Auction Education: Items That Entice The Affluent To Donate

The charity auction season is in full swing. Over the next few months, there will thousands of galas and fundraising parties all over the country. With those events comes a demand on affluent Americans to make financial contributions to a growing number of worthy causes. If you are planning a charity event, the best way to raise the most money possible is to be sure you have items on the auction block that are proven to be winners with your affluent audience. 

Because of the tough economy, charities and non-profits are being forced to compete against each other in order to get a slice of affluent consumers’ “charitable giving” budgets. What works about charity auctions is that they are actually tapping the discretionary household budgets of consumers. To purchase a vacation week through a charity auction can tap the household’s “vacation budget” instead of their “charitable giving” budget.  

Because of our experience working with non-profits and schools, we thought it would be helpful to explore the items that are the most attractive to consumers with disposable income. These insights should help organizers plan successful auctions of their own.



The categories that generated the most revenue at private school auctions in 2011 were unique experiences, such as travel packages; tickets to live entertainment; food, wine and gourmet items; and tickets to exclusive sporting events. The top items sold, in terms of total dollar value, at private school auctions last year were: 

  • A Gulfstream 4 SP private jet travel package - $26,000
  • An insider's Napa Valley wine tour - $21,300
  • A travel package for a stay at a compound on the Jersey Shore - $20,000
  • An Orange County Chopper featured on Broadway - $17,000
  • Luxury Suite for U2 Concert - $13,000

Other items that are not quite so expensive but always sell well at auction include dining gift certificates, tickets to sporting events or the theater, unique experiences like lunch with an author or celebrity, and all manner of travel. 

Affluent consumers are typically highly educated, involved in their community, and are avid shoppers. But, increasingly, they are also motivated to shop in ways that allow them to “do good.” By giving affluent shoppers an opportunity to donate to charity and buy something they really want, fundraisers will motivate them to open their hearts and pocketbooks.

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