Procuring During A Pandemic, Part 2

10 Jun 2020 By Roger Devine

Let’s talk about how procuring auction items has changed in the time of COVID-19.

It’s June 2020 as I write this. We’ve all been through a rollercoaster in the past 6 months, as we’ve had to cancel gala auctions, pivot to online auctions (and Virtual Live Auctions). For the most part, the organizations that have made the pivot have been successful - but I’m still hearing from many orgs that they are holding off on starting to plan future auctions. One of the main reasons?

They don’t think that asking businesses for donations right now, when so many are still closed (or just starting to reopen) is going to work.

It’s undoubtedly true that we have to be sensitive to what local businesses are enduring. But I’ve collected a few strategies from our customer base (and one of our partners) that I want to share.

First, let’s talk about restaurant gift cards. This is almost always the example that people give me when talking about their concerns - we all know that restaurants have suffered terribly during the lockdowns.

BUT… one of the most common suggestions that has been made over and over again about how to help restaurants during this time has been to buy gift cards from your favorite places - it brings them some money, and raises the odds that they will be able to ride out these lean times.

So: tell your parents and board members and community that if they want to help your group AND their favorite dining spot, they should buy a gift card and donate it to your auction. Win-win.

Also: consider the trends that have occupied so much of our time during the lockdown. I’ve never been a big fan of auctioning off puppies, but perhaps someone has a nice, vigorous sourdough starter, and would donate a few blobs of it (chunks? What is the right noun for a piece of starter?) along with instructions. A Dalgona-coffee starter kit can be put together in minutes.

I also hear a LOT about travel items and how groups can’t put these in their auctions anymore. This makes some sense; travel is way way down, and frankly, it might be frightening for some of your guests to consider getting on an airplane right now.

BUT… local destinations that can be reached by car can still be in play. A week at a vacation home on the coast is still really appealing - maybe more so than ever, since we’re all a little stir-crazy.

We’ve been fans of the TravelPledge service for a while; they provide golf and travel auction packages like the big consignment companies do, but they have variable pricing (this is huge) and they fulfill directly to your buyer - they don’t abandon you after you send them a check. Now they have reworked their online catalog to emphasize travel packages that are within driving distance of your group. It’s a nice touch, and I love to refer people to them. Go check out their website.

TravelPledge is also out front when it comes to my final recommendation for procurement during a pandemic: virtual items! Or rather, items that are delivered virtually. A concert delivered by Zoom. A one-on-one videochat with a Broadway actor. Online guitar lessons! TravelPledge hasa fun list of virtual items you can get from them; you should also think about what types of virtual items you can pull together from your own community.

In conclusion: you can indeed procure for your auction during a pandemic. It just requires a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking. If you have additional ideas, go ahead and leave them in the comments below.