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June 5, 2014 To Sell or Not to Sell Consignment Items at Your Live Auction

Many clients ask me if they should include consignment trips and experiences in their live auction.  My short answer is, only if you need a top-dollar type item that you are unable to build yourself.  There are pros and cons to either choice.

There are a lot of consignment companies available to you.  Each of these companies offers both domestic and international trips and experiences.  There is a set cost to the non-profit that varies item to item, but there is no obligation if the item does not reach that cost during the auction.  The non-profit retains anything above the cost, often with the opportunity to sell multiple packages.  Once you sell a package and payment is made, the buyer(s) simply contact the consignment company directly to schedule their trip or experience.  One-stop shopping if you will.  I have an arsenal of consignment companies offering everything from a South African Photo Safari to experiences in Italy and Bali and everywhere in between. I’d be happy to share these with you at no obligation.

Alternatively, many organizations have the ability to build their own experiences without these consignment costs.  While this is the best situation for your non-profit, it can also put you into a “travel agent” role when the buyer is ready to book.  A complicated situation may arise when one donor donates the lodging, another donates air miles and yet another donates an experience at the location, all in the same package. The inconvenience, of course, is offset by the additional income to the non-profit.

Let your guests know if an item is a consignment item.  I have seen circumstances where the buyers did not know the item they purchased had a cost to the non-profit and were upset when they found out that the majority of the money they spent did not benefit the non-profit.  While you don’t necessarily need to disclose the exact amount, you do need to let them know that there is a cost for the item.

How many consignment items should you offer in a live auction?  My recommendation is to limit the offering to two consignment items.  You want to create buzz about the items to get people talking about your event and consignment items can do just that.  Make sure the items you chose are desirable to your guests and that the low cost/high value ratio is there.

Consignment items can be a great resource for your non-profit when you need to acquire big ticket live auction items to get guests buzzing about your event.

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