Younger generations of supporters are essential to your nonprofit’s future. Millennials (born between 1981-1996) and Generation Z (born between 1997-2012) are major audiences for nonprofits looking for dedicated donors and volunteers, as they tend to be socially conscious and want to create positive change by supporting causes that align with their values.
To make a strong impression on these supporter segments, consider how you can appeal specifically to younger generations through your nonprofit’s events. For example, auctions are a popular and lucrative fundraising event for many nonprofits, and the event’s success depends heavily on the items available to bid on. Whether you host a live or silent auction, make sure to procure items that appeal to younger supporters.
In this guide, we’ll look at five auction item categories that will appeal to your Millennial and Generation-Z attendees, including:
- Experiential Travel Packages
- Concert Tickets
- Themed Gift Baskets
- Local and Ethically Sourced Products
Engaging younger supporters now can set your organization up for success not only during your next auction, but also for years to come, since Millennials and Generation Z will eventually become your primary donor base. Let’s get started!
1. Experiential Travel Packages
According to Winspire, travel-related items are best sellers at most nonprofit auctions because of their uniqueness and broad appeal—particularly to younger supporters, who may be considering traveling to a new location for the first time. Including one-of-a-kind experiences in your vacation packages will bring in more revenue by encouraging Millennials and Generation-Z auction participants to bid, as experiential travel is particularly popular with these groups.
Depending on your supporters’ preferences, you could include a wide range of travel packages at your auction. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Sightseeing tours of popular international destinations such as Paris, London, or Tokyo.
- Stays at luxury beach resorts that include lessons in water sports like surfing and sailing.
- Ski chalet stays with mountain passes and equipment rentals.
- Guided tours of national parks in the western United States.
- Travel and tickets to a sporting event or entertainment awards show.
- Trips to New York City with VIP tickets to popular Broadway musicals.
While you could use any of these ideas as one of your featured big-ticket auction items, they’re often the most difficult items to procure. Fortunately, there are providers your nonprofit can partner with to find experiential travel packages that will interest your Millennial and Generation-Z auction attendees. Do your research well in advance of your auction to find a partner that offers the high-value items you’re looking for.
2. Concert Tickets
Younger audiences tend to keep up with pop culture and are often interested in attending concerts, music festivals, or other similar events. However, the more popular these events are, the more difficult it becomes for individual fans to secure tickets.
Since nonprofits can sometimes get popular concert tickets at a reduced price for fundraising purposes, contact venues in your area to reserve two to four tickets that you can put up for auction. To get donors even more excited about bidding, offer the tickets as part of a package and include other items such as:
- T-shirts and other merchandise featuring the artist or band.
- A signed CD or record (records have made a comeback with younger generations!)
- Backstage passes or a photo opportunity with the artist after the show.
As you plan your auction, research what concerts are coming up in your area and check the Billboard charts to ensure your music-related offerings are relevant to younger supporters’ interests.
Many younger participants will jump at the chance to buy the latest gadgets while supporting a good cause. Some ideas for popular technology to sell at your nonprofit’s auction include:
- A brand-new smartphone, tablet, or laptop (make sure a charging cord and any other essential accessories are included.)
- Popular video game systems and controllers.
- Smart watches or fitness trackers.
- Bluetooth headphones and speakers.
- Annual subscriptions to TV or music streaming services.
- Cameras—not only high-quality digital cameras, but also Polaroid and film cameras as those photography styles are popular with Millennials and Generation Z.
Your technology-related auction items might sell for less than retail price, as participants may see the discount as a benefit of purchasing devices at auction rather than through a retailer. However, if your nonprofit can partner with retailers to procure these items as in-kind donations, they can still bring in significant revenue.
4. Themed Gift Baskets
Gift baskets are a silent auction staple, particularly because bundling smaller donations into one package gives the items a higher starting value and makes them seem more unique. To appeal to all of your supporters, try creating a variety of baskets, each based on a different theme.
Some silent auction basket ideas that will interest Millennials and Generation-Z participants include:
- Health and Fitness. This basket could contain workout gear such as hand weights, gym towels, a yoga mat, a reusable water bottle, and earbuds designed to stay in place while the wearer is being physically active. To increase the basket’s value, add a gift card for a popular activewear brand or a pass for exercise classes at a local gym.
- Spa Day. Help younger supporters indulge in self-care by creating a gift basket that combines a gift certificate for a massage and at-home spa supplies like facial masks, bath bombs, scented lotion, and fluffy slippers
- Fine Foods. Put together several baskets themed around food and beverages that are popular with supporters in their 20s and 30s, such as charcuterie, coffee, tea, chocolate, and craft beer.
- Pet Essentials. As of 2022, Millennials made up the largest share of pet owners in the U.S., and Generation Z is starting to adopt animals as well. Try creating one basket geared toward dog owners and one for cat owners, and include supplies, toys, treats, and gift certificates for pet sitting or grooming services in each one.
If you’re unsure exactly which themes would interest your nonprofit’s younger donors, consider emailing supporters in your target age group a survey that asks questions about their interests, preferences, and values. Besides gaining additional input for your auction, Kwala’s guide to donor communications points out that supporters feel valued and develop stronger relationships with your organization when you communicate with them in a variety of ways, improving donor retention.
5. Local and Ethically Sourced Products
When it comes to Millennials’ and Generation Z’s shopping habits, many members prefer ethical brands and make an effort to buy local. To account for this preference at your auction, consider partnering with small businesses in your area whose values align with your mission to supply items such as:
- Paintings or home decor made by local artisans.
- Jewelry made from recycled materials.
- Cruelty-free, high-quality cosmetics or personal care products.
- Gift cards and tickets to a book signing event at an independent bookstore.
Many local businesses are eager to make a difference in the communities they serve, so they’ll likely respond well to your organization’s auction item donation requests. Procuring these auction items can not only help attract younger donors to your event, but also form long-lasting, mutually beneficial partnerships between your nonprofit and the for-profit organizations in your area.
Whether you make an effort to find local and ethical products, curate themed gift baskets, offer hot-button concert tickets, or feature an experiential travel package, there are many auction items your nonprofit can procure with the goal of appealing to Millennial and Generation-Z supporters. Remember to follow up with these younger supporters after the auction to continue the process of building long-lasting relationships with them. Happy fundraising!