In my last blog post, I reflected on some of the more creative auction themes I saw in 2019.
Today, let’s look ahead and consider a few trends I’m seeing in fundraising auctions.
Auction Trend #1: Three popular auction themes
In 2020, I expect to see a lot of these types of themes.
- “The Roaring ’20s,” “Great Gatsby,” and other nods to the 1920’s. With a turn of the calendar, we’ve returned to the ’20’s — it’s just 100 years later.
- “20/20 vision,” “Hindsight is 20/20,” and other references to sight. Outside the United States, vision is measured in meters instead of feet. The standard is expressed as “6/6.” If you’re a nonprofit launching a new international program, maybe this somewhat esoteric reference to vision could fit nicely into the program.
- “Summer Olympics,” “Destination: Japan,” and other themes which give a nod to the games, which will open in July 2020 in Tokyo.
As a side, one of the cutest auctions I ever worked had a political theme. Upon entering the venue, guests became delegates at an old-time political convention. Guests wore funny hats, big badges (“I Like Ike!”), and got their photos taken with cardboard cutouts of their favorite candidate. During the auction, guests participated in “stuffing the ballot box” — with money for the nonprofit.
With the 2020 elections happening this fall, it’s a timely theme. But unless you’re actually running a benefit auction for a political party, I’d opt for something else.
Auction Trend #2: Shrinking auction catalogs and gala programs
An increasing number of clients are reducing the size of their auction catalogs and gala programs. What’s happening?
- Silent auction items are no longer described in detail — if at all.
- Business ads may appear online instead of in a catalog. The nonprofit might give the business a promotion on its website or social media outlets.
- Clients using mobile bidding rely more heavily on guests’ using their own phones to find information, instead of referring to a booklet.
Auction trend #3: Smaller silent auctions
Auction Chairs who take the time to study their silent auction results are finding that a small portion of their donations are generating the largest revenue. Armed with hard data from these financial reports, these Chairs feel more confident in offering fewer items of higher quality.
Just this morning I had a consultation with a client who has decided to add an extra 1 or 2 items to their live auction to make up for their decision to reduce their silent auction. “The live auction and fund a need revenue have been growing for us,” she said, “so we’ll make up the lost revenue (about $12k) that way.”
Auction trend #4: Smaller live auctions
Raising money is important — but so is a great party. To allow more time for socializing, dancing, and other activities, live auctions have been shrinking. Among my clients, 10 live auction items was the average sold in 2019.
One consideration: Auctions tend to be cyclical. It’s not unusual to have several good years of an auction followed by some not-so-good years. If you’re in a downturn, you might find it tricky to reduce your live auction item count and still be assured of hitting your financial targets.
Auction trend #5: More emphasis on the Fund a Need
As more nonprofits experiment with adding a paddle raiser into different types of events, they see the flexibility of this tool.
Adding creative games, using multiple speakers, trying incentives, and adding other techniques can be added to a standard paddle raiser to make it fresh and exciting at each function.
Auction trend #6: Keeping class art projects in the school’s silent auction
It’s taken a few years, but I’ve started to see more Auction Chairs take the initiative of removing class art projects from the live auction.
A decade ago it wasn’t uncommon for a school to fill their live auction with 6-10 group art projects. Nowadays, I’m seeing one, two, or even no class art projects in the school’s live auction.
Are you a trend center?
What’s working for you?
Post your comment below.