote on this very subject. “Chef dinners on the charity auction block: a behind-the-scenes look” (link listed below) visits with some local chefs about their popular donations and the redemption process.

Most interesting to me was that the article confirmed one of my own observations: Many of a benefit auction’s winning top bidders never redeem the item.

One of the chef’s in the article estimated that more than 50% of his donations are never used. Did you catch that? More than half of his donated dinners are never consumed.

I’ve noticed this with other items, too. As I work with clients, inevitably we’ll talk about the top-selling items from the previous year. “How did that couple enjoy the trip to Mexico?” I’ll ask.

“They never took it,” my contact will reply, “They became too consumed with the planning of their daughter’s wedding.”

I hear this more often than you might think. A wine tasting excursion in Napa never used because work gets in the way of a couple’s vacation. The Mediterranean cruise – for which a couple fought fiercely in the charity auction – is never taken. Gift cards which are misplaced. Dinners which are never scheduled due to any number of personal conflicts.

I can’t blame the winning bidders. I myself have been close to pulling similar stunts. More than one gift card has been forgotten in my wallet, only to be found months later while searching for my insurance card. An Ethiopian dinner which I purchased at a silent auction was redeemed days… nay, HOURS… before it expired. And I won’t even write about the clothes in my closet which might still have a price tag hanging from the sleeve.

The auction method encourages bidding and buying, but it doesn’t force you to consume (i.e. take the trip, eat the dinner, wear the clothes).

Although I don’t advocate it as an acquisition strategy and wouldn’t suggest mentioning during your procurement pitch, it is tempting to mention to a prospective donor that, “in addition to all these great reasons as to why you should make this donation, there’s a good chance your outstanding gift of service will never be used.”

That becomes a triple win for the donor: 1) Feel good about making a donation. 2) Enjoy a tax deduction. 3) Never be troubled with someone wanting to fulfill on your promise!

I wonder what percentage of items in a charity auction are never redeemed?

Individual donors of items (like our chef) would know their individual record, but it’s unlikely that even the charity would know this figure because their involvement ends once the certificate or item has been delivered to the winning bidder.