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Getting Those Auction Items - Try Using Consignment?

19 November 2007 at 10:15 am
Staff Reporter
The date is set for your Gala Event and now the race is on to procure those unique auction items. Let's face it - when it comes to getting the must-have items it's who you know. So maybe it's time to try using consignment items to boost your fundraising efforts.

Staff Reporter | 19 November 2007 at 10:15 am


Getting Those Auction Items - Try Using Consignment?
19 November 2007 at 10:15 am

The date is set for your Gala Event and now the race is on to procure those unique auction items. Let’s face it – when it comes to getting the must-have items it’s who you know. So maybe it’s time to try using consignment items to boost your fundraising efforts.

Auction committees look to family, friends, neighbours, business associates and vendors for those auction items. It’s where you shop and where you eat. It’s where you bank and wash your car. It’s where you go!

And according to US charity auction specialist Stephen Hamann there are some basic rules for boosting your auction item list and then there’s consignment items.

Here’s what he has to say”

You must ask. Don’t make the mistake of not asking someone for a donation because you don’t think they will donate. If you don’t ask them, for sure they won’t donate. It’s a numbers game – the more you ask, the more items you will receive.

Ask for something. Most folks don’t know what you want. Offer them choices of things that you know they can provide. If left up to them to determine what you want, many people find it easier to say no.

Close the deal. If you walk away without an item or a commitment, your chances of getting something will be greatly reduced. Set a date and time for pick-up or delivery. Don’t wait to the last minute.

Know your audience. What are their interests? What can they afford? Target items that you know the majority of your attendees will give consideration. A younger group will like family oriented items, hands on activities, tequila and beer, short weekend getaways and parties at the hip clubs. An older group will bid on long cruises, gifts for the grandkids, theatre and musicals, fine wines and dinners at the nicest places.

Have a plan. Larger auction items typically don’t just appear in the mail. Know what you want – dinner parties, trips, sporting events, ladies night outs, sports memorabilia, unique opportunities, event related items. Provide volunteers with a wish list of items to find.

Be creative. Think outside the box. Unique locations. Unique opportunities. Put a different spin on a common item. Offer items that can only be acquired at your event. Make it special!

OK! You want a nice trip for your Live Auction and none of your contacts have contacts that can get what you want. That great golf package that you thought you were going to get didn’t materialize. Someone donated a fabulous condo in New York (make that a Gold Coast apartment) with all the trimmings, but you just can’t get the airlines to provide any tickets to get there. What are you going to do?

So why not try using Consignment Items.

There are many companies out there that offer everything from art to sports memorabilia to travel packages, all designed to enhance your auction.

The catch is that there is a cost involved, often the majority of proceeds. However, these items can generate interest and bidding excitement among your guests with no risk to your organisation. Typically you reserve the item, offer them at your event and after the auction, order the items that are sold. In most cases, your organisation keeps the difference between the winning bid and the package cost – sometimes thousands of dollars.

The good news. They are easy to get and are often very sellable items that can generate substantial revenues and boost the overall appearance of your auction. Many allow your organisation to sell the item more then once. If you get into a bidding war on a particular package, you can offer that same package to two bidders and double your profits!

The bad news. You don’t get to keep all the money! Buyers might have spent the same amount of money on items that you would have received all the proceeds. Some packages are very restrictive in how the can be used. Naturally, they are discounted packages because they are offered when most people don’t want to go there. Plus there is more paperwork – especially after the event is over!

Here are some tips to help ensure that your sale of consignment items will benefit not just the seller and the buyer, but your organisation as well.

Know the consignment vendor. Like any large purchase you make, take the time to ask for references and then contact them to find out their experience. Be sure you are dealing with a reputable organisation.

Verify the pricing. Find out how much the item would cost to purchase on your own. If the consignment cost is the same or close to the retail value, how are you going to make any money?

Restrictions. The more restrictions, the less attractive the package. When is the item available? Are there any black out dates. Will your buyer have to pay additional fees? When does the item expire?

Presentation materials. Some consignment vendors will provide posters, videos, brochures and even someone to attend your event to help promote the item. As long as there is no additional fees, get all the promotional materials they have available.

Transportation included. There are a lots of terrific consignment destinations to choose from, but if they do not include transportation, the perceived value of the package drops considerably. Look for packages that include roundtrip airfare where applicable.

Setting the minimum bid. Don’t make the mistake of making the minimum bid your cost of the consignment item. If you only have one bidder, you make no money! A good rule of thumb is to add 20% of the package cost to guarantee a profit to your organisation if the item is sold.

Stephen Hamann is a professional Charity Auctioneer, Master of Ceremonies and Event Host based in San Diego, CA. For more information, visit his website at

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