Landing the BIG ONE!

After you have hired the world’s greatest benefit auction company to guide you with your event, after you have the format of the evening decided upon and after you know how many and what type of auction items will get you to your fundraising goal…you still have to get those items! How do you do it? The answer is – there is no real science to it. However, I can give you some helpful hints and point you in the right direction of how I have done it, and how I’ve seen others do it with success.
Where do you start? The answer is, with a good foundation. For discussion purposes, let’s use a trip to New Orleans (by the way, one of the hot sellers of the season, and most any other year for that matter…hint hint). The base for this package will be the accommodations. There’s your starting point. You have a number of great hotels to choose from: Monteleone, The Cornstalk B&B, Royal Sonesta, The Ritz-Carlton, The W, Maison Dupuy, Loews, etc. What your ask letter should be for is a long weekend (fri-sun) type deal, and I would send to as many elite hotels as possible (and don’t get discouraged if your first eight say “no”). If you get “yes” responses from more than one, then you have a great problem to deal with! If you or someone frequently travels to the location (in this case New Orleans), might THEY be the ideal person to make the ask? You betcha! If you are staying down there, might YOU be the one to go make the ask in person? Absolutely!
Next step, is building the package. You have accommodations…now how about dining? As you all know, New Orleans is famed for it’s elite restaurants and renowned chefs from Emeril to Besh to Susan Spicer (Delmonico, Restuarant August and Bayona in order). NOLA cuisine is also known for the Brennan family of restaurants. All wonderful! There is no end to great food, which makes it almost a lock that if you approach enough of them, you will land several, and that’s what you’re after…two or three great dinners and a couple of great lunch/brunch options. If you send a letter to 20, you might land 2 or 3. It’s just a numbers game. The more, the better.
So now you have accommodations and dining. Starting to sound like something you might bid on? Yeah, me too! What will start to really make this an elite package though? This is where you have to really think about your connections and thinking a little outside the box. How about Saints tickets? How about an invite to a mardi gras gala in New Orleans? Spa time, dinner on the Mississippi, a cooking class? All great things and it’s just a matter of finding the right person to ask. Also, a good source (once you tell them that you have accommodations) is calling the visitor’s bureau. They can get some tour passes and other fun activities to do.
Lastly, flights or travel. “A rountrip flight anywhere xyz airline flies” is a great addition! You might think a roundtrip flight for a New Orleans package is overkill. And you’d be right. But what people bidding will do is realize that they can use the flight portion for a trip to San Francisco or New York! and there you have it. A GREAT live auction travel package ready for bidding! (now you can do it for the Beach, Chicago, etc).
Happy Bidding! – Joey