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Trends in the benefit auction world don’t change as often as fashion, so upfront I’ll admit that the three I identified in 2012 still hold. (Read Charity Auction Trends 2012 here.)
But after working with over 100 onsite and consulting clients in 2012, I have some other forward-thinking predictions for 2013.
1. Trend to watch: Build your own gift bag
Not every group offers gift bags to patrons, but for those who do, the “build your own gift bag” concept is clever.
One of my November 2012 school clients with a candy-like theme offered guests the opportunity to stuff their own gift bags. They could choose from all kinds of sweets.
At a December 2012 animal-friendly gala (see photo), guests could build their own “doggie bags” from a selection of eco-friendly pet products by Harry Barker.
It’s easier on you … let the guests do the packing.
2. Trend to watch: Online, live interactive bidding
In the commercial auction space, technology has long been used to generate higher sales. But that same technology (e.g. online auctions, mobile bidding) has only slowly been embraced in the nonprofit world.
Here’s one tool often used in commercial auctions but rarely seen at nonprofit galas: Online bidding during live events
What is it? It means that you’ll allow online bidding during your live auction.
I could be sitting in San Francisco watching your live auction occur in real time in New York, and be bidding from my computer on items as they are introduced and sold.
Meanwhile, onsite at your event, an attendant is watching my bids (and bids of other internet participants). He raises his hand (or shouts) to let the auctioneer know my bid has been received.
Too much to comprehend? It *is* a lot of action!
Yet I’ve attended auctions where the auctioneer had three distinct areas to watch for bids.
- The crowd seated in front of him
- Nine staff members seated to his right who were each on the phone with individual bidders
- A staff member seated to his left who was monitoring the computer for incoming online bids
Is it possible that your gala auction could become so high tech that all of this is required?
Well … it’s a trend to watch. I’ve talked with two nonprofits who had some exceptional items to sell and this technology crept into our conversation. It would be a longer-range adoption of this technology, but it’s in the cards.
Trend to watch #3: Food trucks, or something similar
This trend might only make sense for those of us in metropolitan areas.
In a number of cities, gourmet food trucks have become the rage. They are mobile restaurants with a limited menu and more upscale food. Trucks might offer Vietnamese food … or Mexican … or cheesecake.
For large fundraisers (I’d say 800+) trying to avoid the traditional “sit-down dinner,” using food trucks is a newer concept in feeding people.
One of my friends ran a huge (I think it was 2,500 people) event at a hotel in California. he organized it so a number of these trucks (I recall it being 15 or so) drove into the hotel grounds, parked in the exhibit area, and offered food. Guests were given a map so they could navigate to vendors.
Would it work for your event? It’s certainly a more casual concept.
A nonprofit I consulted with last summer was targeting to have 2,000 people attend its outdoor fundraiser along the river. A small live auction was to be part of the program for the night. Food trucks would certainly work in that environment.
Other large-scale, outdoor events would also be a fit. Who holds these types of fundraisers? I often see them benefiting national and state parks, zoos, and “outdoors-y” causes, like environmental centers. (That said, I attended one in Sedona, AZ that raised money for the Boys & Girls Clubs). If this describes your event, consider trucks.
I’ll be keeping my eye out for new ideas as I work with my 2013 clients — 26 auctions are already booked.