Picture it: Big room, tables are full of your organization’s supporters, and your auctioneer is on stage racking up funds during your live auction. You may see tables of guests chatting about going in together on certain auction items, or you may see your favorite coworkers’ parents awing over season tickets to the Panther’s games. Everyone wants these large experiences and your auction is soaring! 

Now picture this: The world enters a pandemic and all large gatherings are postponed. Sports games are canceled, restaurants are closed, and traveling is banned. Even if flights are possible, your major donors are fearful to commit and no longer have a desire for these packagesWhat do you do? 

We will tell you what you can do… still have your live auction! Live auctions are possible through GiveSmart paired with a live stream and potentially an auctioneer. We are also seeing success when listing these big-ticket items in the silent auction. Often these items are grouped in a premier category and open for bidding in a short time frame. Talk with your GiveSmart representative to determine what is best for you and your organization.

To start planning your live auction now, consider these best practices: 

  • Reach out to current item donors to see if they can relax or extend any date restrictions.  
  • Make sure that if it’s a specific event that is going to be rescheduled such as a Final Four game or the People’s Choice awards, that the tickets will be honored on the new dates or 2021 if the 2020 event is canceled outright. 
  • For experiences, see if there is something tangible you can provide the winner while they wait. For example, if one of your items is a winery tour, see if the vineyard can donate a bottle or two of their wine now. This way the winner can get enjoy part of their item now. 

10 alternatives to live-experience auction items 

1. If you typically offer concert or theater tickets to a specific show, see if the venue can offer a voucher instead. While most shows will be rescheduled this will give the winner some flexibility and peace of mind just in case 

2. For vacation getaways, offer flyer miles instead of a specific destination ticket

3. Athome dinner chef experience 

4. Loosening expiration dates/restrictions for vacation houses 

5. Peloton/ at-home workout equipment 

6. For experiences such as a winery tour, you can pivot to wine subscriptions for the year that any wine lover is sure to love. 

7. Have the service come to you! With items such as mobile grooming, grocery delivery, in-home cleaning packages (ex: Stanley Steamer or maid services) 

8. Jewelry or other physical high-priced items are a great alternative to experiences that may be restricted by expiration dates. Another example is art pieces. 

9. For schools, add in items that you can control the dates of such as “VIP Parking Spaces” or “Front Row Graduation These items are typically low to no cost for a school and are in high demand for parents. 

10. Technology package: large smart TV or a projector and screen. You could also include accessories like a soundbar or classic movies on DVD (with a DVD player) or a subscription to a streaming service! 

15 silent auction items that don’t cost a dime
School silent auction ideas
Tips to maximize the ROI of fundraising auctions
Checklist: pivoting to a virtual fundraising event

Brandon Stec is the Director of Marketing at GiveSmart and an Indiana University graduate who's worked across sports and tech over the last decade. Brandon has sat on several boards of Nonprofits in Chicago and Kansas City. He resides in Chicago with his wife, son, and dog, Mango, and is a published author.
Brandon Stec