Great Fundraising Idea for Your Next Auction

Red Mystery Boxes Add Fun and Revenue at Auction

You might find this tip one you can include in your next auction. I was working in Houston doing the keynote for Power Tools for Nonprofits Conference, and my hostess MaryLynn Kalina Matthews invited me to the Chinese Community Center’s 30th Anniversary Gala.

MaryLynn, Carol, and Frank with their red boxes.

When I arrived, next to registration were red satin mystery boxes you could buy for $100. The value of each mystery box would be a minimum of $100.  Many of them were Super Mystery Prizes that were worth much more. The ticket inside represented prizes that included an enormous flat screen TV, a laptop computer, a printer, two Continental airline tickets good for anywhere in the Continental U.S., a Wii game station, a Kindle and my absolute favorite, a chain saw. That was the one I really wanted. You can image the joy on the faces of the American Airline and TSA folks when I tried to take it home. There was a complete list of all 100 items you could win.

My husband Frank and I both bought one. You had to wait until the end of the evening to take the number on the box up to the table to see what you had won. This kept the guests in the room for the entire awards ceremony. There were 9 boxes that weren’t sold. The masters of ceremony managed to auction the 9 boxes to one guest for $2400.  At the end of the evening, the CCC Gala raked in $254,000.00 with sponsorships, mystery boxes, and their live auction.  

Well, I didn’t get the chainsaw. I actually got dog grooming in Houston and a beautiful bamboo plant that I could barely lift. Since I neither have a dog nor live in Houston, and couldn’t take the plant on the plane, I re-gifted the prizes to the organization to share with the staff of the Community Center. Other auction winners were trading their gifts with friends.

This technique works well to guarantee a minimum of $10,000. It gives you an opportunity to bundle smaller prizes and the audience stays until the end. I had so much fun thinking about my chainsaw and my flat screen T.V. that I didn’t mind that I got a prize that wasn’t exactly custom made for me. And if I hadn’t been so pooped, I could have traded it to a Houston based dog owner.

Carol p.s. MaryLynn had the world’s best favors. All of her 650 guests got traveling silverware with chopsticks that came in a nifty tube.  Since this was primarily an Asian audience who traveled, the gift was appropriate to the mission and you can’t beat adorable, mission appropriate and airport friendly.

I need Carol to