These are real fundraising auction donations that have been sold by nonprofits.
- Vaginal tightening
- Various cosmetic surgery, cosmetic procedures, and diagnostics (e.g. injections, tummy tucks, impotence evaluation)
- Fertility treatment (IVF)
I’m fairly certain that every donation received made the gala chair wince, followed by a “How am I going to sell this” moment.
Though I have sold these types of donations in live auctions, they don’t belong there.
- First, they appeal to a small sub-section of your audience, which hinders bidding activity because most people just aren’t interested.
- Second, these items push controversy, so why include them? E.G. What are the ethics of artificial insemination? Do all religions allow vasectomies? Does she or doesn’t she use BOTOX®? Even if these are high-valued donations (and they usually are), I wouldn’t showcase them in a live auction where they are more prone for discussion.
Here are some considerations and tips to selling auction items tied to sex.
You’ve heard the adage “sex sells?”
It does sell, but I’ve never seen it outperform its value. Like so many other professional services, sex-related services tend to be sold at a discount when compared to their market price.
Keep that in mind as you’re planning your financial live auction goals.
Offering anonymity is your best bet for higher sales.
Though it’s not as unusual as it once was to see cosmetic procedures sold on the silent auction table, they still don’t attract aggressive bidding.
Years ago I recall working an event for a battered women’s service group. A plastic surgeon (I’ll call him Dr. B) was affiliated with the nonprofit. He had donated surgeries to women who had been physically scarred by their abusers, to the point of needing corrective surgery.
At that event, both he and another doctor had donated BOTOX®.
One guest approached me all aflutter, wanting to know where Dr. B’s donation was.
“I only go to Dr. B,” she said, sweeping her hand across her face, “I don’t want anyone else touching this.”
She was like Joan Rivers, loud and proud of the work done to her face!
Most guests are not nearly as flamboyant. Most guests will appreciate anonymous bidding.
In a traditional silent auction using paper bid sheets (as that gala did), guests should only have to write down their bidder number.
No names. No phone numbers.
Though other guests may see them bid, guests browsing the table won’t see a list of names on the bid sheet as they meander by.
Speaking of which, the anonymity offered through mobile bidding systems makes sexually-charged items a good fit for that platform, too. I’ll discuss that next.
Market the item to prospective buyers.
A donated fertility treatment sold exceptionally high, selling for 80% of its value.
The reason it sold so well was because the organization marketed the item to people not attending the gala.
The nonprofit was using mobile bidding to sell its silent auction items. The silent auction would close during the gala, but the bidding was open to anyone, whether attending or not.
In the weeks leading up to the gala, the auction planner reached out to a support group for women either undergoing or considering fertility treatments. She asked for permission to post the donation. Once it was approved, she invited women to bid.
Both the winning bidder and the back-up bidder were from the support group!
The mobile bidding platform allowed bidders to remain anonymous and participate, even if they weren’t at the gala.
Another method of sale is an online auction.
A FemiLift treatment, which uses a laser to tighten the vagina, was donated to a family-friendly auction.
The nonprofit ran an online auction leading up to its showcase event, so the auction chair decided to offer the item in the online auction.
By selling the item online only, the committee didn’t have to worry about how to best display the donation in a silent auction that would be filled with families.
Don’t get me wrong — these are all generous donations.
But selling these donations can be tricky.
What’s been the most sexually-charged item you’ve sold in your fundraising auction?
Anyone feel comfortable sharing?
Post your item and method of sale below.
I was responsible for an annual art auction years ago – long before on-line bidding. An executive board member had a close connection to a well-known artist who was known for his large sculptures. The artist apparently also created smaller sculptures. He created one for the board member of his (board member’s) scantily-clad teenage daughter. Fortunately it was designed as a table-top piece. I’m still not sure why he donated it to our event. We only had a live auction and dinner at the event. Awkward barely begins to describe that memory!
Sherry Truhlar says
Wow. Just … wow.
Maybe it was donated because the Board member’s wife said, “I don’t care if it *is* our daughter. It’s not going in this house.”